“Community” creator and former showrunner Dan Harmon hopped on Reddit for an epic AMA (“Ask Me Anything”) — and, as might be expected, didn’t pull his punches regarding his former bosses as well as actor Chevy Chase. But Harmon also demonstrated a remarkably touching side as well, as evidenced in the following exchange between a Swiss fan:
IrisKV: I know you must get this all the time but… here we go again. Through Abed, you broke my heart so many times I stopped counting, because where people would find him funny, I felt like I finally could relate to someone…You provided me with the kind of guidance I couldn’t find anywhere else. Even if at times you didn’t seem happy, you were…well, to me, you are a genius, and that was enough for me to know. Because when I get depressed, when I get broken, when I feel like everything is falling apart, I just re-read stuff you wrote, I re-watch bits of Community, I listen to your podcast, and I just know that everything will be okay, and that I’m not the only one feeling like that.
Harmon: Thank you. Second time I’ve cried in one AMA. I hope you understand that this is the reason I do what I do – I am, to quote Yvette Nicole Brown, a “broken” person, and to quote Hilary Winston in her first interview to work on season 1, this is a show about broken people. All of them are quite alone, some involuntarily, some by their own hand, some without realizing it, but none of them come to the study room table with the emotional advantages held by that mythical creature known as “a normal person.” There are no normal people, there are just different kinds of weird, all of it is human and all humanity is better than everything inhuman. So I urge you to keep expressing yourself as honestly as you can, and know that the backpedals and second-guesses really aren’t necessary – they don’t hurt but they’re wasting your time – because when you are truly human, as we all are, and when that is your honest message to anyone, you are beyond reproach, there is no way to screw it up.
To me, this exchange really gets to the heart of what made Harmon so special on “Community,” and just how difficult it is to replace him — Harmon IS “Community.” He put himself out there so nakedly in that show, and it’s exactly that level of sincerity that fans have responded to. Who else would get so emotionally invested? And who else would spend so much time talking to fans over the Internet like this, giving the straight dope on what happened?
As for other things we learned during the AMA:
Chevy was Sony’s decision:
Harmon puts the responsibility for hiring Chevy Chase as Pierce Hawthorne straight in the lap of Sony, who wanted a “name” actor:
“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.”
The origin of the Dan/Chevy Feud:
While it seemed like there was always a degree of tension on the set, a particular incident during the “Digital Estate Planning” episode seemed to push things over the edge:
“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.”
What a Harmon-led season four might have looked like
Jeff Winger’s search for his dad would finally be resolved…with Bill Murray heading the short-list for casting “William Winger”:
“One thing I’m sure will happen in season 4 is Jeff will meet his Dad, because we were going to do it in season 3 but then one of the NBC execs started saying “just make sure Jeff meeting his Dad isn’t a dark story,” and I didn’t want to write one of the series’ most important stories under that hex, so I said, “let’s just punt that story to season 4.” And we ended season 3 with Jeff googling his Dad, so…!”
The season three finale = Dan leaving the show
As for any clues regarding the veracity of my “Community Code” theory — that everything in Season 3 was Harmon describing his real-life struggle with Sony and the show — here is a tantalizing bit. In answer to the question “At the end of the S3 finale, Abed goes into his mini-Dreamatorium. To me this symbolises that everything we see from now on isn’t the real timeline, but that S4 and onward is all happening within that Dreamatorium. Was this intentional?”, Harmon wrote:
“it symbolizes me leaving the show. I didn’t know for sure I was going to but I had a feeling I might have to.”