NBC’s “Community” may struggle with middling ratings on TV, but at Comic-Con on Sunday it was the next best thing to a god. The series upgraded from the smaller Ballroom 20 last year to the massive Hall H this year, the same place where Marvel and Warner Bros. make their huge movie announcements.
Perhaps to live up to the expectations of such a large venue, “Community’s” creator and returning showrunner Dan Harmon took a page from the Robert Downey Jr. school of massive entrances, coming out in a handmade Iron Man costume to throbbing rock music. Clearly, the story of “Community’s” renewal is all about Dan Harmon.
And though he professed that it wasn’t all about him, all discussion of the show seemed to revolve around Harmon’s return, including Harmon’s own tongue-in-cheek introduction, “Like a phoenix rising from the ashes of unemployment, I’ve created a machine that eats pain and craps joy.”
Harmon was joined on stage by his co-showrunner Chris McKenna and cast members Yvette Nicole Brown, Danny Pudi, Alison Brie, Gillian Jacobs and Ken Jeong. (Donald Glover and Joel McHale couldn’t make it). And while most showrunners at Comic-Con talk about raising the stakes for their characters from season to season, the stakes here have risen personally for Harmon, who was let go from the show he created after its third season, only to be asked back to navigate the show for its 13-episode fifth season.
“I feel a tremendous amount of pressure,” Harmon said. “Nobody wants it to not fail as much as me at this point.”
He went on to say that he’s doing his best to ensure the series gets its sixth season and eventual movie, the mantra that’s been with the show from its earliest days.
“I don’t consider [this season to be] the last 13 [episodes]… But I do consider them to be the most important 13 in the history of the show,” Harmon continued.
No one in the cast has seen a script for the new season, but the show still has three more weeks until production begins. In the meantime, Harmon and his writing team are choosing to figure out the stories of all 13 episodes of the season before they write a single script. And while Harmon hinted at upcoming special episodes in Season 5, including another animated episode and a sequel to the fan-favorite Dungeons & Dragons episode, it seems he’s taken some of the criticisms about his first run on the show to heart. The new season will start off just trying to reestablish the characters.
“It’s not a fun Comic-Con thing to say ‘Get ready for grounded storywork!’” Harmon admitted.
But even though fan after fan came up to gush about how much they loved the show, Harmon seemed intent on displaying his self-loathing streak, including apologizing once again to the fans for his comments about viewing the fourth season, which he wasn’t involved with. The comments, which were hyperbolic at best, compared watching the episodes to having to watch horrible things done to Harmon’s family.
“A fan of ‘Community’ does not need to be a fan of Dan Harmon,” he said. “I’m a creepy jerk.”
– Patrick Kevin Day | @patrickkevinday
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