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Exclusive: Dan Harmon speaks candidly about “Community” departure

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Fans of “Community” found it very disheartening when it was announced earlier this year that NBC was going to continue the show without its showrunner Dan Harmon. The critical darling wasn’t performing with the numbers the network wanted, and Harmon kept pushing the show farther and farther from the mainstream by having episodes dedicated to obscure films like “My Dinner with Andre” and taking place in multiple timelines. Harmon has been candid about his departure since NBC let him go, but it’s clear that he’s unhappy that his baby is going to be moving on without him.

IFC had the chance to catch up with Harmon at the red carpet premiere for Daniel Gillies’ documentary “Kingdom Come,” and we asked him about life after “Community.” He signed a TV deal with CBS and was in talks with FOX about a new show back in July, but it’s unclear just what those projects may be.

“I haven’t really thought about [the new shows] all that hard,” Harmon admitted. “My philosophy coming off of the NBC thing is that I’m not going to work quite as hard right out of the gate because working hard in network television, you’re not supposed to. You’re supposed to delegate and you’re supposed to take notes and you’re supposed to be diplomatic. I need to prove with my next couple of jobs that I’m capable of working without burning bridges and biting hands and things.”

He continued, “That’s why I went with CBS and Fox because they’re the two biggest networks and I want to do something good and something that’s successful and somehow not be the bad guy every day that I go to work. If that doesn’t work, I’ll immediately dump the third thing and become unlikable again, but I want to see if it’s possible to have all three and keep my job and make people happy and do something of quality.”

From the sound of those statements, it seemed as though Harmon was talking about maybe toning down his voice in his new television projects. When we asked if that’s what he meant, he explained that it’s a tricky line to walk.

“That’s a really good important question. Obviously if I say, ‘Yes, I’m going to try to tone it down,’ that would be [a trap]. Not that it’s like a ‘gotcha’ thing, I’m just saying, ‘What is the real answer to that question?’ What am I saying when I say I want to not get fired or hoist my sails to the wind that’s there?” he said. “It’s like, I hope that that doesn’t involve toning anything down.”

As an example, he explained that “Community” was his “earnest attempt to make a mainstream show,” so fans shouldn’t worry about him “selling out tonally.” And even though he’s hopefully going to end up on a network whose best comedies are sitcoms, he doesn’t think his project will fit with that mold.

“I’m not really able to write ‘Big Bang Theory.’ If I tried, it would be worse than ‘Big Bang Theory.’ The guys that are good at that write that, do it well, and then the stuff that I write is going to end up inevitably being like ‘Community,” Harmon said. “The sad fact is that that’s as close to the bulls-eye as I get. Just don’t tell CBS that I said that; it may repeat itself all over again. I’ll find some way to make it my own, otherwise it will be bad.”

“Community” has had plenty of iconic and experimental episodes, from the episode-long paintball fights to the stop-motion Christmas special to our personal favorite: “Remedial Chaos Theory” with its multiple timelines. We asked Harmon which of the episodes were his favorite, and he said there were too many to choose from.

“Since the end of the first season onward, it was all about, ‘We’re going to get fired every day now, we’re going to get cancelled, but it didn’t happen today, so what else has anyone else wanted to do on TV for their entire life as a writer?’ and whatever the answer was we’d try to find a way to do it up to and including a multiple timeline, which is something I’d wanted to do for a long time,” he said. “Ever since I’d seen ‘Run Lola Run.’ I mean, I’m a derivative writer. You can see online, I posted a text message conversation I had with one of the writers, Megan Ganz, about just watching ‘Run Lola Run’ a second time and going, ‘There’s got to be a way to do this sliding doors, video game stop-and-start multiple timelines something.’ You can see us hashing it out.”

We asked him about the season three episode “Digital Estate Planning,” which guest starred Giancarlo Esposito and, like the stop-motion episode, ditched live action to instead be told through the style of a retro video game. It turns out that one doesn’t rank to high on his list of favorites.

“That was ridiculous,” he said. “I haven’t watched that one again because it was just like too far. I know that that was the final straw [with NBC].”

What about season two’s “Critical Film Studies,” which is largely inspired by “My Dinner with Andre” and “Pulp Fiction” and features Abed’s hilarious “Cougar Town” crossover?

“God, that’s another one I thought was it,” Harmon said, and then continued on to explain why he thinks so many of “Community’s” experiments slipped through the cracks. “We were very lucky to be at a network that was sort of in flames the whole time because it was like Beirut wasn’t a nice place to live in the ’80s but there was a lot of ammunition lying around and people got to do some stuff they had always been dreaming of doing. I think that’s what NBC was at that time.”

Even with those harsh words, Harmon made it clear that he wishes all the best for the network that sent him away.

“I hope for NBC’s sake that the impulse that made [NBC chairman Robert] Greenblatt get rid of me is coupled with an impulse that brings stability and Camelot back, because it is one of the greatest networks, the one that I grew up watching: ‘Night Rider,’ ‘A-Team,’ ‘Cosby,’ ‘Cheers,'” he told IFC. “It would be great to see them keep fighting that fight for taste and quality but, I don’t know. That’s out of my jurisdiction, I have no idea if that’s going to happen. I saw a poster with a monkey on it and some guys with BabyBjorns, so it’s not looking good.”

What do you think about Harmon’s comments about NBC and “Community”? Tell us in the comments section below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.