Dispatches From the Couch (Re: Harmongate)

For a few years now, dramedy’s have been all the rage on television. But what works for DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES or NURSE JACKIE isn’t quote so appealing when it comes to real life. Just ask fans of COMMUNITY.

Surely, I can’t be the only one who was kinda bummed to find out that creator Dan Harmon and star Chevy Chase were engaged in an exceedingly nasty feud that involved temper tantrums, public displays if inaffection and the kind of mutual disrespect that we’d all like to think we wouldn’t wish on our worst enemy.

When news of the bickering first broke, I couldn’t help hoping it was all some kind of “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” stunt. But that quickly proved untrue, eventually leading to Harmon’s mea culpa, saying he wanted to “acknowledge my mistake and apologize to the fans.”

Unfortunately, you can’t unring a bell.

My household stopped watching 30 ROCK after star Tracy Morgan, during a comedy routine, joked that he would stab his son to death were the boy to be gay. In the weeks that followed, there was much debate in the media, including an op-ed piece from the actor himself insisting, basically, that we pick and choose what to be offended by. In that, at least, he was completely right. My household — aware that this was not Morgan’s first run-in with homophibic remarks — opted to take offense and, despite being big fans of 30 ROCK, express that offense by refusing to watch.

Clearly, the Harmon/Chase dust-up is an entirely different matter, as the nasty remarks being tossed about were flying back and forth between the two men as opposed to at the audience. But that doesn’t mean that for some, a little bit of the magic that is COMMUNITY won’t be tainted by what Harmon described as “the giant far with my name on it that you’ve been inhaling.”

Look, we’ve all read interviews in which a cast member from a hit show says, “I know you hear this all the time, but we really are one big happy family!” And most of us probably laugh, knowing full well that the soundstages on which shows are produced are no different than any other work environment, and that means there are by nature going to be some folks you like and others you don’t. But that little lie allows us to suspend our disbelief and picture the cast hanging out and having a ball behind the scenes when not laboring to entertain us, the viewing audience.

Then again, maybe this is what people really want… the scandal. The gossip. The titter-worthy tales of backstage backstabbing. We’ve become a nation obsessed with dirty laundry, whether it be that of Newt Gingrich or Kim Kardashian.

I, however, wouldn’t mind being kept in the dark about some of the scandals that rock my favorite shows. I don’t want to find myself watching COMMUNITY and wondering how much of Pierce’s dickish behavior is just Chevy Chase being Chevy Chase, or if that snarky line Jeff fired at Pierce is really Harmon taking a cheap shot at the star he has issues with.

How about this: I promise that if the cast and crew of my favorite shows agree to play the “we’re a big, happy family” game until after the show leaves the airwaves, I’ll buy each and every one of the illusion-shattering tell-all books they write after the fact.

Richard M. Simms is the author of the book Crimes Against Civility, free copies of which he will happily provide to Harmon and/or Chase upon request.

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  • As someone who’s coming a little late to this, I wouldn’t mind some links or references to articles that describe what happened. Can you share or add some to the post?

  • Big scandals like this always taints the story of the show for me because I can’t help thinking about real-life drama rather than what I’m seeing on-screen. See: Grey’s Anatomy, Lost, 30 Rock.

  • Chevy has always been an asshole.  The fact that he was getting along (or playing along) with some of his cast mates in the beginning was a shock to me.  Most of the lines directed towards Pierce have always seemed a bit close to home, in my opinion.  I think if this was any other show with any other actor you may have a point, but you know what you get with anything Chevy Chase is involved in. It’s definitely not going to ruin the show for me.