It may be a distant memory now, but though it was a busy long weekend for food porn aficionados - Masterchef NZ finished its latest season on Sunday night (TV One), and My Kitchen Rules named its winner last night (TV2) - it was an even bigger weekend for cult television enthusiasts: we woke up on Sunday morning to the news that Matt Smith will be finished as the 11th Doctor before year's end AND that Dan Harmon is confirmed to be returning to Community for its fifth season.
Both stories caused a near-riot online; media commentators like to talk about how social media has made television a shared experience again, but it's not until a show that has a large, dedicated fanbase hits the headlines that it becomes clear just how pervasive television is online. Sure, people talk about Masterchef or MKR, but a social site like Twitter explodes when a cult show becomes a point of interest.
In fact, the Doctor Who and the Community stories made for a perfect storm of discussion, since both could be summed up in a single question that proved the biggest talking points of all. So let's take them one at a time, and do a bit of wanton speculation ...
Will Community improve with Dan Harmon returning?
As other critics have pointed out, the reasons for Dan Harmon's dismissal from Community, the show he created and oversaw, were never made clear - Sony Pictures Television decided not to renew Harmon's contract with the show after Season 3, putting the now-departed Moses Port and David Guarascio in charge for Season 4. And Harmon's return is unprecedented; a creator/showrunner has never been dismissed involuntarily and later rehired to the same show, let alone only a year or so after he was dismissed in the first place.
Community's ratings actually fell further in Season 4 - the show endured its lowest average per episode in a season that also featured its two lowest-rating episodes ever - continuing a trend of decline across all four seasons. It was also its most disappointing season creatively; I haven't seen every episode, but the few I've taken in seemed to be lacking compared to years past. I suspect that was a side-effect of losing Harmon's creative voice.
Harmon lands in a win-win situation. Fans are going to spot his influence on the creative voice of the show, meaning that they'll be satisfied with the fifth (and possibly last) season of the show. And the ratings couldn't get much worse - if they drop any further, NBC will be forced to pull the show off the air mid-season. I think the interest around the show, and the return of Harmon fans, should force a rise in viewers. So, yes, I think Community will improve.
Who will take over from Matt Smith as the 12th Doctor on Doctor Who?
Let's get one thing straight: Matt Smith has been a great Doctor. He is probably my favourite Doctor of all time, and certainly the best of the Davies-Moffat era. He will be dearly missed.
However, I think this is an exciting development for the show. It comes at a time when Doctor Who is being accused of "thunderous" racism, and I wonder if the current crew have done their dash for now. It's certainly time for a change - and a regeneration would wipe the slate (at least a little) clean.
I'd love to see the BBC move away from a typical white, lanky male for the role. The Doctor can take any form, and casting a female or a black actor in the role would be an intriguing change. A lot of fans seem to be thinking the same way: suggestions online have ranged from Alex Kingston (currently/finished playing River Song) to Idris Elba.
I like the idea of Elba, but I feel it's an impossibility given his role on Luther (returning for a third season) and his rising star in Hollywood. My first suggestion was Lennie James, who was fantastic in Line of Duty and The Walking Dead - I think he would be brilliant. The best suggestion I saw online was Dame Helen Mirren. Can you imagine Mirren staring down the Cybermen for control of Earth? How incredible would that be?!
Last, because I'm half Irish, what about someone like Dylan Moran? He'd certainly be a step away from the archetypal British dork that Smith played, and would bring even more humour to the role.
All right, over to you lot now - put your speculation cap on and head to the comments ...
What was your response to these news stories? Do you think Dan Harmon can save Community? And who do you think should take over the role of The Doctor for the next season of Doctor Who?