For every M*A*S*H, there are three That ’70s Shows. A general rule to live by, yes, but it takes particular relevance in the wake of Chevy Chase’s announcement that he will be departing from NBC’s cult phenomenon Community. The news broke last Wednesday that Chase would be departing from his position on the show, effective immediately. Considering how much of the upcoming fourth season has already been filmed, this will only leave viewers with one or two episodes devoid of Chase. However, if the show does get picked up for a fifth turn, we will be seeing Greendale without Pierce Hawthorne. Since the Season 4 finale has already been filmed, Pierce’s exit will have to be written into the beginning of the fifth year, unless they just plan on ignoring it.
And so, we’re called to revisit the maxim of M*A*S*H vs. That ’70s Show. The iconic Korean War black comedy is notable for having lost a handful of its original players along the course of its 11-year run (Trapper, Burns, Radar, Lt. Blake) filling the gaps with aplomb. The 1970s sendup, however, lost the likes of stars Topher Grace and Ashton Kutcher before its final season, tumbling in quality with desperate attempts to keep the show up and kicking. In this respect, That ’70s Show has a great deal more peers than M*A*S*H, which can really only call the likes of Cheers its company. Sitcoms rarely fare well following the loss of major characters — look at the pitiful later years of greats like Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley; it’s almost never done well. Of course, Community is savvy to the nuts and bolts of the television formula. It might well offer a satirical and analytical take on the ejection of one of its cast members. But following however this plays out, we’ll be back into the swing of the group’s day-to-day, only without one of the seven severely flawed figures to whose journeys we have adhered since the pilot.