I have a long and personal history with Dan Harmon’s work, and in a lot of ways, this documentary is a culmination of my fandom for him growing to its absolute peak. That is to say, the work of Dan Harmon is something I’ve always loved, even before I knew his name. You’re most likely familiar with his most famous work, Community. A lot has been written about that show, and with it, Dan Harmon. The two are kind of inseparable, which is what creates such an interesting pretense for a documentary: What happens to an artist when his creation is taken from him?
While this is a documentary that certainly does tell that story, the main focus is on Mr. Harmon. It’s his self-destruction, heartache for the loss of his own show, and the eclectic people who have all been touched in one way or another by Dan Harmon’s work that creates the backbone of the movie. We follow the tour he takes in response to being fired from his own show, and what we see is a condensed version of scenes from his popular and eponymous podcast Harmontown. So this documentary is really for two sets of fans; Fans who love Community and want to know more about its creator, and fans of his podcast. I’m personally in the latter, and I was giddy to watch this film. In a nutshell, it’s exactly what I expected. The podcast in a movie form, with a semi-narrative that accurately captures the spirit of the tour, and of Dan Harmon himself. He’s a tortured mad genius poet, who cannot accept his own success, and seems to self-sabotage. But it’s great! It’s cathartic to watch a man slowly – over the course of his tour – take some time to think about who he really is, who his fans are, and what that connection truly means to him, and to his fans in turn.
If you’re a Harmonite like me, you don’t need convincing to watch this movie, not really. If you’re in the camp of fans who only know him as the creator of Community, I’m honestly jealous of you. Along with the wonderful podcast (which is basically the long form version of lots of this film), this movie is a deep exploration of how insidious self loathing is. It shows us the real trials of being a very demanding artist who is willing to burn everything around him to create from his soul. It’s a passion and a drive that is respectable and admirable, even if ultimately unhealthy.
And unhealthy it is. Don’t get me wrong, this documentary is not favorable to Dan Harmon. It’s quite unflinching in its portrayal of his relationship with his girlfriend, who sits back and casually receives verbal abuse from Harmon that would cut others to ribbons. If there’s one thing to look for in the film, it’s how even though Harmon is a broken, sad, tortured man, he’s still managed to find someone who loves him for who he is. It’s a beautiful message and one of the more subtle ones told in the film. We mainly see the film through the perspective of a young Dungeons And Dragons player (“A Dungeon MASTER”, as he exclaims in the film) named Spencer Crittenden. He’s our “everyman” in the documentary, and as much as I love Spencer in the film, the focus is clearly on Harmon.
Harmontown is a documentary that shows us how over long periods of time, with enough mental work, enough patience and enough time, we can rise out of the ditches of self-loathing we all dig for ourselves. I can’t think of anything more heart wrenching than having your creation ripped away from you and given to others to continue working on, and the effect it has on Harmon is gripping. He’s a polarizing man for sure, but I guess in a lot of ways so am I, and so are a lot of Harmontown fans. I think that’s something that I, Harmonites, and Dan Harmon himself have all discovered together, and that’s pretty damn magical.
Sometimes even when everything goes right, it still turns out wrong. Even though we were cautiously excited over NBC’s decision to renew Community for a fifth season, and were downright elated about the return of Dan Harmon, it appears as if it won’t be the same. Donald Glover, one half of the amazing show Troy and Abed in the Morning, will only be appearing in five episodes in the upcoming fifth season.
He says it is so he can focus on his music career as Childish Gambrino, which I understand and respect, but would one more year really make or break his chance at hip-hop success?
It seems more so that Glover might have made plans as if Community‘a cancellation was a sure thing and now he’s just decided to go through with them. As a fan of the show, a show that relies so heavily on its ensemble nature, this is disheartening. What makes Community work is the relationships between each of these characters that should not have much in common yet they end up being a type of family.
Now another one of the family members is leaving (along with Chevy Chase) and it just doesn’t sit right. Hopefully the writers are in a place in their preparation of the season that they can make Troy’s absence and departure happen organically. Otherwise not even the return of Dan Harmon will likely save the show and it will be canceled for good come next May.
Such a shame, we were so close to #sixseasonsandamovie
When the “Save Community” call went out (again), there were many that thought the show should be canceled because this past season wasn’t close to the Community that we knew and loved. It was the same cast and same setting but the stories didn’t have the same feeling to them. There were others, myself included, that wanted the show to be picked up for at least a year so that the writers could come together and find a way to go out on a high note. Never in a million years did I think the real solution to bringing Community back to its old form would actually come to fruition.
That’s right folks, Dan Harmon is back. After being unceremoniously fired by Sony, it appears as if relationships have been mended enough for them to try and work together again – no doubt spurred on by flagging ratings and a very vocal backlash from the fanbase. However, the question still remains; will Dan Harmon find a way to meet everyone else halfway? He’s notorious for being a very difficult person to work for which apparently played a part in his initial firing. There’s no doubt that the show on screen is better when he’s involved, it’s just up for debate if the climate behind the camera is better.
At the end of the day, I don’t work for Dan Harmon and I enjoy seeing his ideas executed on-screen so Yay! Dan Harmon is back!
Here we go again! After ABC sent out the call for people to “save” Happy Endings, Sony Pictures is following suit by releasing a video of their own asking the same thing.
Except it’s not the same. ABC was saying “save Happy Endings from us” whereas this time it’s the production studio begging the audience to save the show from NBC. Even though it seems quite a bit more genuine coming from Sony, the problem remains the same – unless people with Nielson boxes see this plea and tune in on Thursday nights, it will sadly make no difference.
When will this ratings insanity end?!? I know there are more pressing issues in the world, but is it too much to ask that network executives rethink how they calculate ratings? The audience of shows like Happy Endings and Community aren’t watching the show when it airs, rather they are watching it off a DVR or online outlets like Hulu so even if the average joe watching live effected ratings, they just aren’t doing it.
Of course the internet has jumped on this, much to the delight of people like myself. Not only is there an online petition started, which you should go and sign right here… go, I’ll wait… but also plenty of people out there creating great art like this.
You’d think this was streets ahead, but sadly this is leftover from the last time Community sat on the chopping block, or perhaps even the time before that, or maybe the time before that, or it could be from – you get the point. Community has had a rocky road, that is for sure, but the fans of the show are determined to make their voice heard, join us will you?
As with everything in today’s world, there are naysayers. People who kick their feet and scream about how great the show used to be and honestly, I don’t disagree. The writing was better in seasons past and this season has been a little weak, but I’d rather NBC give it another year to let it find it’s footing and go out on a good note. That’s not too much to ask is it? After all, the only thing we’ve always wanted is six seasons and a movie.
I imagine if I were to create a “bucket list” it would include items such as finding a way to convince Julie Andrews to adopt me (sorry Mom) and Gladys Knight to follow me around narrating my life in song. Also on that list would be to attend PaleyFest.
Named for William Paley, the man who took a small Columbia Broadcasting System and turned it into the CBS we know today (one would hope minus the dearth of crappy sitcoms), setting the standard for all modern television networks along the way, PaleyFest bills itself as “The Ultimate TV Fan Festival”. With two weeks filled with panels and autographs and things of that nature, it just might be. Luckily for those of us TV fans who do not live in Los Angeles, the folks over at the Paley Center for Media have teamed up with Hulu to bring the panels to the masses. The day after a panel, it’s been put up on Hulu in both clips and an entire session.
There have been some good shows like The Newsroom, Revolution and Once Upon a Time and even some shows we here at Grizzly Bomb watch and review such as The Walking Dead and Arrow. Panels like this are always fun because you get a chance to see the actors behind the characters and often get some behind the scenes/story info much like this clip for the Arrow panel.
Lest we ever doubt that writers and producers are listening to the fans’ reactions, we played a part in bringing Felicity Smoak up as a series regular! If you were looking for an example of social media having a direct impact on something, that would be it. Had Arrow aired even fifteen years ago, there’s a good chance Felicity would still have been this small character until enough people sent in letters and some email to the studio asking for more of “that blond IT girl”.
Another clip that I found to be interesting is to see Stephen Amell talk about how he approaches “island Oliver”.
These two clips are non-spoilers but there are a few in the rest of the panel session, which you can watch right here, so be warned. If you did not recognize the moderator for the panel, that would be none other than Geoff Johns himself, rocking the Aquaman hat.
The other show of note was The Walking Dead.
Now, I do not watch The Walking Dead (there is no need to tell me how awesome it is and how I’m missing out – I’m a big ol’ wuss and damn near pissed myself watching one episode and I’d rather not repeat that experience) so there is a chance these clips might have spoilers and if they do, I apologize.
However, I did watch the majority of this panel and if I’m honest, it’s because I’ve got a wee bit of a crush on Chris Hardwick. The man is just adorable, I can’t help it.
I thought this was really interesting because in a show about the ‘zombie apocalypse’ and when pretty much everyone is on the chopping block at any moment (of course one would assume major characters would be safe, but stranger things have happened), I imagine the thought that they could be killed off is in the forefront of their minds.
Of course once this topic came up, there was no way I couldn’t include it. Living south of Atlanta, I can commiserate fully. Summer down here is awful. You step outside and you immediately start sweating and I can only imagine what kind of hell the makeup people deal with. It’s a good thing the characters are usually sweaty and gross because man alive, if they had to look fresh and clean? Those makeup people would be winning an Emmy each year and rightfully so.
Again, here is the whole panel, there may be spoilers so be warned.
So now that we all know what PaleyFest can include, who wants to go with me? I’m taking names for next year’s carpool, we can split the gas and all share a bag of beef jerky.
There was a time when a show premiered in January or February it usually meant it was crap. I think it is safe to say that this is no longer that case, and to prove my point, a list of the top new and returning shows that are premiering (or have premiered in the last week or so) in the coming weeks.
In order of premiere date, the top eleven shows that you should be on the look out for this winter. Why eleven? Well I had come up with ten and then realized I’d forgotten one and by that time I was too attached to the ten original so eleven it is!
First off, a show that came back on Friday, January 6th on IFC. The brain child of SNL’s Fred Armisen and musician/actress Carrie Brownstein, Portlandia is a show you should be watching, if for no other reason than to understand why people keep talking about “put a bird on it!” and thinking it’s hysterical. Now in its third season, you can catch up on the first two seasons on Netflix which I would highly recommend. Even though the show is comprised of shorts, it does have a story arc. You won’t be completely lost if you start with season 3 but you’d at least understand why the new Geico commercial with the pig at the restaurant is so humorous. Portlandia has always been a fan of guest stars and season 3 looks to be no different. Patton Oswalt, Jeff Goldblum and Penny Marshall plus so much more!
Portlandia– Fridays at 10 eastern on IFC, check it out and feel free to thank me.
2. Downton Abbey
7.9 million Americans can’t be wrong. That is how many people tuned into the season 3 premiere of PBS’s Downton Abbey on Sunday, January 6th. A product of the Britain’s itv, Downton Abbey follows the lives of the inhabitants of a great English manor in the 1900’s. At it’s base it’s nothing more than a soap opera but the great characters and beautiful settings have worked their way into our hearts and DVR’s alike. While I really enjoy the dichotomy of the upstairs vs. downstairs, it is the individual characters that I love. Watching Dame Maggie Smith as the matriarch of the family is like watching a master class on acting; the woman can do no wrong, none! Add in Shirley MacClaine as the other mother-in-law and the personality clashes practically write themselves.
One has to wonder, given the success of shows like Downton Abbey and Sherlock, how many times Ed Begley, Jr.’s character from A Mighty Wind has been quoted by those in the PBS offices.
You can find Downton Abbey on Sunday nights at 9 eastern on PBS. Word of warning, if you are looking to record it on your DVR, it will more than likely listed as Masterpiece Theatre.
3. Cougar Town
I’m sure everyone just let out a groan, but hear me out, especially if you never watched Cougar Town beyond the first few episodes. When it premiered, this show had one of the worst premises ever; a newly divorced woman in her 40’s who is out to date younger men, therefore making her a “cougar”. Not totally sure why they thought that would ever take off, and surprisingly it didn’t. The writers saw this and changed the premise almost completely. The show’s creators even flirted with the idea of changing the name of the show, but in the end kept it. Now instead of the dating escapades of Courtney Cox, it’s a show about friends and family and friends who are family. I like my sitcoms to have an emotional element and have a story that grows with the characters. Cougar Town does that, now.
After airing on ABC for three seasons, this season will be on TBS. What effect it will have on the writing (given that standards and practices are more lenient on cable than network TV) remains to be seen, but I know I will be tuning in to find out. If I’ve convinced you, or your interest is the slightest bit piqued, you can catch Cougar Town premiering on January 8th at 10 eastern on TBS.
4. 1600 Penn
Another sitcom and one that I’m not convinced will be good but I think still needs to be given a chance is NBC’s new show, 1600 Penn. NBC needs this show to win. Their comedy schedule is taking some big hits with The Office and 30 Rock signing off this year and Community and Up All Night on shaky ground (Up All Night completely changing formats from single cam to multi-cam with live audience is almost unheard of), they need something to fill those slots. Animal Practice shockingly enough, crashed and burned and while Matthew Perry’s Go On has had a bit of success, it can’t carry the entire schedule. The only thing NBC has going for it right now is Parks and Recreation and it doesn’t have the ratings to stand alone either, which is a crime but that’s another thought for another day.
Enter Bill Pullman and Jenna Elfman as the President and First Lady of the United States. The sitcom focuses on them and their somewhat dysfunctional family including their son, Josh Gad. These are not small names which makes it all the more surprising that they’d sign on for something that doesn’t look all that promising. However I did just recommend a show that started off in the toilet and redeemed itself further down the road so perhaps I’ll be singing a different tune after a few episodes, here’s hoping.
1600 Penn premieres on January 10th at 9:30 eastern on NBC.
I have to wonder if Lena Dunham occasionally pinches herself to make sure it’s all real. I know I would be. The first season of Girls, which she created and stars in, was met with critical and commercial success. On a network that is known more for its dramas, Girls has made a name for itself and has Dunham mainly to thank for it. That and the fact there hasn’t been a “group of girls” type of show that is actually good since the departure of Sex and the City in 2004. I happen to love this show and can’t wait to see what those crazy kids get themselves into in season 2. If I had to guess, it would be a lot of alcohol and a lot of sex.
Girls starts back up on January 13th at 9pm on HBO.
6. Ripper Street
Another British import, Ripper Street takes place in the East End of London shortly after the murder spree of Jack the Ripper. One can only imagine how crazy that area would have been given the fact that Jack the Ripper and his crimes were known worldwide. The amount of people there to just be what we today call “disaster tourists” must have been overwhelming. I do like how in the promo, there is a guy giving a tour! So it’s up to the “H Division” who investigated the Ripper crimes, are tasked with keeping that area of London under control. Ripper Street follows their story, with Matthew MacFadyen (MI-5/Spooks) as the famous Edmund Reid. I think we can all agree that the BBC usually does a very good job with their projects and this looks to be no different.
Ripper Street finds its way to BBC America on January 19th at 9 eastern.
7. The Following
As I mentioned a few weeks back, Kevin Bacon is returning to TV with a show called The Following. It’s already making news, but not in ways I imagine they’d wanted, but rather because of the level of violence in the show. Given that I just watched an episode of Criminal Minds in which an insane man was making marionettes out of live people, I daresay the violence won’t be a lasting issue. The Following has an interesting premise- a serial killer who escapes and the police then discovering that he has become a cult favorite with the psychopaths of the world- and I’ll admit this is one that I’m looking forward to most this mid-season. I’m a big fan of James Purefoy and of course Kevin Bacon is, well he’s Kevin Bacon.
You can get caught up in the mystery starting on January 21st at 9 eastern on Fox.
8. The Americans
Neon is back in style so why not Communist Russia? I’m guessing that is what the creators of The Americans thought and at first blush, it appears as if they might be on to something. Keri Russel and Matthew Rhys (Brothers and Sisters) play married KGB agents here in America in the 1980’s. I think it will be very interesting to see how this plays out. There are some who are dismissing it as just a Homeland knockoff but I daresay they aren’t really the same concept at all. Growing up in the Cold War the idea that anyone could be a Russian spy really was a thing. How many stories have come out over the years of “ordinary” people being outed as spies and their friends and neighbors having no idea? Even though I hadn’t heard much of this show before seeking it out, I’m intrigued and will certainly be checking it out.
The Americans premieres on January 30th at 10 eastern on FX.
I will not be surprised if someday in the future, Community finds its way into a textbook in a chapter titled “what not to do when trying to produce a successful television show” and it will have nothing to do with the quality of the writing or the performances of the actors. If it wasn’t so aggravating as a fan, it would be almost comical to watch NBC yank Community around like a neglected rag doll. They’ve never put much marketing into it, and have repeatedly shot themselves in the foot with time changes and taking it off the schedule only to put it back on but then change the air date… it’s a mess. Add in the drama with Dan Harmon and Chevy Chase both leaving the show and lord have mercy where do they go from here?
In my perfect world, everyone with a television would tune into Community when it airs so the ratings are astronomically high and NBC will be forced to renew Community for another season even though they are making it pretty clear with their actions that they don’t want to. That would be a perfect world. Alas that won’t happen so I’m just going to enjoy Community for however long it has left.
You can find Community on October 19th February 7th at 8 eastern on NBC.
Kiefer Sutherland running! Kiefer Sutherland out of breath! Kiefer Sutherland’s child is in danger! No, this is not 24, but rather Touch. I’ll admit that I did not watch Touch when it aired. Just happened to come across it one day on Netflix and gave it a shot. I am thankful for this bit of kismet because it really is a good show. From Tim Kring, creator of Crossing Jordan and Heroes, Touch is about a kid who doesn’t speak or interact with anyone but is obsessed with numbers, numbers that his father (Sutherland) and social worker discover actually mean something. Every week he gives them a new set of numbers which lead them to a new clue in an even more expansive mystery involving Danny Glover and Maria Bello. If you missed the first season, find it on demand or on Netflix, it’s a good one. It of course requires a massive suspension of disbelief but if you don’t dwell on details too much, the story is quite fantastic.
This is another show that was scheduled to premiere in the fall but got bumped to the mid-season so we’ll just have to wait and see what that means for the future.
For now, you can see Touch with a two-hour premiere on February 8th at 8 eastern on Fox.
11. Zero Hour
I am a closest lover of conspiracy theories. Most of the time I think they are bubkus but it doesn’t make me love them any less. I especially like conspiracy theories wrapped up in treasure hunting scenarios. National Treasure, The Librarian, Uncharted (the games)? Big fan of them all. So it comes as no surprise that I was really excited when I read the description of Zero Hour. A woman goes missing, her husband who by the way has a magazine called “Skeptics” finds a clock she bought that has some kind of treasure map inside and that leads him on a wild goose chase with people talking in whispers and riddles? Yes please.
Anthony Edwards returns to television for the first time since Dr. Green died on ER and in my opinion, he couldn’t have chosen a cooler looking show. Here’s hoping it lives up to my own hype.
Zero Hour premieres on February 14th at 8 eastern on ABC.
Of course being the somewhat indecisive person I am- a few Honorable Mentions:
Justified – Tuesdays at 8 eastern on FX Archer – Season 4 premieres January 17th at 10 easter on FX
All the Showtime shows – Shameless, Masters of Sex, and Ray Donovan
It’s always a good thing when the hiatus is over so let’s celebrate- Happy New Year everyone!