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there was seldom a point when he wasn't drinking
February 28, 2013 10:50 AM   Subscribe

"Dan hates himself; he also worships himself, and the fact that 90 people will come to every show that we do, and they'll love him — I think it's an experiment in finding out whether or not those people are being sincere. 'Do they really like me, or do they like the idea of me? Am I good person? What if I came out onstage and didn't do a show? What if I just rapped about fucking your mother? What if I didn't do anything? What if I took my shirt off, and I'm fat? What if I go off my diet? What if my girlfriend came out and told you I called her a c---? Would you still like me?'" Dan Harmon and Life After 'Community'
posted by Rory Marinich (52 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
The Harmontown tour was a thing of... beauty might be the wrong word. It was a thing of something. I can't wait to see what the documentary looks like.
posted by yellowbinder at 11:16 AM on February 28, 2013


It took me a while to realize that the girlfriend in this piece is the girlfriend he had a big messy breakup with and wrote about on tumblr a year ago.
Okay, so, here’s the problem with being that fair in my journalism. It makes the obvious question “why did you break up with her” and I don’t want that question being asked of me 6,000 times a day. It prolongs all the pain and torture. We’re not getting back together, so where is the therapy and the where is the comfort in talking about how good it was to be with her.

I also don’t want to talk about our relationship in general. It invades something we owned together, it’s half owned by her, I’m not allowed to just say “this is how it was.” What I really need to do is express my hatred of myself and my solitude. I need to atone with my loneliness and make it my best friend because I am not going to be with anybody in any foreseeable future, and if I ever am, it’s because I was weak and I made a big, dangerous mistake out of weakness. I am a fucked up guy that just needs to be fucked up and learn to live with being fucked up.

Erin “responded” to my blog entry, in which I said love doesn’t exist and that I hated being in a relationship. She responded understandably. Justifiably. I didn’t want her to read it. It wasn’t for her. It was for me. I’m salting the wound, I’m lying, I’m twisting to make myself feel better, all correct. Her appraisal of my blog entry is all correct, although I didn’t read every word because I don’t want this to become discourse. It’s not a divorce. It’s a breakup. I want to be alone and I also want to be incapable of being alone and write wounded bird blogs in which I pat myself on the back for being all Neil Diamond about shattering someone’s entire life down the middle.
And now they're together again. My takeaway on this is that Dan Harmon is often brilliant, but also kind of a huge mess.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 11:19 AM on February 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


Being human is great, but also horrible. Some people are just really good at putting that into words.
posted by seanmpuckett at 11:25 AM on February 28, 2013 [6 favorites]


It took me a while to realize that the girlfriend in this piece is the girlfriend he had a big messy breakup with and wrote about on tumblr a year ago.

Was it the one "you are a moon for a while" in which he wrote this?
Before I knew how to talk to people in real life (coworkers will tell you I never actually learned) I learned to talk to people on the internet. I was 14, I had an old TRS-80 from my Dad’s office, and, at night, I would use it with a direct connect 300 baud modem to call a “citizen’s band emulator” and chat with college students. The system would only let you log in until a certain hour, so the trick was to get in there early and the reward was that you got to stay all night, quoting Python, flirting, arguing about God, asserting your blossoming manhood, such as it was, all through the beautifully face-blind, tone-deaf medium of pure green text on a black screen.

In the 24 years since, I have learned - kind of - to talk to people in real life, mostly through performance techniques made habit; projection, forced eye contact, using my hands and my face to say “I’m here, I get it, I’m with you, I’m alive,” because that’s how people are in real life and if you stick out too much, you’re alone, and alone is really bad. Alone is no words, no words is no time, no feeling, no life, the blackness between the green.
So, yes, Dan Harmon is huge mess, but he's recognizably human, specifically the species homo internetus.
posted by Doktor Zed at 11:30 AM on February 28, 2013 [10 favorites]


FAMOUS MONSTER, I could have this wrong, but I think this is a different girlfriend. His last girlfriend was also named Erin, but is not this Erin.
posted by Rory Marinich at 11:36 AM on February 28, 2013


There are many excellent Erins out there. And this article made me glad not to be Dan Harmon, or the Erin dating him.
posted by ChuraChura at 11:39 AM on February 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


In the 24 years since, I have learned - kind of - to talk to people in real life, mostly through performance techniques made habit; projection, forced eye contact, using my hands and my face to say “I’m here, I get it, I’m with you, I’m alive,”

It's like he's in my head.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 11:39 AM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh word? I stand corrected.

Either way, I should have said: it's a beautiful piece, full of the messy imperfections that make Harmon so compelling and human.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 11:40 AM on February 28, 2013


The article definitely portrays him as a man seeking something in life, be it confirmation of himself by others or simply to banish away a permanent loneliness that has settled over his mind. I hope he doesn't destroy himself in the quest to find the MacGuffin.

I'd almost be afraid to meet him, as it's seems like you would be throwing yourself in front of a fire hydrant pouring out a jet of raw humanity.
posted by Atreides at 11:42 AM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think Dan should have been a programmer, or at least an IT guy. I can't help but think his drinking and drug use, the coke not the weed, is about making it easier to interact with people in a way he thinks seems normal, the way other people seem to interact so effortlessly.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:46 AM on February 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


I have to say, it struck me as I read this that Harmon's the closest thing my generation has to an old-school hedonistic fuck-the-man rock star. Music is such a thoroughly corporate thing that if you're in the system, you're pretty firmly wedged into it, and if you're not in it, that's great but you're not a rock star, you're just a person who makes good music. The kind of rock star they tell stories about and write satires of are all either dead or old. I'm too young to have been alive during any real rock stars' reign – Cobain killed himself when I was just a year old – but from the way those stories are always told, Harmon seems quite a bit like they always seemed.

It's interesting because I come away from this both sympathizing with Harmon and feeling a little disdainful of his sheer self-indulgence. He seems to simultaneously need the mass media which he is perfectly capable of recognizing as bullshit, and while he finds the ridiculousness of his situation crazy, he can't do a damn thing about needing it. Which is very much a mindset I had when I was a bit younger, but keeping a blog for a year and realizing how much I despised all my readers was enough to mostly cure myself of that particular insanity. Harmon's plunged into a crazy place. I hope he doesn't end up being a sacrifice to it – this particular brand of madness is occasionally, though not always, all-consuming. It would be fun seeing him as a mellow old man; hopefully he lets himself get there.
posted by Rory Marinich at 11:52 AM on February 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Possibly a part of what bothered me was just how willing he was to call Freaks and Geeks and Arrested Development garbage. Which is a silly thing to begrudge him for, but still, I don't think he gets to throw down judgment that harshly when his own show is hardly close to the peaks of those other two. And if he can't see the difference between Freaks and Geeks and goddamn Community, well, that's just more evidence that he's a conceited ass who lets his own ego get in the way of seeing things clearly.
posted by Rory Marinich at 11:56 AM on February 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


when his own show is hardly close to the peaks of those other two. And if he can't see the difference between Freaks and Geeks and goddamn Community
He's not comparing TV shows, he's comparing TV with the Sistine Chapel, or Joyce, or Dali, or even just a walk in a bluebell wood. On that scale, you can't slip a playing card between "show that you like" and "show that you don't like".

Regardless of that, I thought his characters were curiously unlikable, and now I'm getting the same vibe off the writer. Interesting. I'd say I'm getting old, but I'm the same age he is.
posted by Leon at 12:21 PM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


He seems to simultaneously need the mass media which he is perfectly capable of recognizing as bullshit, and while he finds the ridiculousness of his situation crazy, he can't do a damn thing about needing it.

Harmon recognizes this twisted relationship he has with old-fashioned mass media television, but he also is actively looking for the next stage beyond it. He co-founded Channel 101 as a pre-Youtube Internet video outlet for too-weird-for-public-access-cable shows while his co-written screenplay for Monster House was in Development Hell (ultimately bastardized by no less than Stephen Spielberg). Sure he's got the deal with CBS for a bog-standard multi-cam sit-com that the OP article mentioned (as well as an Adult Swim project it didn't), but he's also co-exec-producing Charlie Kaufman's Kickstarter-funded Anomalisa. And he's still using Harmontown (and the Internet) as a comedy experiment lab.

It looks like he's working by his old Channel 101 creedo: "Right now, we're like monkeys using rifles to club animals. Very soon, there is going to be a very loud bang. We are all going to stop what we're doing and turn to look, and one of us is going to standing there with his finger on the trigger and his eye to the scope. And then we're all going to do it. So, that's the difference between the studio system and the Internet. I work at the studio, I make money at the studio, and I run back to the Internet to bang my rifle on a rock, because I want to be there when the bang happens. "


Possibly a part of what bothered me was just how willing he was to call Freaks and Geeks and Arrested Development garbage.

Dan Harmon says your favorite show sucks...

...because, quote, "The medium is dispensed to people who can't feed back, can't change it, who only get it in 20-minute chunks interrupted by commercials, and you're watching either really well-written jokes or so-so-written jokes or terribly written jokes, but you're just watching jokes written by a bunch of people who all have one thing in common: They're not allowed to say whatever they're thinking! They're not allowed. You're definitely not getting truth; you're getting lies."

If Dan Harmon can't turn himself into the 21st-century Orson Welles and make the Internet his Mercury Theatre, then by whatever gods may be, he's going to take a shot at being its Harlan "The Glass Teat" Ellison.
posted by Doktor Zed at 12:28 PM on February 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


Dan Harmon is in danger of turning into the new Kevin Smith: the guy whose ego gets in the way of being productive.

Kevin Smith has some talents which he never bothered to really develop because he had enough people kissing his ass that at some point it made sense to him to start catering exclusively to them. Which in today's media landscape is not necessarily the wrong call; narrowcasting and winnowing your brand makes a certain sort of sense. But it is a bit frustrating how his celebrity has become the only thing that's relevant about him now. There was an old Beavis and Butthead video where one of them asked "Why is this guy on my tv?" and the other responded "because he's famous." Which prompted "Why is he famous?" Which was met with "Because he's on TV." With his first few movies, that dialogue wouldn't have happened about Smith. There was a thing he was famous for. Now? He's famous for being Kevin Smith. He's become the thing that Beavis and Butthead mocked, like he slowly collapsed into being Snooki.

And Dan Harmon is following along on that path. In ten years, he might just be talking to the people who Harmontown appeals to. And they might still love him. But I think it will seem to most people to be a case of potential gone wasted.
posted by Kiablokirk at 12:38 PM on February 28, 2013 [15 favorites]


And Dan Harmon is following along on that path. In ten years, he might just be talking to the people who Harmontown appeals to. And they might still love him. But I think it will seem to most people to be a case of potential gone wasted.

Yeah, I think the weird cult of personality he's built up is not exactly a good thing. I loved Community and I like D&D, so you'd think Harmontown would be right in my wheelhouse but it turns out that just listening to Dan Harmon be Dan Harmon for an hour or whatever is not something I particularly enjoy. People an order of magnitude more talented and funny than he is still need some sort of filter or editor before the stuff they do is worthy of their talents, but he's drifting exactly in the other way supported by a hardcore group of supporters who seem to have turned him into the avatar of The Funny But Unjustly Abused Nerd.
posted by Copronymus at 1:17 PM on February 28, 2013


drifting exactly in the other way

I don't understand this particular view of things. I can certainly understand not liking Harmontown. But I don't get this whole "wasted potential" angle.

Harmon's still working on new TV shows (pilots for CBS and FOX, the Adult Swim thing which is actually in production last I heard), he's doing stuff with Dino Stamatopoulos' production company like that Charlie Kaufman kickstarter movie. He's repeatedly referred to the Harmontown tour/documentary thing as basically a hugely expensive, self-indulgent 40th birthday present to himself, not a super serious project that will be his Main Thing or anything like that.

If he was just coasting on Harmontown or on Community (which he seems for the most part very happy to keep his distance from all things being equal), okay, maybe. But I just don't seen any sign of that happening.
posted by sparkletone at 1:24 PM on February 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Mind if I go just a little off-topic for a moment? I love COMMUNITY, and the first Harmonless episode back was okay, not bad, better than I expected. But after that, you can absolutely feel that the show is now run by "others." It's a very, very close facsimile, but it ain't the real thing. I'm still watching, but really, the true show ended at the end of last season.

This, now, is all Abed's fever dream, I suspect.

Any other fans have thoughts on the new COMMUNITY?

P.S. After reading the article, I suppose my hope that NBC would allow Harmon return to pen the finale are, um, unrealistic.
posted by MoxieProxy at 1:32 PM on February 28, 2013


I just came in here to say
the fact that there are people who were 1 when Cobain killed himself
really freaks me out
posted by spicynuts at 1:34 PM on February 28, 2013 [17 favorites]


Possibly a part of what bothered me was just how willing he was to call Freaks and Geeks and Arrested Development garbage.

Bear in mind that Dan Harmon says that he hates things that he loves, and loves things that he hates. He is a subtle, brilliant man who seldom talks in a straight line and revels in paradox. Does this make him likeable or unlikable? I don't think he really cares. Which is to say that he cares so deeply that it consumes him.

That sounds a little forced, perhaps, but I think that Harmon would consider it more as an awareness of the essential conflicts of the human condition. One of the most interesting things about listening to Harmontown is its obsession with rehearsing contrasts and symbioses: the relationship between art and commerce, between originality and formalism, between self-love and self-loathing. I obviously don't know the guy personally, so I can't say how much of this is an act, but my impression is that the man is too aware of the possibilities of hope and redemption to be truly self-destructive.

Take, for example, the letter that references Speilberg, linked by Doktor Zed. On the surface, it sounds like he's just wining about the terrible things done to his script, but reading a little deeper, he's actually sending a specific message to a specific kid who was scared by his movie: he's saying 'I know you were scared, and you were right to be scared, and the fact that you were scared shows that you are smart and savvy and will make the world a better place through your attempt to transcend your fear.'

He swings the other way, too. In an early episode of Harmontown there's this amazing moment in which he launches into this speech about how humanity's instinct is to transcend itself, create new life and new intelligences, etc... the sort of thing that one regularly hears coming out of the mouth of Captain Kirk or other heroes of optimistic sci fi. But then he turns it all around and argues that this tendency will destroy us, argues that our real value as a species is in our weakness and craven imperfection.

I can understand how people don't like Harmontown's rambling, unstructured format. Personally, though, I very much enjoy it. It's an improvisational show and, just like improvisational comedy or music, that quality makes it good in a different way than a polished performance is good.

Dan Harmon may well be self destructive. He might be a rock star. But he's also something deeper and cooler: he's a Marlovian hero. Quod me nutrit me destruit.
posted by Dreadnought at 1:34 PM on February 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


Take this with a grain of salt, as I've never seen Community and have only seen Harmon speak once or twice online.

The ego on this guy makes it just about impossible to sympathize with him. His saving grace is the ability to eloquently say things that people are often thinking. But that lack of filter gets people fired, as he well knows now. Get thee to a therapist, master Harmon. Your struggles are not unique to you, and your cadre of superfans won't last forever. You need a big fat dose of get the hell over yourself. I realize that makes me sound crass and harsh, but airing publicly all of your dirty laundry paints a fat target on you. It's sad. I'm glad he exists, but I can't help kind of loathing him.
posted by Ephelump Jockey at 1:35 PM on February 28, 2013


Also...this article is full of bullshit right off the bat because it talks about 'the sun going down' in Portland. I spend a lot of time in Portland - the sun never comes UP so how can it go down?
posted by spicynuts at 1:38 PM on February 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


Get thee to a therapist, master Harmon.

He's said more than once that therapy doesn't work for him and initially Harmontown was started for semi-theraputic purposes. It was a space where he could just say whatever random, unfiltered things popped into his head. That's part of why it wasn't a podcast for the first year and change of its existence.

Eventually the Chevy Chase voicemails thing happened because someone decided to youtube that part of a show, and then he also got fired and after that they decided there wasn't much point in keeping it private anymore.

It's impossible to say since I don't live in LA or anything whether that changed the show any in terms of him filtering himself. However, I'd be kind of surprised if it changed it significantly. Given some of the stories he's told about himself at various times.
posted by sparkletone at 1:51 PM on February 28, 2013


The ego on this guy makes it just about impossible to sympathize with him.

I think that's exactly the thing, though... if he really had such a terrible ego, then he wouldn't always be talking about his ego. I know people with overweening egos: they don't ever mention their own arrogance. They don't think that they're arrogant; they think they're doing you a favour by bestowing their wisdom upon you.

Bluntly, I think it's all an act. It's not an artificial act -- it has the kind of 'honesty' that actors and writers talk about when they use that term in the bizarre way that they do. But I think that Harmon is laying open his personal, normal feelings for inspection so that they can be used as a jumping-off point for a broader discussion of what TV should be, or art is, or what the human condition is, or whatever.
posted by Dreadnought at 1:58 PM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I spend a lot of time in Portland - the sun never comes UP so how can it go down?

It rises in Portland, MAINE. It sets on Portland, Oregon. It's rather clear on this, if you ever paid attention to it.
posted by Atreides at 1:59 PM on February 28, 2013


Any other fans have thoughts on the new COMMUNITY?

I've come to grips with the fact that the new Community is basically really, really good fan fiction. I watch it for the same reason I would read Bioshock fan fiction - I love the characters and the setting - but that's what it is.

Thinking of it that way, rather than raging over they ruined my show, has allowed me to continue watching and enjoying it.
posted by jbickers at 2:10 PM on February 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


I hope he gets the help he needs for his alcoholism and substance abuse issues before they kill him
posted by Renoroc at 2:23 PM on February 28, 2013


I love Harmon's show and I think he's a genius, but I'd think he'd be even more of genius if he didn't drink so much. A lot of what reporters salivate over as 'quirks' strike me as symptoms of advanced alcoholism, Harmontown included. I used to think that was romantic. Then I turned 30 and felt my kidneys burning out of my torso as I coughed into a pile of ex-dinner. Whether or not it makes you a better writer (it probably doesn't) it is definitely killing you Dan. You hear me? You are dying.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:32 PM on February 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


It's like he's in my head.

Seriously.
posted by absalom at 2:44 PM on February 28, 2013


I found Community on HuluPLUS about 2 months before this Harmon-less season premiered. I viewed them all at a pretty fast clip and was able to keep that feeling and vibe fresh up until the first episode of the new season. I watched that episode and I just felt let down.

There just seems to be something missing. It's like saffron in a good dish, you just need a little bit, but if it's not there, you notice it. Harmon was the saffron of Community.
posted by THAT William Mize at 2:46 PM on February 28, 2013


McGathy's presence keeps Harmontown from just being a clever-off between Dan and Jeff. She's a human being with bruisable emotions up there on that stage; she's the show's conscience, because she illustrates the effect that Harmon's unapologetic self-involvement has on people.

And that's the classic (for varying definitions of "classic") morning radio show setup, often called "Two Dicks and a Chick".
posted by Spatch at 2:57 PM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's like he's in my head.

Incidentally, this bit is probably my favorite piece of Harmontown to date. Or at least, it's the bit I'd use to try to explain why I find the show entertaining to people. I have no idea if Dan's play-acting when he fails repeatedly to tell a joke properly, but listening to a Famous Comedy Writer™ completely fail to tell a joke is not only funny as a premise, it's funny here in execution.

And on a slightly more personal level, I'm terrible at telling "typical" jokes in EXACTLY the same way he at least pretends to be. Hearing someone make that the joke (and succeeding) rather than it just being terrible and awkward and unfunny was entertaining to hear.
posted by sparkletone at 2:57 PM on February 28, 2013


There's a certain Famous Comedic Actor on whose participation the show's future kind of depends...

After reading about Harmon's self-hating self-destructiveness I've come to the conclusion that the Famous Comedic Actor is probably Chevy Chase.
posted by CCBC at 3:00 PM on February 28, 2013


Any other fans have thoughts on the new COMMUNITY?

I summed up my reaction to the Harmon-less "Community" in the comments on this Tumblr post. [disclosure: the Tumblr is co-written by my husband and a good friend.]
I've finally figured out my reaction to this new "Community." It's not just trepidation and tepid acceptance of the new product; it's a deep sense of unease with the show that's playing on my TV.

It makes me think of Capgras syndrome, the delusion that a loved one has been replaced by a stranger who looks and sounds and behaves essentially like your spouse or parent or sibling but who --- you intuit --- is in fact an uncanny imposter insinuating themselves into their place.

Dan Harmon's three seasons of "Community" felt like someone had tapped into my unconscious and written a show from the chaos in there. The show was almost as beloved in this household as an imaginary friend. This new incarnation feels like a stranger has assumed that beloved and familiar voice and is parroting them back to us, but with each utterance and gesture ... just ... slightly ... off. The new "Community" has been doing more than just disappointing me; watching it actually stirs up some out-of-proportion anxiety in me, a sense of unheimliche that I usually only get from David Lynch films.

It's not just that this is no longer the show I loved; it's wearing the skin of the show I loved, and underneath all my hesitant hope and wait-and-see, it's been giving me the CREEPS.

I know I was lucky to ever see a TV show that felt so richly, warmly woven into my own sense of humor, and luckier still to get three whole seasons of it. I even know that, if I can get past the disappointment and the hesitation and the underlying sense of creepiness, I might come to enjoy this new show. But I'm not sure I want to find out.
Despite my discomfort with the new version of the show (and even though from the outside, his abrupt ousting reflects poorly on NBC), I can sympathize with the network feeling Harmon needed to be replaced. My first inkling that maybe Harmon wasn't going to make it on the network came when I listened to the commentary track for Paradigms of Human Memory ["Community" S2 ep21], the pretend clip-show.

When I first watched the episode, I was knocked out. I thought it had been created to film in snippets during the season, which would have made it a strong episode that managed to take advantage of the budget- and time-saving aspects of the always-tedious clip shows required by so many networks, while still providing us with new material and even making a comment on the trope. AWESOME, right? Right?...

... well, no. According to the commentary, the not-a-clip-show didn't consist of bits filmed economically in and around other episodes, using the sets and costumes and lighting already in place (or even with little tweaks to freshen them). Instead, it was written and shot pretty much like any other episode, except with many, many more costume and set changes. Instead of being a cost-saving measure, it was presumably even more expensive to produce than a regular episode, which has got to be frustrating for the network when the same effect could have been achieved at much less cost with a bit of foresight.

And I thought "Y'know, this guy --- no matter how much I LOVE his work --- might be incredibly frustrating to work with, and not just emotionally and socially."
posted by Elsa at 3:21 PM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


And I thought "Y'know, this guy --- no matter how much I LOVE his work --- might be incredibly frustrating to work with, and not just emotionally and socially."

Pedantic side note: He was fired by Sony, not NBC, strictly speaking.

But ... Yeah. Harmon's always been up front about not being great to work with. I think if his show were a big hit, the studio would tolerate his constantly being overschedule and overbudget, but when you're not a hit.... Well. This is what happens, and this isn't the first time, and it probably won't be the last.
posted by sparkletone at 3:30 PM on February 28, 2013


That's right, sparkletone, I'd forgotten that detail. But the larger point still stands: I miss his distinctive voice and I find the current show creepy and off-note rather than funny or heartwarming, but even so I can imagine why his higher-ups cut him loose, even if (again, from what's been made public) it seems like it was done in an unnecessarily abrupt and disrespectful manner.
posted by Elsa at 3:34 PM on February 28, 2013


I find the current show creepy and off-note rather than funny or heartwarming,

I was having trouble putting my finger on what felt off, and would need to go back and rewatch the three that have aired to confirm this, but one thing I hadn't even thought of was brought up on a podcast interview with one of the writers, Andy Bobrow, recently.

While of course Harmon had his hand in every script the show ever produced (as one would expect), one of the other areas he was apparently extremely hands on with for better or worse was the editing of each episode.

I wonder if changes in the rhythm of the editing are part of where the "can't quite put my finger on how this feels off" thing comes from.

I'm not super upset about it. On the one hand, no, this isn't quite the thing I love so dearly, but on the other hand it's not the outright disaster I feared it would be, and I do not want to try to be fair and not just automatically dismiss what might turn out to be an okay run of episodes just because of a rough start. If I'd done that, I'd not have gotten to the point part way through the first season where the show starts really becoming itself (as is common for TV shows, especially comedies, when they're first starting).
posted by sparkletone at 3:43 PM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I wonder if changes in the rhythm of the editing are part of where the "can't quite put my finger on how this feels off" thing comes from.

Both The Fella and I have definitely noticed a change in pace --- not the stories' pacing, but the pace of cuts and pans and sight-gag jokes. Or, as The Fella put it, "This isn't 'Scrubs.' CUT IT OUT." (He likes "Scrubs" a whooooole lot, but yeeeah, it feels different.) I also think the framing of shots feels different, though I don't know enough about filming to describe what exactly is different. It feels... tighter? Closer?

But it's not just the appearance that's different. Though I am trying to reserve judgment until the entire season plays out, I admit that so far I just don't like this show. For the first three seasons, the show made me laugh effortlessly and continuously, but it also often made me tear up with sudden sympathy or affection. I'm watching the new Harmon-less show, but I don't laugh much and I certainly don't tear up. The emotional center of the show is just missing no matter how open I am to it.

As I said above, I know how lucky I was to get three seasons of a show that tapped into my own emotional core so perfectly, and I'm grateful for it --- so grateful that I'm gamely watching the 4th season in hopes that I'll learn to like it. But this week I noticed that I'm not looking forward to tonight's episode. That never happened before this season.
posted by Elsa at 3:58 PM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Over drinks, she asks what happened to the guy who played "Hollywood Steve" on the Channel 101 mock-rockumentary series Yacht Rock; Harmon says he's not sure

The guy who played Hollywood Steve is still actually Hollywood Steve, and still a music writer it appears.
posted by anazgnos at 4:12 PM on February 28, 2013


Any other fans have thoughts on the new COMMUNITY?

To be honest, while the first episode filled me with dread and the second episode filled me with meh, I quite liked last week's episode. It has absolutely lost the Harmon edge: Community was a dirtier and nastier show than most things on network television, willing to get into inappropriate territory and obscure pop cultural shenaniganery as often as a show like Archer does. One of my favorite jokes in the whole show is the "Cheers. MASH. Fawlty Towers, game over" back-and-forth that happens between Jeff, Abed, and John Oliver at the start of a season one episode; bits like that are why I never understood people who thought Community was at its peak in season two. Right from the start an innocuous conversation could spiral into an unexpected pop dirge or a clever bit of editing; it reminded me of nothing more than old Newgrounds animations, which is why it made so much sense to me that Dan Harmon started off doing Internet TV. None of the new episodes have been fast; even their "over-the-top" elements were telegraphed way in advance, and stayed their presence long enough that it felt like, GET IT?

I miss that. But what I don't miss is how, for the first time in a season and a half, Community seems to give a shit about its characters again. That conversation between Jeff and Annie was the best piece of human interaction on that show since Troy's birthday party (I'm not going to count the "magic die" episode or My Dinner With Abed because those dialogues were each clever first, character-driven second). And as somebody who always thought the chemistry between all these actors was great, I'm happy at the thought that Community might start giving a shit about its characters, rather than letting them all hang as overblown stereotypes. Even the haunted house episode, which barely had a good joke in it, seemed like its problem was caring more about who these characters were LIKE than worrying about why they were funny. And I'm okay with that, as long as the show keeps figuring itself out episode by episode. New showrunners means new figuring out how the hell Community works.

To be honest, what I want season four to do is redeem season three for me. Not in terms of funniness – even the shittiest episodes in three, and there were a lot of shitty ones, had fantastic joke-writing – but in terms of bringing back the universe that existed at the start of the show and which I cared a lot about. It started fraying towards the end of season 2, and in 3 it was almost entirely thrown out the window for the sake of whatever the fuck that season-long plot arc was meant to be. We lost Chang as a character, which pisses me off, and we also lost something important in most of the characters – the developing universe helped keep them away from being stereotypes, and with it gone I feel some of the characters lost vital parts of what kept them interesting. It seems like this new season is already making attempts to salvage characters somewhat, and I appreciate that – even if none of the episodes here have been nearly as funny as old Community used to be.

I doubt we'll get old Community back. What I'm hoping is for a new show that takes some of the great things of the old show, and finds a new way to make them work, while still adhering to the general vision that Harmon had: a show about weird people coming together and facing difficult, yet mundane, challenges together, while still subverting stereotypes and cliches about how entertainment works and is usually categorized. Already I'm seeing hope: Britta is slightly less insufferable, Abed's response to her and Troy having sex was the right level of casual, Jeff's douchiness feels more like the Jeff that grew up in the first season and not like the Jeff that inexplicably reverted all the way back. I'm crossing my fingers that they similarly let Shirley act like a grown woman again, and not like the naive/asshole blend that substituted for that, and that they turn Annie into less of a caricature as well. I have hopes for all that, and for the new writers to figure out a way of writing jokes that doesn't just feel like a pale imitation of the old thing.
posted by Rory Marinich at 4:14 PM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was at the show in SF. The funniest part was where Erin interviewed Dan for her podcast. They somehow managed to multipy each others' hilariousness, although you were never quite sure if their play-fighting was really play or not. (we thought it was mostly play)

During her segment, Erin interviewed a guy from the audience about his lovelife. She mocked him, but in a gentle way. It was pretty funny. But then when Dan came out, he pretty much destroyed the guy in two sentences. And I wondered what it must've been like to be ruthlessly mocked by your greatest hero. I'm guessing he was honored. Dude was a good sport about it.

Anyway, Harmon was SMASHED, and did everything the Grantland dude said he did. The part where he stripped down to his skivvies and stage dived, shouting, "I AM A HUMAN BEING!" was poignant on a few levels : (1) the obvious Elephant Man reference, (2) the fact that his fans and the students on Community are referred to as Human Beings, and (3) the fact that it was Harmon, this avatar of radical honesty, in all his fat, drunken, half-naked glory shouting his common-ness and human-ness to the entire world -- and the internet, presumably.

Oh yeah, and Greg Proops was there. He was drunk, too.

Harmon announced they'd be dumping all their leftover merch in front of the club after the show, and that's exactly what they did. Big trashbags of t-shirts. We grabbed a couple.

At the intermission, I ran into Harmon standing in the bathroom line. I looked him in they eye and said, "Thank you. For making me laugh in ways that nobody else has." We shook hands, and then I bid him farewell, because I didn't want to bug him. I wish I'd read this article first -- I would have talked to him more! Nonetheless, I'm left with the impression that Dan Harmon is a real fucking guy -- someone who will have a real conversation with a fan, wait in the same bathroom line as everybody else, and above all, make jokes that he knows nobody will get, simply because he loves his show, his characters, himself, and his fans that much.

DAN HARMON IS A HUMAN BEING!
posted by Afroblanco at 4:38 PM on February 28, 2013 [8 favorites]


I agree that the main difference I've noticed is in the editing. The first three episodes were a bit underwhelming and subpar for Community in various ways (though like others, I thought last week's episode was actually quite good and went back to some of my favorite things about Community). But whatever the flaws were in the actual writing, they were more or less the same flaws that were in other mediocre or less great episodes of Community. The difference that's really sticking with me is the editing, and it's not even something where I can point to a specific moment or technique, it's just the general feel. Things seem more rushed, episodes don't feel like they have room to breathe. I'm retroactively very impressed with Dan Harmon's role in the editing room now.

Still, I'm not one of the fans who thinks Community is RUINED FOREVER. I liked Dan Harmon's direction for the show, for the most part, and I always trusted him to do right by the story and by the characters. I'm willing to accept season four on its own merits though. I'm frankly so surprised and pleased and grateful that the show has even had four seasons, that I think of every episode as a little gift all for me. Sometimes that gift is a little squashed or lopsided or whatever, but I don't mind. Community is my happy place, and I'm not gonna look for reasons to be unhappy with it.
posted by yasaman at 5:27 PM on February 28, 2013


So, tonight's episode ... I have to say, it's the first episode this season that felt like a "proper" Community episode. It didn't have any of the clumsiness or strangely rushed editing of the last few. This felt like the Community that I knew and loved.

So I guess I'm optimistic for the rest of this season.
posted by jbickers at 5:35 PM on February 28, 2013


I loved tonight's episode. The irony is back. It was Changlorious!

Rory Marinich: "Cobain killed himself when I was just a year old "

*sobs*
posted by Dr. Zira at 7:04 PM on February 28, 2013


With the exception of the weird middle Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 part, I agree. This felt like... Community! There were funny jokes! Hooray!

"Luft balloons" was my favorite thing from this episode, I think.
posted by Rory Marinich at 7:14 PM on February 28, 2013


I'd enjoyed every episode this season. I didn't hate tonight's, but it's easily my least favorite. The plot was directionless and muddled, but much less forgivably, it didn't make me laugh. Just wasn't really funny. There were a few passably decent jokes but most of them were just eh.

I remain optimistic.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 7:15 PM on February 28, 2013


Interesting. I couldn't stand the first episode; people seem to be having reactions all across the board about this season's opening.

It should be pointed out, BTW, that this episode made a Homestar Runner joke, and that that is awesome.
posted by Rory Marinich at 7:18 PM on February 28, 2013


I love Community, but after reading the article, I felt like Dan Harmon is more narcissistic John Mayer than Kurt Cobain. Cobain strikes me as someone who likely thought about other people rather than get obsessed with himself and his identity.

As much as I loved Community, I'm so tired of these guys who are so self-obsessed and so preoccupied with who they are. This article reminds me of John Mayer's dumbass interview where he called his penis David Duke.

And if he called his gf a cunt, I'd think less of him. I already think less of him now that I know more about him. But I still like Community. Maybe Joel McHale can still come around his place as a favor and help socialize him or give him a thermos of calm down juice.
posted by discopolo at 7:20 PM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm watching "Alternative Histories of the German Invasion" (S4, ep4) right now. And to my surprise, I am enjoying it --- with reservations, but for the first time this season, I'm really enjoying it, laughing and engaged and feeling like I recognize these characters.

It's hard to tell whether those reservations I'm feeling are coming from the show itself or from inside my head, but this episode was the first one that didn't seem like a pallid imitation to me. I'll keep watching and hoping that the show has recovered from the hiccups that affected the first few episodes back.
posted by Elsa at 9:01 PM on February 28, 2013


Sadly, the one thing this thread has shown me : Dan Harmon's gotta bust up on some new shit, pronto. Compare the pace of comments in this thread to the previous Harmon threads, back when he was still doing Community. It's like, "What have you done for us lately, HARMON?!"

However, I have absolutely no doubt that Harmon is acutely aware of his position in the world. Painfully aware. He knows the score.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:23 PM on February 28, 2013


I have to say, it struck me as I read this that Harmon's the closest thing my generation has to an old-school hedonistic fuck-the-man rock star. Music is such a thoroughly corporate thing that if you're in the system, you're pretty firmly wedged into it, and if you're not in it, that's great but you're not a rock star, you're just a person who makes good music.
I don't really think that makes much sense. The corporate music industry was decimated - anyone who's famous now is famous because they marketed themselves from the get-go. So it's not like you have to become corporate to become famous you have to have the commercial/capitalistic mindset in you to begin with. Someone like Lady Gaga, for example she did most of the work of promoting herself. OK Go made their own music videos, then took corporate sponsorship deals.

Anyway, I think it's kind of strange to say Dan Harmon is more of a "rock star" then someone who just makes good music and draws a crowd. I doubt that many people know who he is, just people who read about how TV shows are made. Considerably less than the number who actually watch TV, and Community wasn't even that popular. I can't even remember the name of the guy who makes 2 & ½ men, despite all the drama and the fact it's one of the most popular TV shows out there (not that I watch it, of course)

The internet has fragmented culture so much that someone who seems like a "Rock Star" to one person might be totally unknown to everyone else.
I think that's exactly the thing, though... if he really had such a terrible ego, then he wouldn't always be talking about his ego. I know people with overweening egos: they don't ever mention their own arrogance. They don't think that they're arrogant; they think they're doing you a favour by bestowing their wisdom upon you.
I don't really see why you can't both have a big ego and aware of it. Obviously, self-awareness means you can try to avoid appearing arrogant if you chose, but you just have to make a conscious effort.
posted by delmoi at 10:40 PM on February 28, 2013


As much as I loved Community, I'm so tired of these guys who are so self-obsessed and so preoccupied with who they are.

Well, all humans are self-obsessed and preoccupied with who they are. We just don't hear about most of us and our issues on a grand scale, so us anonymous folks aren't so obviously self-obsessed to all of America. More folks than just Dan may have ah, also tried that move with the Sharpie*, but not everyone has a stage to share that on, and the masses of people who are oddly interested in hearing it, and the crazy/chutzpah/nerve/dumbness/whatever to say so. (Ditto pretty much anything else Kevin Smith does these days.) And yet, well, people are into watching his crazy, eh? Must be something interesting about that.

I tend to think that to some degree, that level of crazy narcissism is what makes you a celebrity. It's a requirement. Yeah, Dan hates himself, but he also kinda loves himself (as the article says), and that conflict makes for great entertainment for the rest of us. Ditto everyone else who's famous, probably. You need that level of self-whatever to make a career for yourself in a tough industry. And hey, that means they can make money doing stuff they want to do. How many of us do that? Whatever works, I say.

I dunno. I enjoy the famous folks who let it all hang out there, even if sometimes it goes to a place I would have rather not heard about*. They're honest about their nuttery, and I enjoy people who are that blunt and weird, because they generally seem pretty rare to me. Most of us don't have that kind of nerve.

* if so, please don't tell me.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:17 PM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


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