Dan Harmon’s Reddit Highlights
I've been on Reddit three times in my life, and they were all Community related. One time was to ask Gillian Jacobs a question during an "AMA" ("Ask Me Anything"), and she answered it and made my day (for the record, it was like halfway thru S3 and I asked if we would ever see Britta in her psych class. The answer was no). Another was to try to get the guy who put up the Chevy voicemail to take it down - clearly I was not successful (to be fair, I was - the guy quickly took it down and apologized, but it was already in Deadline's clutches, so our efforts were all for naught).
And the third was today, when Community creator Dan Harmon announced he would be doing an AMA himself at noon. He opened the page at around 11:30 am, and by the time he had sat down at his promised start time there were already hundreds of questions and comments to weed through. Miraculously he found/answered my question (I couldn't even find it 10 minutes later), and it got a lot of "up votes" whatever the hell that means, so that's nice. My query was just geek shit about how they chose the seating arrangement for our heroes, because that's the sort of stuff I personally care about: the history or mythology of the show, how things came to be, what had to happen for this thing I love to exist the way it does.
But most folks just want to hear about fighting with Chevy* or what he's doing now or what he thinks about the new season. If that's the case, I've compiled some of the more relevant responses for your benefit (the benefit being not having to wade through a messy Reddit thread and suffer through a bunch of people posting gifs and show quotes just to find out who came up with the idea of the Torg doll). Enjoy!
What did Chevy refuse to film, and why did he storm off the set instead?
"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."
"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."
Did NBC force Chevy upon them?
"Sony made us. I'm not saying it was the wrong decision ultimately, but the honest answer to the question is that Pierce was literally the only role for which nobody else was considered after the actor we cast put his hat in the ring. Even McHale had to "test" against two other great guys. The short list of people I wanted to see about playing Pierce: Fred Willard, John Cleese, Patrick Stewart. That's a juicy role, man, there's a LOT of brilliant old dudes out there, but in the end, Sony felt (accurately) that Chase was a household name. And I remember Krasnoff saying to me, "listen, you make the decision on your pilot that gets you a series order. You take these things one step at a time." And there was wisdom there. Vile wisdom, but it's a vile industry. And I think the writers and Chevy ended up creating an unforgettable character."
Do you keep in touch with the cast?
"Not as much as I'd like. I'm not a real go-getter socially. I love them all - yes, even Chevy - and owe them anything they'd ask, in exchange for giving me the most important three years of my life, and I've heard third hand that they feel the same, and I believe it. They're busy people at the moment and will be for a while but I will always love them and hope to see them again. We walked over hot coals together...we just didn't do it in the same room very often."
Is he going to watch the new season?
"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."
What's the status of Anomalisa, your project with Charlie Kaufman?
"Work on Anomalisa can't really start until we see what kind of real money we're looking at. The first decisions about making stop motion are the most financially dependent - what kind of dolls are we going to design, are they going to have fancy ball-and-socket armatures like the Community Christmas dolls, or faster, cheaper wireframe armatures like the Frankenhole dolls, etc. Eyes, lips, hair, set design, storyboards, everything is affected on a fundamental level by whether we have 300K or 350K at the outset of pre-production. Also, until we get started with that stuff, Charlie's not weighing in on how he WANTS it done, and however Charlie wants it done is how it's going to get done...so, while all of that should amount to a great piece of stop motion storytelling, it doesn't amount to me being able to say much right now, other than: KEEP PLEDGING TO ANOMALISA, there's a MILLION DOLLAR VERSION OF IT, pledge pledge pledge and every penny will end up on screen."
On Harmon's Adult Swim pilot Rick And Morty:
"The wheels of animation turn slowly, especially at the beginning. We're still waiting to get an official nod from Adult Swim but it's looking good. I can't express adequately how excited I am about "Rick and Morty." It's not going to be a substitute for "Community" for 100 percent of Community fans, some will love it but some people that hated Community will love Rick and Morty and some people that love Community will hate Rick and Morty, but the bottom line is, it's a really, REALLY exciting pilot and the series has a unique potential to go just about anywhere. I want to get started on it really bad."
There were also a few little nuggets that I found interesting, such as his realization that Tom Cruise would have been a perfect choice to play Subway, that the air condition repair school storyline was "distorted" by scheduling problems, and that if he could do one full episode from the clip show it would be when they went camping.
He also gives some fine advice for writers, and stresses the importance of the fans, who never see a dime from caring more about the show than the execs who get rich despite never even watching it. If you want more, the original thread is HERE. If you're like me and find Reddit threads like this to be too messy for the effort, my advice would be to just click on Harmon's name and read his replies - most of them have enough context to more or less figure out the question. And thanks to BAD reader Vivek Bhat for some of the legwork!
*Seriously, like half of the questions were about Chevy. If you're so fascinated by the guy why am I consistently the only one in the theater for his movies?