Chevy Chase has left NBC's cult comedy Community with immediate effect, having filmed the majority of its 13-episode fourth season. It's not yet known if his character, bigoted Pierce Hawthorne, has been written out as part of an agreed exit strategy, or if the actor's simply called it quits and the writers will have to explain his absence in a creative way. (Most likely involving meta-humour from Abed about situations where actors leave a sitcom under a cloud.)
This won't be a huge surprise to anyone who's been following the behind-the-scenes spats between Chase and creator Dan Harmon—whom it's believed was fired last season partly because of his clashes with Chase. This culminated in Harmon unprofessionally releasing an embittered voicemail Chase left him.
The actor, who shot to fame in the '80s before his movie career collapsed in the '90s, has publicly denounced both Harmon and Community several times in the past—and often doesn't attend promotional events with the cast. Most recently, Chase was embroiled in a situation where he said the word n***er in front of black castmates Yvette Nicole Brown and Donald Glover on-set, apparently after becoming upset with his character's racist leanings.
Community will return to NBC on 7 February 2013 for what's likely to be its final season, with executive-producers David Guarascio and Moses Port replacing Dan Harmon.
What do you think to this news? Is it about time Chevy Chase left the show if he was so unhappy there? Will Community feel the loss of Pierce as a character? Is this a sign the show's days are definitely numbered, or will a Chase-less fifth season be possible? And do you think we'll get a clever farewell episode for Pierce, or just an awkward remark about his absence (perhaps with a wink to the fans)?