In Dan Harmon’s opinion, there’s no way a Community movie is not going to happen.
The creator behind the cult-adored, troubled series that jumped from network to network over the course of six seasons, was pummeled by drama. The show focused on a group of students at a local community college, and despite the series becoming one of the most popular online, never secured the ratings NBC needed it to in order to become a top-tier show. Despite the ratings woes, Harmon told Polygon that to say a Community movie would never happen is “absolutely absurd.” Like most things in the industry, it was a matter of when it would happen, not if.
“We live in a world where Veronica Mars happened because fans were excited about it,” Harmon said. “The Community fans have riled for this movie. The cast wants to do the movie. I want to do the movie. It’s going to inevitably happen.”
When pressed about when he thinks the project could come to fruition, Harmon said he would be the last to find out about it. The writer-turned-showrunner said when these decisions are made, he’d be excluded from the conversations until the last possible moment.
“It’s going to inevitably happen”
“The most important thing is the planning,” Harmon said. “And those types of meetings happen in backrooms with executives who think there’s something they can capitalize on. We’re not invited to these meetings.
“Before you know it, it’s happening and you’re on set.”
For Harmon, who’s had a contentious history with networks like NBC, the idea of going back and working on an entirely new series for a broadcast network isn’t exactly appealing. Harmon was essentially fired right before the show’s fourth season following an altercation with cast member Chevy Chase. During his time away from the show, he filmed his documentary Harmontown, based on his popular podcast. After the fourth season received less than stellar reviews and poor ratings, Chase was let go and Harmon returned.
Despite the change in the show’s lineup — and the hardly subtle jabs at Chase throughout the fifth season — NBC eventually canceled the series after the fifth season, prompting Harmon and the rest of his team to look elsewhere for the show’s final season. They eventually made an agreement with Yahoo! to have the series livestreamed weekly, but fans complained about the formatting problems the site had and the repetitive ads. Following the season finale, Harmon decided to walk away from the series.
Now, Harmon has a new project that he’s working on for Seeso. According to him, the decision to walk away from a major network was an easy one. Before they agreed to partner with the streaming platform for HarmonQuest, his new show, they had discussions about whether they should take it to YouTube and charge fans $1 an episode. Harmon said that in an era where traditional television is a dying medium, and anyone can make a show, the concept of a service like YouTube Red or self-publishing was more accessible than ever before.
“That was a real crossroad for us,” Harmon said. “Do we go with YouTube or do we try to pitch it somewhere? The reason we went with Seeso at the end of the day was they could get us talent managers and proper lighting and really make the show feel like a proper television show.”
For Harmon, having access to some of the biggest names in comedy was essential to the success of his new series. HarmonQuest is a take on Harmontown and during the episodes, which mix animation and live-action, comedians gather together to play a game similar to Dungeons & Dragons.
“Do we go with YouTube or do we try to pitch it somewhere?”
Some of the first season’s guest include Tom Middleditch and Kumail Nanjiani from Silicon Valley, Aubrey Plaza from Parks and Recreation and Nathan Fillion from Firefly.
“When it came to finding guests, it was a matter of who we wanted to hang out with,” Harmon said. “Who we thought were cool. And not, like, who the cool kids were in high school, but the ones that we thought would have fun playing board games.
“Even though they don’t transmit a vibe of going home to do incredibly nerdy things, they’ve always had a cache with the nerd crowd.”
Harmon may not have invented the concept of playing role playing games with high-powered friends and capitalizing off of it, but he’s been an instrumental figure in popularizing the genre for mainstream fans. The showrunner said one of the reasons he decided to include role-playing in his series, including an infamous Dungeons & Dragons episode in the third season of Community, was because he wanted to express himself and do what made him and his friends happy.
“I’ve never going to be [Jerry] Seinfeld and I knew I was never going to have what Seinfeld had,” Harmon said. “We live in a world where Marvel movies are the most popular movies, where you can take a date to a Marvel movie and not feel weird. I’d like to take credit for being a part of that revolution, but no one really ever gets all the credit.”
Still, for something so specialized like HarmonQuest, Harmon is thankful there’s a market for this type of content, even if it’s still a hard sell for a broadcast network. The showrunner recalled having tense meetings with executives at NBC while Community was on the air about the type of show they were making, and why they weren’t going to become a multi-cam project like Seinfeld or any of Chuck Lorre’s shows on CBS, including The Big Bang Theory.
“Having grown up on the internet, I knew what appealed to people online and I knew what people were talking about,” Harmon said. “I wanted to create a show for that generation and that put me at odds with the studio, justifiably from their end. They wanted to know why we weren’t making the next Seinfeld and why we were talking to nobody blogs about a show nobody was watching.”
For now, Harmon wants to focus on his new show and although he’s not done with television entirely, he think it’s very unlikely he’ll ever go back to a traditional format. For him, the ideal road is similar to what Louis C.K. did with Horace & Pete, the comedian’s latest series that he released to fans directly through his own site for $5.
“I do see the future as being what Louis C.K. kind of jumpstarted, and I’d love to jump in there with one of my own series,” Harmon said. “But for now, I’m making the show I always wanted to make for an audience I always wanted to create for.”