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Tonight, after what's seemed like ages of waiting, Community finally returns to the NBC prime time lineup, with guest stars Michael K. Williams (of The Wire) and John Goodman (of, well, everything) and what promises to be another season of the most daring, innovative and sometimes plain weird comedy on TV. I'm excited and I bet you are too, and to celebrate it here's part of the roundtable interview I conducted with Community's showrunner Dan Harmon at Comic Con earlier this summer. We didn't know a single thing about the upcoming season at the time, so obviously there are no spoilers-- the conversation focuses on what Harmon learned from watching The Wire between seasons, how he plans to deal with the fact that community college lasts only four years, and why Pierce turned into such a jerk last season. He was also remarkably frank about his experience when the Emmy nominations were announced and Community, for the second year in a row, got shut out. Take a look at the conversation below; for more on the upcoming season, you can watch this extended preview or just catch the show on TV tonight.
Dan you've talked a lot about how you were watching The Wire between seasons, and with Michael K. Williams joining the cast we wonder how much of a Wire influence we'll be seeing.
Creatively, philosophically, having sort of devoured that show between seasons, very much so in a certain sense that i want to give credit that show for being a huge inspiration to me between seasons in an energy way. In terms of narrative, despite what people say we don't actively engage in reference humor. I'm not actively going to mimic somebody else's show and say "Isn't that funny because you recognize it." But I want to achieve some of the things in terms of energy that that show showed me as possible to achieve.
When someone calls things "the Pulp Fiction episode" or "the Star Wars episode," making it sound like a parody, does that rankle you?
Absolutely. I'm not complaining about it, because the customer is always right. The public's perception of your show is what it is, and you don't get to complain how people perceive your show or talk about it. It rankles me because eI wish that people who haven't seen the show yet would know that it's not Family Guy. Family Guy is very funny, but the description of the show makes it easy for people who I think would like the show to not watch it. If you say they did a Pulp Fiction episode, I wouldn't want to watch that show from the description of it. So yeah, it bums me out.
Do you know how long you'll be able to stretch out their time at college? It only last four years, after all.
I think that gets addressed this year, and it needs to get addressed onscreen and off. The characters need to come to terms with the fact that school doesn't last forever. Pierce just revealed that he's been in school for 13 years. But Joel McHale's character is there to get his bachelor's degree, and that's a four-year story. That story has to have a conclusion to it. You can't just freeze time in a show that acknowledges time. I think that's part of the appeal of the show, that the characters are growing and changing. It will be addressed onscreen, because that's part of the story.
Pierce was really teetering on the edge of villainy last season. Are you going to pull that back? is he going to be more likable?
Pierce Hawthorne doesn't apologize for who he is. He's been through a lot. He grew up rich, he had a bad dad, and he knows the value of stubbornness. It's important to have characters like that in your life. And I think t's specifically important to have characters like that in your life that are over 60. We're all scared of going into that good night, and the ones who don't go gently are heroes to us. The more teetering on villainy a character is, and the more you want the audience to continue to like them, the more you have to get to know that character. You have to walk around the rock that's not going to change shape to get why it's a good rock. If you look at it from a certain angle and it just looks like a knife coming at you, you've got to see the handle.
Dan you were on Twitter the morning of the Emmy nominations, and usually everyone pretends they don't pay attention whether they get nominated or not, but you were open about it. What was that morning like for you?
I allowed myself to want it this year. Last year I didn't expect it, and I also pretended I didn't expect it. This year I was like, "Are you going to expect it and pretend you don't expect it?" So I started saying in interviews, "Yeah, I want an Emmy. I'll be bummed out if I don't get a nomination." I thought it was therapeutic to commit to that. So I sat on Twitter, like "Here comes the pain. Let's do this." And it did help. It was 20 minutes of nausea, and then I fell asleep like a light as soon as it was over. I haven't thought about it since. I haven't felt bitterness or pain or anything. I floated on a Twitter cloud across the finish line.