Talkin' Shop: A Q&A With Community's Dan Harmon

by Ethan Alter September 6, 2011
Community Q&A With Dan Harmon

TWoP: Not at all... we always thought Jeff kinda resembled a modern-day Icarus. What specific lessons did you learn from Season 2 that you're applying to the third season?

Harmon: With the second season, I did a pretty good job creating a bunch of modular stories and in making them self-contained, but I felt that some people got disoriented sometimes. I feel that there's a connectivity between episodes that needs to be there for people these days; a lot of the most popular shows have a serialized element to them. I never want to tell a serialized story -- I find it somehow cheating to end each episode with a cliffhanger. It doesn't feel like TV to me. But at the same time, I wanted to bring enough serialization and connectivity throughout all of the episodes to make the third season a complete entity. The metaphor I use is that the second season was a bunch of pearls, but they were kind of rolling around on the floor and you could slip on them. And in the third season, I want to make the same beautiful pearls, but string them together into a nice circle that you can grab as one thing. You can still appreciate the beauty of each individual one and you can tune in at any point and you won't be lost. And yet, at the end of the whole season, you'll have this whole thing. If you grab one pearl and lift it, they'll all come with it.

TWoP: Do you get the sense that this is the show's make-or-break year?

Harmon: Oh absolutely. If what you mean is that I'm terrified we'll get cancelled this year, the answer is yeah.

TWoP: Yeah, I was trying to find the polite way to phrase that question.

Harmon: When we got picked up for a third season I breathed a sigh of relief because typically in TV, when you get a third season you're way more likely to get a fourth than you are likely to get a second just because you got a first or a third because you got a second. But I think our situation balances that out. We could easily be one of the few shows that gets cancelled in Season 3, because throughout Season 2, we had lots of low numbers. We just hung in there. It's a very strange situation for a show. We're in a killer timeslot on a great night when everyone is watching TV and we're in the kind of Gaza Strip of that block -- just barely holding on, being kicked in the ribs week after week by Big Bang Theory and American Idol. It's really Idol that kills us. You might as well be going up against Major League Baseball, because as that show proceeds, the stakes get higher and people get more addicted to it and our numbers just erode. So on one hand, there we are with those last gasp kinds of numbers, but on the other hand, relative to the hell we're occupying -- which many shows before us have tried and failed to occupy -- depending on who you ask, some people say we're doing a great job. And NBC may be keeping us around because we get good reviews and what the hell else are they going to put in there that can survive? I think their hope is that there can be some kind of sleeper hit phenomenon where things suddenly snowball somehow. It happened with Arrested Development on a small scale. In their second season, they came back and suddenly things were really cooking. We were hoping that would happen for us last year and now we're hoping in the third season that'll happen for us.

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