With Dan Harmon set to return to Community as showrunner for the upcoming fifth season, he got caught up on the fourth season, which he wasn't a part of, and wasn't too wild about it. Harmon discussed his thoughts on season four at the top of the latest episode of his podcast Harmontown, which dropped this weekend. Here's how Harmon started the show:
"I watched season four. I guess I already knew this, but apparently, I’m quite a genius … I think I feel pretty comfortable expressing any kind of 'Eh, not my cup of tea' about it because – this has been expressed a thousand times over – it's obviously not somebody doing what they do and trying very hard to make people happy. It is very much like an impression, and an unflattering one. It’s just 13 episodes of 'Oh, I’m Dan Harmon! [stupid laugh]! Die Hard! [stupid laugh]' I feel like I'm going back to work tomorrow morning, and I just feel like, 'Do I talk like that?'"
Harmon added that season five "won't be in the form of a fucking Matrix spoof. I won't be like, 'I'm baaaack! Look, uh, The Wire!' That's not what I ever was … Man, watching those characters without me there is just not fuckin' cool, man. It's like flipping through Instagrams and watching your girlfriend just blow a million [other guys]." Harmon trashing season four directly negates a promise he made a couple weeks ago to watch the season and "not be a jerk about it." He was quoted as saying earlier this month, "I know there were some great writers working on that show who bled with me for seasons one, two and three … the worst thing I can do is fart in their direction at all."
Harmon also revealed that he called Bill Murray while watching the fourth season to try to get him to do the show. Murray famously has no agent or manager and only fields offers via a 1-800 line, and Harmon had previously wanted Murray to play Jeff Winger's father. The showrunners for season four used a different actor, James Brolin, to play Winger's dad. Here's Harmon talking about calling Bill Murray:
"While I was watching season four, I called him and left a voicemail … I said, 'My name is Dan Harmon. I created an NBC show called Community. I would like to talk to you as soon as possible about the possibility of you [gets interrupted] … I didn't want to like try too hard or try to not try too hard, so I probably just sounded like a robot … I think he just calls you back and goes like, 'Hey, it's Bill Murray.' I don't know. I know it's not gonna happen to me, but I think it was a healthy exercise because I was watching the 'Jeff meets his father' episode. Of course, I always wanted Jeff's father to be Bill Murray. I kept putting off the meeting between Jeff and his father because I kept hoping that somehow fate would allow for that to be the case. I named him Jeff Winger. His last name's Winger after Bill Murray's character in Stripes. I just always thought Jeff Winger's dad would be Bill Murray. But there's something awesome about having all of those preconceived notions ripped away from you. It's exciting. There's something exciting about being held down and watching your family get raped on a beach. It's liberating. It makes you focus on what's important."
And here's more of Harmon pontificating on how season four went wrong in his eyes:
"The weird thing that keeps eating at me is there's a system in place that's winning because I would have had too much leverage, too much power, too much salary, as would a lot of writers coming into season four, so they just flushed us [fart sound], replaced us with two guys [who] didn't know what they were getting into. [They] went to Comic-Con, saw what was going on. People dressed as spacemen and bananas and shit; people going, 'Holy shit, I cut myself every night and watch Community.' And they went, 'Fuck' and I think they tried their best and I think that was the best idea – not the best idea, as it turns out, but the most admirable kind of impulse. It's like, 'Let's not let these people down. If there's anything else we do, let's not let these people down' …
Watching that season, it's like I have such an impulse to just do the show they probably got hired to do. They could have just done a sitcom set at a community college. Over time, people would have gone, 'Well, what about paintball? What the fuck? What about chicken fingers?' But then, five episodes later, regular people would have been like, 'Oh, this is a pleasant little show set at a community college.' And they would have beaten me. The system would have won. I would have just crawled under a bridge and pooped in a bucket, just died."