This has never happened before: former Community showrunner and executive producer Dan Harmon is officially coming back to the show. We are no longer in the Darkest Timeline, kids. Harmon announced his return over Twitter on Saturday morning. "Yes yes yes! I'm back I'm back I'm back," Harmon said. "You can thank [actor Joel McHale]." Harmon teased the news as recently as Friday, but now he appears comfortable enough to tell the whole world.
Hitfix's Alan Sepinwell reports the deal isn't done just yet, but "signatures are a formality," so yeah. This thing is happening. What's even crazier? No one Sepinwell spoke with could remember the last time someone fired from a show was invited back: "someone being fired and then invited to return is either without precedent, or at last hasn't happened in the last few decades."
After Community was renewed for a fifth season, to the surprise of pretty much everyone, rumors started swirling about Harmon's impending return to the show. Sony Pictures Television declined to renew his contract between Community's third and fourth season and was replaced by Moses Port and David Guarascio after the network grew fed up with Harmon's overbearing management style. But the new guys didn't turn Community into the world-beating hit for which NBC hoped. The Harmon-less season was panned. So why would NBC ever bring him back? Sepinwell offers some perspective:
So why was Harmon asked back? Harmon mentioned in that tweet that we can thank Joel McHale for his return, which squares with what I've heard from people close to the show: several of the castmembers weren't happy with the season 4 scripts and pushed Sony for Harmon's return. Given that — and given that the ratings actually decreased without Harmon, suggesting that "Community" was never going to resemble a broad-based hit no matter who was in charge — I can see Sony deciding to appease both their stars and the fans, and perhaps enhance the show's afterlife on DVD, streaming, etc.
If they're going to bring Community back for the fifth season no one thought would happen, they might as well bring back Harmon, too. It's unclear right now what Harmon's role will be when he returns, whether it's as showrunner, executive producer, writer, or all of the above. We'll update this if more leaks out later today.
Update, 3:54 p.m.: The Hollywood Reporter says Harmon is returning as showrunner, and former writer and executive producer Chris McKenna will also return.