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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.

Soap tv show

As the Spoof Turns

15 Hilarious Soap Opera Parodies

Catch the classic sitcom Soap Saturday mornings on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures Television

The soap opera is the indestructible core of television fandom. We celebrate modern series like The Wire and Breaking Bad with their ongoing storylines, but soap operas have been tangling more plot threads than a quilt for decades. Which is why pop culture enjoys parodying them so much.

Check out some of the funniest soap opera parodies below, and be sure to catch Soap Saturday mornings on IFC.

1. Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman

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Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman was a cult hit soap parody from the mind of Norman Lear that poked daily fun at the genre with epic twists and WTF moments. The first season culminated in a perfect satire of ratings stunts, with Mary being both confined to a psychiatric facility and chosen to be part of a Nielsen ratings family.


2. IKEA Heights

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IKEA Heights proves that the soap opera is alive and well, even if it has to be filmed undercover at a ready-to-assemble furniture store totally unaware of what’s happening. This unique webseries brought the classic formula to a new medium. Even IKEA saw the funny side — but has asked that future filmmakers apply through proper channels.


3. Fresno

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When you’re parodying ’80s nighttime soaps like Dallas and Dynasty , everything about your show has to equally sumptuous. The 1986 CBS miniseries Fresno delivered with a high-powered cast (Carol Burnett, Teri Garr and more in haute couture clothes!) locked in the struggle for the survival of a raisin cartel.


4. Soap

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Soap was the nighttime response to daytime soap operas: a primetime skewering of everything both silly and satisfying about the source material. Plots including demonic possession and alien abduction made it a cult favorite, and necessitated the first televised “viewer discretion” disclaimer. It also broke ground for featuring one of the first gay characters on television in the form of Billy Crystal’s Jodie Dallas. Revisit (or discover for the first time) this classic sitcom every Saturday morning on IFC.


5. Too Many Cooks

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Possibly the most perfect viral video ever made, Too Many Cooks distilled almost every style of television in a single intro sequence. The soap opera elements are maybe the most hilarious, with more characters and sudden shocking twists in an intro than most TV scribes manage in an entire season.


6. Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace

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Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace was more mockery than any one medium could handle. The endless complications of Darkplace Hospital are presented as an ongoing horror soap opera with behind-the-scenes anecdotes from writer, director, star, and self-described “dreamweaver visionary” Garth Marenghi and astoundingly incompetent actor/producer Dean Learner.


7. “Attitudes and Feelings, Both Desirable and Sometimes Secretive,” MadTV

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Soap opera connoisseurs know that the most melodramatic plots are found in Korea. MADtv‘s parody Tae Do  (translation: Attitudes and Feelings, Both Desirable and Sometimes Secretive) features the struggles of mild-mannered characters with far more feelings than their souls, or subtitles, could ever cope with.


8. Twin Peaks

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Twin Peaks, the twisted parody of small town soaps like Peyton Place whose own creator repeatedly insists is not a parody, has endured through pop culture since it changed television forever when it debuted in 1990. The show even had it’s own soap within in a soap called…


9. “Invitation to Love,” Twin Peaks

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Twin Peaks didn’t just parody soap operas — it parodied itself parodying soap operas with the in-universe show Invitation to Love. That’s more layers of deceit and drama than most televised love triangles.


10. “As The Stomach Turns,” The Carol Burnett Show

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The Carol Burnett Show poked fun at soaps with this enduring take on As The World Turns. In a case of life imitating art, one story involving demonic possession would go on to happen for “real” on Days of Our Lives.


11. Days of our Lives (Friends Edition)

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Still airing today, Days of Our Lives is one of the most famous soap operas of all time. They’re also excellent sports, as they allowed Friends star Joey Tribbiani to star as Dr Drake Ramoray, the only doctor to date his own stalker (while pretending to be his own evil twin). And then return after a brain-transplant.

And let’s not forget the greatest soap opera parody line ever written: “Come on Joey, you’re going up against a guy who survived his own cremation!”


12. Acorn Antiques

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First appearing on the BBC sketch comedy series Victoria Wood As Seen on TV, Acorn Antiques combines almost every low-budget soap opera trope into one amazing whole. The staff of a small town antique store suffer a disproportional number of amnesiac love-triangles, while entire storylines suddenly appear and disappear without warning or resolution. Acorn Antiques was so popular, it went on to become a hit West End musical.


13. “Point Place,” That 70s Show

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In a memorable That ’70s Show episode, an unemployed Red is reduced to watching soaps all day. He becomes obsessed despite the usual Red common-sense objections (like complaining that it’s impossible to fall in love with someone in a coma). His dreams render his own life as Point Place, a melodramatic nightmare where Kitty leaves him because he’s unemployed. (Click here to see all airings of That ’70s Show on IFC.)


14. The Spoils of Babylon

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Bursting from the minds of Will Ferrell and creators Andrew Steele and Matt Piedmont, The Spoils of Babylon was a spectacular parody of soap operas and epic mini-series like The Thorn Birds. Taking the parody even further, Ferrell himself played Eric Jonrosh, the author of the book on which the series was based. Jonrosh returned in The Spoils Before Dying, a jazzy murder mystery with its own share of soapy twists and turns.

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15. All My Children Finale, SNL

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SNL‘s final celebration of one of the biggest soaps of all time is interrupted by a relentless series of revelations from stage managers, lighting designers, make-up artists, and more. All of whom seem to have been married to or murdered by (or both) each other.

Fred Armisen as Portlandia Candace

Train Of Thought

Listen to Fred Armisen as Portlandia’s Candace Devereaux Read From Her Racy Travelogue

Download the Portlandia Travelogue right now on Audible.com. Portlandia returns for its sixth season January 21st at 10/9c on IFC.

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Portlandia fans know that Candace Devereaux, one of the owners of Portland’s premiere feminist bookstore, has a way with words. So its no wonder that the mercurial small business owner (who sounds remarkably like Fred Armisen) has teamed up with Audible for the release of Portlandia Travelogue: The Brussels to Antwerp Express, an erotic journey that evokes great works of fiction like On the Road and The Red Shoe Diaries.

Over the course of a quarter-hour, Devereaux details her magical train ride through Europe as she encounters denizens of the rail whose mysteriously mundane lives mask a saucy level of intrigue.

Give a listen to the clips below and marvel at the adventure of a starry-eyed, quick-tempered woman overseas. And be sure to download the full Portlandia Travelogue right now for free over on Audible.

Season 6, Episode 2: Going Grey

Munici-Pals

10 Best Pop Culture Mayors

Catch Kyle MacLachlan on an all-new Portlandia this Thursday, Feb. 4th at 10P.

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Fictional municipalities are rarely clockwork operations. There wouldn’t be much of a story if local governments were run with lockstep efficiency, and the source of the dysfunction and bureaucratic mismanagement usually falls to the very top: The Mayor. Even with the best of intentions and the noblest of corruption, the administrations of fictional mayors tend to be unconventional at best and disastrous at worst. But no matter what, they’re always pretty funny.

To celebrate Kyle MacLachlan‘s ever chipper mayor returning to Portlandia this Thursday at 10P on IFC, check out 10 pop culture mayors that gave us multiple terms of hilarity. (Click here to find IFC on TV in your area.)

1. Mayor of Portland, Portlandia 

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Laid back (not counting the exercise ball) and diligent (not counting the “real roots reggae” band), Portland’s fictional mayor is the absolute ideal in “dream of the ’90s” leadership. Hands-on, idealistic, and ably assisted by real-life Portland mayor Sam Adams, he is the only candidate to keep the largest city in Oregon weird in a way that’s totally different from Austin. (Check out behind-the-scenes Portlandia photos and anecdotes from Kyle McLachlan’s Instagram takeover.)


2. Mayor “Diamond” Joe Quimby, The Simpsons

If you ever wondered how far a suitcase full of money could get you in politics, look no further than the man in charge of Springfield, USA. There’s nobody who isn’t in the mayor’s pocket (and vice versa) and no good-lookin’ broad who doesn’t have his hotel key. But incumbency is always a lock thanks to the low-information voter, i.e. every single Springfieldian, and what can’t be excused can be defended with something as simple as “I didn’t do it.”


3. Mayor Goldie Wilson, Back to the Future

It’s rare to actually witness first-hand the humble beginnings of an elected official. Tales of blue-collar origins and “common man” rhetoric come cheap, so it’s always refreshing to see a young, starry-eyed go-getter rise from sweeping the floors to cleaning up the town. And to think, it all stemmed from a casual comment from your average, everyday time traveler.


4. The Mayor of Jefferton, Tom Goes to the Mayor

Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim quickly established their acid-trip sensibilities with the Adult Swim series Tom Goes to the Mayor. Heidecker plays community-minded citizen Tom who attempts to corral Wareheim’s clinically insane mayor but typically winds up bruised and defeated in the process. Actual government work is entirely incidental.


5. Mayor Lenny, Ghostbusters movies

Trying to fill the big shoes left behind by Fiorello H. La Guardia — and occasionally chatting with his ghost — scrappy New York mayor and man of the people Lenny (his only identifier) is an open-minded leader who will listen to and healthily fund paranormal exterminators for the good of the island and its people. And any genitally-impaired suit from the EPA won’t stand in his way. (Click here to check future airings of Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II on IFC.)


6. Mayor Adam West, Family Guy

Speaking of clinically insane mayors, mellifluous actor Adam West plays a crackpot alternate version of himself as the mayor of Quahog, Rhode Island. His administration is teeming with conspiracy (he’s convinced someone is stealing his plant’s water), paranoia (he’s cemented coffins shut as a sure-fire prevention against zombies), and flat-out insanity (he’s entered into matrimony with his own hand).


7. Mayor Clarence Royce, The Wire

The lying, cheating, backstabbing snake of a mayor Clarence Royce is the grinning embodiment of institutional failure, so it’s always a delight to see the system bite him in the ass. And much to the credit to actor Glynn Turman, his fall from backroom puppet master to ousted primary candidate is filled with schadenfreude hilarity — especially when he tries to cover it with that mile-wide smile.


8. Mayor of Townsville, Powerpuff Girls

Consistently demolished due to wanton superhero destruction, the city of Townsville is in desperate need of strong, determined leadership. Unfortunately, they’ve elected a dimwitted, diminutive worrywart mayor whose panicky bewilderment puts the entire community at risk. If it weren’t for the cogent and level-headed assistance of Ms. Sara Bellum, the city would be in peril even more often than it is.


9. Mayor Richard Wilkins III, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

In a town filled with demons, goblins, and vampires, one can’t provide effective authority without some shape-shifting powers of his own. Such is the case with Sunnydale mayor Richard Wilkins III, a centuries-old sorcerer who is hell-bent (heh) on becoming an immortal purebred demon — all while maintaining the image of a conservative, family-values politician. Which is perhaps the most realistic version of a politician in this list.


10. Mayor McCheese, McDonaldland

Glorified figurehead Mayor McCheese governs McDonaldland practically by proxy. Citizens have long known — and visitors quickly come to find — that frantic clown Ronald McDonald is the sole public figure who brings the town together and makes it run smoothly (with the exception of the rampant hamburglary). Suffering through term after term of that loopy Ed Wynn-inspired voice, McDonaldland deserves a leader that isn’t half-morphed into a second-rate menu item.

Meet Austin’s mayor on this week’s brand-new Portlandia, Thursday at 10P on IFC.

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