Last night in a press release from TV Guide, it was revealed that Dan Harmon would be replaced as the showrunner of Community for season 4 on NBC. Needless to say the fandom was devastated. Harmon wrote a poignant response on his tumblr last night, which made fans feel even sadder about the news and about his unjust treatment at the hands of Sony.
To try and summarize my emotions right now with a gif would be pointless. I was scrolling through tumblr and twitter and I saw a few posts that said “why should we care if Harmon is no longer the showrunner?” I’m going to attempt to try and put it into words, but forgive me if I fail, because the genius of this man is almost impossible to explain without experiencing it.
When I started watching Community, it grew on me exponentially each week. It was doing things that no other show on TV was attempting to do. I remember I started watching the show because I had been a fan of Donald Glover from his Derrick Comedy skits on youtube, but I soon discovered that Glover was just one of nine absolutely amazing cast members. Then I realized that the heart and center of the show was actually a man from named Dan Harmon, who’s twitter feed was one of the most amusing things I’d ever read. Most TV writers are faceless. You see the names at the beginning of an episode and don’t think twice about it. TV is a disposable, lighthearted medium incapable of carrying the same weight as movies. Not so with Community. Community is different. It had heart. It had a soul. That soul is and was, Dan Harmon.
When I went to Los Angeles, I had already been a fan of Harmon’s work, so naturally when I saw a tweet advertising “Harmontown” at Meltdown Comics on Sunset Boulevard, I bought tickets, intrigued. Harmontown was a small unassuming room in the back of the comic store with folding chairs facing a large blue flag of Harmon (my user pic here on tumblr) stuck to the wall next to a podium. After a few minutes of waiting, Jeff B Davis of Whose Line is it Anyway? came out to introduce his close friend to the stage. And then out came Dan Harmon himself to a burst of applause, the man who had created my favorite TV show of all time. Nothing could have prepared me for the next hour and a half.
Dan took the mic and the room went silent. He OWNED the entire galaxy in those moments. He shared stories of his life, his upbringing, his dating life and how he came to be the writer he is today. Harmon kept joking that we weren’t getting our money’s worth (a meager $10) hearing him speak and took out a book of his personal rants from his early 20’s and began to read them aloud.
I felt an admiration that I’d never felt for anyone before as Dan shared his wisdom in the back of that comic store. He was transcendent. He had an aura. He was more than a TV writer. He was speaking everything I’d always thought about society but had been too afraid to say aloud. He talked about feeling lonely. He talked about his self-doubts. He had been there too. Everything that I’d felt my whole life, quite possibly the greatest mind of our time had felt too, and it was comforting. Without trying to sound too creepy, I felt like he was similar to me, except infinitely more intelligent and successful. When the show ended, I nervously approached Dan.
After getting a picture with me, Dan noticed my shirt (one of the daily T shirts from Teefury), depicting various things from Greendale. He told me it was awesome and took a picture of it on his phone. The next morning he tweeted the picture. I’d never truly been starstruck in my life. I babbled incoherently about my favorite episodes of the show as Dan smiled and nodded. I’m sure he’d heard it all before.
For the next four months, I continued to regularly attend Harmontown. At this point in my life, I still had no idea what I wanted to do for a living when I graduated college. The more I heard Dan speak, the more it became clear to me. Then one day it all clicked.
At Harmontown one night Dan talked about how he used to lay in bed and stare at a stain on his wall that looked like a palm tree growing up and dream of moving to Los Angeles. Then he expressed the gratitude and disbelief he felt driving down Hollywood Boulevard every day for having finally made it that far. At that moment my purpose in life was clear. I wanted to write for television, like Dan Harmon. I knew I’d never make something as good as Community, but I’ll be damned if I’ll never try.
I’ve never been inspired by someone the way I was by Dan Harmon. I took an interest in his career outside of Community ranging from The Sarah Silverman Program to his website, Channel101, for which I recently produced a comedy pilot with a fellow super fan of Harmon’s work. I’ve never liked someone enough to call them a hero or believed in shallow celebrity worship, but I truly believe Dan the most creative person alive. You might think I’m exaggerating, and I know Dan doesn’t like to toot his own horn, so I hope that if he saw this he wouldn’t think I was weird for writing it.
The other day I graduated college with the Greendale flag on my mortarboard as I walked to receive my diploma. Now I’m about to move to Los Angeles permanently, armed only with some scripts to try and get started as a writer for television. It’s a hard road ahead, but as long as Dan’s work is out there to keep me motivated, I believe that we can keep working to make TV better. Dan turned TV into high art. He made a sitcom my favorite thing in the world. I know many people feel the same.
This is why Community won’t be the same without Dan Harmon. It makes me sick to think that creativity and genius like his aren’t appreciated by everyone in this world and that Community’s worth is weighed out in gold by greedy corporate execs who want the show to be more accessible. I’m starting to accept that the general public just might not be very smart, and it’s depressing to think that great art goes unappreciated…but we appreciate it. And we appreciate it so much, that it makes up for all the careless, talentless people who don’t. And this is why you should be upset that Dans leaving, but also happy and grateful for everything he’s done up to this point. I’ll be watching any show he works on in the future, starting with Rick and Morty, his new pilot coming to Adult Swim. “Dan Harmon is a genius and I’ll die defending his vision” is a figure of speech on tumblr, but I really do mean that.
I’ve thought about the day when I return to Harmontown to get a chance to tell Dan these things. Above all else, I want the chance to thank him. I want to thank him for not letting us accept mediocrity for entertainment. I want to thank him for single-handedly changing the course of my direction in life. Most of all I want to thank him for inspiring me more than anyone ever has and for being my hero.
Anyway I know this is scary-long so I’ll wrap it up here even though I could probably go on all day. At Harmontown they gave away these buttons of Dan’s flag. It’s small and probably worthless, but right now I’m wearing it alone in my house, and for one of the first times in my life I actually feel proud of myself.
Thank you Dan.