In news first broken by Nellie Andreeva – TV Editor of Deadline.com – the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, Chevy Chase is leaving NBC’s Community. According to Andreeva, Chase and the current producers of the cult comedy came to the unsurprising decision by “mutual agreement.”
The news comes as Community has filmed all but one or two episodes of its 13 episode fourth, and almost certainly final, season. After much jerking around by NBC, it was announced late last month that the show would come back as a midseason replacement on February 7 in its traditional Thursday at 8 pm timeslot.
In the meantime, Chase has been generating his usual share of entertainment news headlines through his off screen outbursts and conflicts with Community‘s writers and producers. As Sean O’Neal of AV Club, perhaps the finest entertainment news blogger working today, puts it: these stories have become the “dog bites man” of television news.
The long known off screen tensions first became public in March of this year, when now-departed from the show Community creator Dan Harmon played a profanity-filled voice mail which Chase had left for him in front of a group of his friends for their amusement. In September, Chase did an interview with the site Huffington Post UK in which he said that doing the show at all had been “a big mistake” and that sitcoms were “the lowest form of television.” More recently, Chase stopped filming and went on a tirade on set which included use of the “N word.” (To be clear, he was expressing his displeasure with the increasingly bigoted direction the writers were taking his character and the racial slur was meant to be an absurd example of the kind of thing he might be asked to say next, not a reflection of Chase’s own views.)
And even before these conflicts started becoming entertainment news story fodder, it was clear that the rest of Community’s creative team was finding the notoriously egomaniacal Chase difficult to work with. Strife between Chase’s Hawthorne Pierce character and the rest of seven person study group who make up the core of Community’s vast ensemble became such a recurring theme on the show and the Pierce character was becoming so cartoonishly evil that it was getting tiresome for all but the most stalwart Community cultist. I’m in a minority of Community fans who feel that Season Two’s “Evil Pierce” storyline in which over a series of episodes Pierce shifts from cranky old coot to out and out sociopath and is still accepted back into the fold for some unknown reason was a serious misstep and represented the exact moment at which the show gave up on having anything more than a cult audience.
The fact that the character is still being portrayed as a deranged racist in Season Four and will be in at least 11 of the 13 episodes doesn’t fill me with a lot of optimism that the show has solved its Hawthorne Pierce problem. According to the Entertainment Weekly story on the news, the 11 episodes Chase has already filmed include the season finale and the two as-yet-unfilmed will come sometime in the middle of season, so it’s unlikely the Pierce character will be given a proper send off, or even have his character’s death made into a throwaway joke as was done with Star-Burns.
Splitsider notes that Chase’s next project will be resurrecting his Clark Griswold character for a series of Old Navy ads. At least he won’t be working on a sitcom, “the lowest form of television.”