“Community” creator Dan Harmon hasn’t slowed down since being let go from his acclaimed, unique NBC sitcom in May. He’s got new TV projects in the works, and he’s executive producing the animated short film “Anomalisa” based on a Charlie Kaufman script, yet he still had time to stop by Reddit for one of the site’s signature open Q&A sessions.
Harmon, an avid user of Tumblr and Twitter and recent host of his own podcast Harmontown, is open and up front about his personal and industry lives in refreshingly honest (sometimes alarmingly so) ways — and this Reddit thread is no different. Here are highlights:
The storyline he most regrets not being able to do involved Richard Ayoade (“The IT Crowd”). “I wanted Richard Ayoade (director of the ‘Dinner with Andre’ episode) to return, this time on camera, as an overseas friend of Abed’s that he met in an Inspector Spacetime forum (or subreddit). I just couldn’t resist the meta-liciousness of seeing Ayoade and Pudi on screen together, and the non-meta, perfectly standard sitcom-liciousness of giving Abed a friend of whom Troy would have good reason to be jealous.” This arc’s now actually set to take place in the upcoming Harmon-less season, with Matt Lucas of “Bridesmaids” playing the role.
“Advanced Dungeons & Dragons” is Harmon’s favorite episode. That would be the one in which the group tried to cheer up Fat Neil with a D&D session during which Pierce (Chevy Chase) becomes the villain.
Speaking of Chase, here’s what happened the time he walked off the set. “He refused to do the ‘tag’ for the Digital Estate Planning episode (the 8 bit video game episode). In the scripted tag, Abed comes to Pierce with the thumb drive he took, and says ‘Pierce, I’ve been able to adjust some of the code for your Dad’s video game and I’ve made a version I think you might like better.’ He puts the thumb drive into a laptop in front of Pierce. We cut to the laptop screen, where we see Pierce’s avatar on a front lawn with the giant floating head of Cornelius. Every time Pierce presses the space bar, his avatar throws a baseball to his father’s head, which gives him a thousand points and a ‘great job, son!’
“Pierce presses the space bar a few times, pauses, then leans over and embraces Abed and we fade to black. When Adam Countee pitched that tag, tears instantly rolled down my cheeks, and in point of fact, my eyes are getting watery describing it to you. It was the most important part of the episode and possibly one of the most important moments of the season. I was very upset to hear that it wasn’t shot because someone didn’t feel like shooting it, especially since it was literally the last day of shooting, which meant we’d never be able to pick it up. I regret nothing about how upset I got. My job was to care about my show.”
Harmon thinks Chase did this not knowing that it would permanently affect the episode. “The answer I heard from the people on set was that he didn’t think it was funny. After he realized how upset I was about it, he said things in voicemails like ‘there was no script’ (untrue) and ‘I have a weird relationship with the name Cornelius’ (dumb, he had no dialogue in the tag). The real answer, I believe, is that he wanted to go home because he was tired. He probably didn’t realize he was permanently damaging the episode by doing so because he often walked off set and then we would just pick up his shots later in the week. But this was the final shot of the season. The sets came down after he walked away. So this was the one time in three years that his personality caused unfixable damage to something I really held valuable.”
Harmon wouldn’t come back to the show in a new role. “It wouldn’t do the show or me any good to be invited back to the show in ‘any capacity.’ If they thought I was bad at being in charge, they’d be even more disappointed in my ability to be not-in-charge. I’m a zero-sum personality with very little staff writing experience. I like to create stuff and if people don’t like it I like to try to figure out how to make it better but I’m not great at helping other people make their stuff. Nobody wants Dan Harmon prowling the hallways while they’re trying to make Community. It would slow everything down and frustrate everyone because people would feel obligated to mince words and be political in their handling of my opinions and blah blah blah. So no.”
He may watch the new season, but he’s waiting on the fan reaction. “I’m going to wait a few episodes, maybe the whole season, and see how other people react. If people love it, then I’ll be able to safely watch it with an open, friendly heart, because the whole point is whatever makes the audience happy. If they say it’s good, it’s good, and I can watch it and even say it’s good. But I’m not going to be part of any campaign to convince anyone – me or others – of anything, good or bad. I’ve received a lot of advice from a lot of creatives that in a situation like this, it’s best for everyone on all sides that I make a clean break and not look back. I’ll be one of the very last people you hear weighing in on New Community. It’s the most practical, healthy decision I can make for its audience. Here’s an important related question: DO I HOPE IT’S GOOD? The honest answer is yes.”
Read the whole AMA here.