Monday, April 02, 2012
Chevy Chase vs. Dan Harmon
Let me tell you the backstory as objectively as I can. And please know I have never met either party.
Difficult/unfunny/lucky to have any job, Chevy Chase apparently stormed off the set on the final episode thus forcing the writers to scramble.
Later, at the wrap party (where the ingrate actor did attend along with his wife and daughter), Dan Harmon proposed a toast, inviting the rest of the cast and crew to join in a rousing salute of, “Fuck you, Chevy!” The over-the-hill target was so enraged he and his family left.
It gets better. As they say on COMMUNITY – wait for it.
Former SNL cast member (now banned from the show) Chase calls Harmon and leaves a blistering voicemail message. Part of the message has leaked to the world. In addition to using every swear word at least twice, he calls Harmon fat and an alcoholic. Where does Chevy Chase, of all people, get off calling ANYONE fat and an alcoholic? In the rant he says, ““I don’t get talked to like that by anyone. Certainly not in front of my wife and daughter you goddamn asshole!” Okay. I’ll give him that. Because they fear for their jobs, everyone he’s worked with only says, “Fuck you, Chevy!” to his back.
And, to be fair, I don't condone Harmon's ploy. There are more elegant ways to handle this situation.
Meanwhile, fellow-cast-member Jim Rash, who just won an Oscar for writing, doesn’t seem to have a problem with the COMMUNITY scripts.
Chase (whose talk show was one of television’s legendary disasters) has been biting the hand that feeds him frequently. He has publicly said he hates sitcoms. He told the Huffington Post recently: “This is the only time I’ve ever had to act every week in the same clothes and as the same character, and I don’t find it particularly enlightening. It’s not teaching anybody anything.”
Not teaching anybody anything? What did you teach them in THE KARATE DOG? Or NATIONAL LAMPOON EUROPEAN VACATION? CADDYSHACK II? OH HEAVENLY DOG? UNDER THE RAINBOW?
As someone who has been a showrunner myself, I always judge bad actor behavior on the “Is he worth it?” scale. Marilyn Monroe’s shenanigans used to drive director Billy Wilder nuts. But he put up with them, once saying, “My Aunt Minnie would always be punctual and never hold up production, but who would pay to see my Aunt Minnie?” Is Chevy Chase integral to COMMUNITY? Hell no. Is he replaceable? Hell yes. Do you even need another character in his place? Another hell no.
I think it’s a moot point anyway because although Chase says, “it depends on what happens” whether he returns to the show, there’s no way in fucking hell Harmon will allow him back.
Here’s what I don’t like about this juicy Hollywood story and what I do like. (Remember, I'm Mr. Objective.)
The don’t like part first. By acting like a total jerk, Chase perpetuates the stereotype that actors are all out-of-control ego maniacal monsters. The truth is 95% of them are consummate professionals and easy to work with. They may have creative disagreements with you, but this is a collaborative process. They voice their concerns in a respectful way, and although I hate to admit it, they’re often right. So he does his fellow actors a disservice... not that he gives a shit, I'm sure. No one who walks off a set in the middle of a scene has any regard for his fellow actors.
Now the like part. When showrunners clash with stars and one has to go, usually it’s the showrunner. This pendulum is starting to swing the other way. Charlie Sheen was fired from TWO AND A HALF MEN, not Chuck Lorre. And in this case Dan Harmon will surely prevail. Yay showrunners!
Chevy Chase will not get another show. And trust me, despite what he says, in another few years when the only work he can get is dinner theaters in North Dakota, the idea of steady employment on a network sitcom will look pretty damn good to him. But no offer will come. COMMUNITY only came along because then-NBC president, Ben Silverman forced Chase on Harmon. That won’t happen again. Chase has no name recognition factor anymore and the “Is he worth it?” scale is now pinning in the “no”.
Also, the buzz this story has created might benefit COMMUNITY’S campaign to get renewed for next season. What other NBC show is anyone talking about? So that’s a good thing – maybe the best thing Chase has contributed to the series in his entire tenure.
Final thought: As many readers have pointed out, Harmon doesn't appear to be an angel either. I've never met him, but I know there are former COMMUNITY writers who have run screaming from the show because of the insane hours. Showrunning is incredibly stressful and arrows come at you from all sides. It's not just difficult actors. It's the network, studio, critics, religious zealots, and now bloggers. But I've always approached the job this way: the showrunner is mommy & daddy. The cast and crew are your kids. You be the grown-up.
And as for Chevy, he'll be opening soon in YOU'RE A GOOD MAN, CHARLIE BROWN at the Emter Dinner Theater in Jamestown, North Dakota. And there's RV parking!
Wait for it.