The absurd postmodern sitcom created by Harmon has always struggled with low ratings, but has garnered a devoted following and critical acclaim. While its numbers are bad, they're not bad for NBC, who can't seem to find a hit with both hands and a flashlight.
Harmon created the show, and was the driving creative influence. After the third season, he was fired by Sony, who cited his continual lateness delivering scripts, amongst other creative differences. He had a public and ugly feud with cast member Chevy Chase (Chase himself left the show mid way through the fourth season) and according to Harmon, Sony never even fired him in person (he was told via an executive producer on Community that he was done).
A 13 episode fourth season was greenlit and shot, with David Guarascio and Moses Port as producers. Many long time fans of the show (including this writer) felt that fourth season was nowhere near as strong as the previous three.
After his firing, Harmon certainly wasn't shy about speaking out against his former bosses. On KCRW's The Business back in 2012, he had a lot to say. He admitted, "I would have fired me" and talked about his self-destructive behaviour, which seems like a mea culpa, but goes on to say "Sony’s job is to take that shot clock and do whatever they can with it...They’re not going to hand the ball to the guy that spent three years losing in the ratings race and not turning a script over until I felt it was finished. If your ratings are high and there’s money being made, you’re allowed to be a perfectionist in television." He also says that he believes that NBC was looking just to get the episodes to a high enough count to get syndication money and was going to move the show to Friday to kill it off quietly.
He also said that his reputation for being difficult came from his own attempts to be self-effacing. Harmon said on The Business, "Once you have a three-season show, it really doesn’t matter that there's some rumor circulated out there by the people who made the strange decision to fire you; of course they’re going to create the idea that we were difficult to work with." He also said that he believed the series was under-budget for all three seasons.
So, it's even more amazing that, according to the Hollywood Reporter, Sony is talking with Harmon to return in some capacity for the recently announced fifth season. It's unknown in what role he would be returning, but the mere fact that he could come back is great news for Community fans. I'll believe it when I see it, as it's clear that these two parties really hate each other, and Harmon is not one to mince words. But let's live in hope. I leave you with one more spectacular quote from Harmon:
On Getting Notes From Sony Execs: "My writers would stay up until four in the morning if that's what they felt was required to make the show airable, and people who don't stay up until four in the morning don't have the right to use certain language when they talk about those writers' work, in my opinion."