March 15th, 2012
05:12 PM ET
It was the "Community" fans' winter of discontent.
Finally, on Thursday night, the show they love is back on the air! But that doesn't mean creator Dan Harmon is resting on his laurels. He realizes that he is returning to one of the most difficult timeslots of the week.
"[Thursday nights at 8 is] a tough slot, and I've always felt that way. I've always been proud to plant our feet there and take a kidney punch week after week," he recently told reporters. "Always been ecstatic that we're chosen to stand there with our bayonet and experience terror under this [NBC] peacock banner that I'm so proud to stand under. That they would choose us to go into those front trenches and look at the whites of the enemies eyes, as long as there's an understanding that that's what the environment is."
"30 Rock's" ratings, in that slot since January (it moves to 8:30 p.m. ET/PT tonight), weren't great either.
"I did not like being put in the position where I was rooting for a fellow creative's bad fortune at all," Harmon said. "I think that there's probably room for everybody to get entertained, and to entertain. But at the same time, yes obviously...I was relieved to see that my suspicion that that environment temporally was a little bit hazardous to anybody [was right]. 'American Idol' is a juggernaut. More so than 'Big Bang Theory.' That thing just ate us alive; it's a killer."
Series star Joel McHale admitted that it's been "weird" to look at "Community's" ratings each week, keeping in mind that the target audience may be more difficult to measure in the Nielsens.
"At the time the show was on we would be a trending topic worldwide [on Twitter]," he said. "And that to me showed the great sincerity in the viewers – in reality, there's a huge number of people that, I think, watch."
Harmon once said that "Community's" third season would be the darkest one yet. "It turned out to be right, because the show itself in a sense suffered a cardiac arrest [when it went on hiatus]," he explained. "That energy trickles into the writer's room when you've got a guy like me, who thrives on constant affirmation. A big spoiled baby who's so used to the show airing once a week and us getting that feedback and having that ego stroke."
Harmon also addressed the popularity of the episode that launched 1,000 internet memes: the timeline episode.
"I thought there was an equal chance that people were going to, you know, retch at it, because it was a conceptual episode that mainly focused on people eating pizza," he said.
"I'll be the first to admit I never know what people are going to like and not like...And the one thing that I've always been able to rely upon is the audience's love of the actors. We've been dreading episodes that people have gone through the roof for. The 'Dungeons and Dragons' episode was not a popular dance partner politically, so there was a scramble to cut its throat with some of the halls of the corporate buildings, because it was a nerdy topic. It was that we kept saying goblins. 'Stop it, stop saying sword.'"
It's "Community's" commitment to a vision that fans (and TV critics) seem to appreciate, and Harmon is always astounded at how fans show their love for the show online.
"There are the ones that blow you away, because the only way this person could have possibly meticulously gone through all the footage of our show, and assembled this particular thing is if they cared about the show almost literally more than me," he said. "There's a video on YouTube that is edited to the tune of one of Donald [Glover]'s 'Childish Gambino' songs called 'Freaks and Geeks.' Every syllable, every word of Donald's rap is reflected in some piece of imagery from 'Community' in multiple boxes that go to the beat, and it is spectacular. I don't think our entire editing staff would have time to put that together if we had to broadcast it. It would be too big a project for them. And someone just did it by themselves."
Just like the show's study group, this comedy attracts viewers of all stripes, from creative artists and video editors to people who just like quality TV – even if their first and last name are remarkably similar.
[Full disclosure: Of course, this being a call with a comedy writer and one of the best known comedians in Hollywood, it wasn't entirely serious – not by a long shot.
In fact, Harmon and McHale were very curious as to why this reporter's name, shortened, could be said as "Hank Hanks." "Why would your parents do that? If your last name is Hanks why would they name you Henry?" Harmon asked, and McHale even offered to call my parents to get to the bottom of it.
The discussion then went over to Twitter briefly. (And just to clear it up, I'm a junior, and my father goes by the middle name of "Doug.")]
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