“Where do I sign?”

These days the people who make television are expected, for a variety of promotional and fan base–stroking reasons, to engage in something resembling dialogue with their viewers. But Harmon was the first showrunner who seemed like he was creating a TV show in order to have that dialogue. Community was Harmon shooting off a flare gun to attract like-minded weirdos, articulating a worldview — institutions are bad, individuals are good, normalcy is an illusion, people who feel uncomfortable on the planet constitute a kind of sociocultural 99 percent, what we all have in common is our brokenness. Every character represented a facet of his personality; every episode was packed with callbacks and homages and fractalized sub-references aimed at people who, like him, had been warped and saved by pop culture at an early age. And he wanted us to know he was doing this. He didn’t just want the attention that came from blogging, tweeting, Reddit-ing, and annotating every episode for the A.V. Club — he seemed to need it, for reasons deeper than ego or vanity. He wanted to be out there in direct communication with the small but passionate group of people who liked his TV show because he wanted to connect.

Alex Pappademas spent 36 hours with the fascinating Dan Harmon, creator of “Community” (he was fired after the show’s third season) and a person who is widely considered to be “difficult.”

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