In his blog yesterday he addressed the brouhaha surrounding his recent feud with Chevy Chase that has resulted in enough articles and blog posts (including one by your humble host) to take the heat off of Keith Olbermann. The real loser here is Gloria Allred. America’s number one attention whore is representing the disqualified transgender Miss Universe Canada contestant and no one cares. (Losing a case Allred can handle, but a press conference that doesn’t get coverage? Catastrophe!)
Harmon has acknowledged that the negative feedback has gotten to him. I think the cyber tally prior to his mea culpa was 10 thumbs-up for “like” and 4,000,000 whatever the icon is for “you’re-a-douche.” (Hey, I’m sure I can expect 500 “you’re a douche” claims myself just by addressing this topic again. Commenters appear more passionate about this than say how we approached writing the character of Frasier.)
Anyway, Harmon apologized for playing Chase’s voicemail during his stand-up act. He then tries to disarm his detractors by saying, “I’m a selfish baby and a rude asshole and not a person to trust with your feelings.”
Do I really care whether Harmon gives Chase a proper apology? No. Do you? But because it was a half-apology, this story and mud slinging will continue.
The internet has been a wonderful thing for showrunners. They’ve been able to drum up support for their shows and attract some attention to themselves. It still pisses me off every time I pick up an ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY and see their Sound Bites feature where they show TV actors and post lines their characters have said. To the public, that looks like the actors came up with those pithy lines. None of them did. Writers wrote those! At least now through blogs and social networks, writers and showrunners can finally step into the limelight (assuming Twitter is the limelight).
But the web is also a trap. Transgressions get circulated instantly. Blog posts and angry Tweets are broadcast worldwide. I’m sure there were peasants in caves in Afghanistan following the Marc Cherry-Nicollette Sheridan trial.
Here's my point: Showrunners have to take special care not to air any dirty laundry publicly. This is not just preferable; it’s imperative. Remember, you’re not just representing your show. You’re also representing the studio and the network. They do not like being embarrassed. They may tolerate it if your show still has some value to them, but good luck in the future when you’re no longer hot. Don’t needlessly shoot yourself in the foot for the benefit of your Facebook friends.
And then there’s the immediate problem: Internal incidents become major crises. And when that occurs you no longer have control over the situation. Now you’re also fighting public opinion and who can predict that? Herman Cain got votes!
Let’s take this specific COMMUNITY situation. Had Harmon handled Chase’s walking off the set discreetly, he could have made a much easier case for himself to fire Chase after the season. Now he has to contend with all the Chevy Chase fans rallying to his defense. And all the people who aren’t necessarily Chevy Chase fans but are taking his side in this scuffle. Thousands of emails I’m sure are pouring into NBC whereas there could have been none. Who needs that aggravation?
Harmon claims it’s his passion for the show and desire to please the audience that causes him to make these errors in judgment. I can appreciate that and have no doubt he’s pouring his heart and soul into COMMUNITY. But in the process he’s hurting his cause and making it harder on himself.
So showrunners, for the sake of COMMUNITY, and every show for that matter – do yourself a favor. Keep all squabbles private. Your loyal followers will not un-follow you. Gloria Allred will thank you. And tomorrow I can post that piece I prepared on how we wrote Frasier.