Dan Harmon

‘Community’ Season 5 Finale Recap: “Basic Sandwich”

“You moved dirt around Greendale’s grave!” roars school board villain Carl (“That’s right, we’ve got names!”) at the conclusion of Community’s fifth season finale, “Basic Sandwich.” “Your school is still bankrupt! It is still unmarketable! And it is still on the permanent chopping block of anyone who has any say in its future!” You don’t often hear schools called “unmarketable,” nor that they’re on the “chopping block,” but those are terms thrown around in the world of television—and thus they were appropriate to end an episode where the most meta show on television continued to out-meta itself. Frankly, I haven’t heard a television show comment more explicitly on its own shaky future than the second season (and, unfortunately, series) finale of Sports Night, which included the line, “Anybody who can’t make money off Sports Night should get out of the money-making business.” … Read More

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‘Community’ Season 5 Episode 12 Review: “Basic Story”

It’s not often that you get to see a major network television show arguing with itself. But that’s one of the surprises, and pleasures, of “Basic Story,” the first installment in Community’s two-part fifth season finale, which spends much of its first half suspiciously tiptoeing around the idea that, for once, Greendale Community College is free of chaos, its staff and students utterly content. “Usually a lot more than this happens in 30 minutes,” notes Abed, at the end of a half-hour of study group playing-on-their-phones time, and that denomination of time isn’t accidental. For a show that spends plenty of time playing in the meta sandbox, this week’s episode represents a continuation (after last week’s “G.I. Jeff”) of the idea of pushing beyond inside jokes and self-awareness, and genuinely exploring (and exploding) the very nature of fiction. … Read More

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‘Community’ Season 5 Episode 11 Recap: “G.I. Jeff”

The important fact about Community’s gimmick episodes is that the good ones are never just about the gimmick. The paintball episodes, the Ken Burns spoof, “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas”—when the show trots out its tricks, it’s like a particularly good magic show, where the illusionist uses the tool of diversion to smuggle in some of the heftiest intellectual and emotional content of the series. This week’s episode, “G.I. Jeff,” replicates the look and feel of the old G.I. Joe syndicated cartoon show flawlessly: the little specs on the image, the choppiness of the cheap-o animation, the stilted dialogue. The recreations of those ‘80s live-action toy commercials are likewise perfect. And while we’re marveling over the perfection of the nostalgia, we can easily miss that this not only of the most ambitiously melancholy Communitys to date, but one that questions the very essence of reality. … Read More

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‘Community’ Season 5 Episode 10 Recap: “Advanced Advanced Dungeons & Dragons”

PERSONAL CONFESSION ALERT: I’m a pretty nerdy fellow, but I don’t get Dungeons & Dragons. This puts me rather at odds with Dan Harmon, who fucking loves him some Dungeons & Dragons. He put the role-playing game at the center of the season two Community episode “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons,” and plays a round of it on pretty much every episode of his Harmontown podcast. I usually fast-forward through that part of the show, because for all of the subversion and dick jokes, it’s basically a bunch of people in a self-perpetuating fantasy, awkwardly announcing “I cast the spell of the Sacred Funyon” or whatever, and I got a lotta podcasts to listen to, dude. … Read More

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‘Community’ Season 5 Episode 9 Recap: “VCR Maintenance and Educational Publishing”

Community is about as dialogue-heavy and joke-dense as any comedy on television, but sometimes, they earn their richest laughs by saying nothing at all. Two of the best moments in last night’s very good “VCR Maintenance and Educational Publishing” were pauses, perfectly timed and beautifully executed: the Dean’s deep and rather frightened breath before running out of the study room following a fierce and angry freestyle rap in a Payday candy bar costume, and the looooooong moment of Annie, Abed, Annie’s brother Anthony, and Abed’s girlfriend Rachel just staring blankly at the television, trying to wrap their heads around the “Pile of Bullets” VHS game. If there’s been a longer pause on network television, I’m not aware of it—but the indulgence of that pause wonderfully summarizes the spirit of the show this season. Ah, what the hell, it seems to say. It’s not like we’re scaring any new viewers off! … Read More

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The Best and Worst Films of SXSW 2014

The conference portion of the SXSW Film Festival has drawn to a close (though films will continue to run through the weekend), so alas, your film editor’s time in the lovely city of Austin is just about over. This year’s was an intriguing and entertaining slate, lacking the kind of breakout hits I’ve seen here in years past, but nonetheless filled with films that you’ll want to seek out in the weeks and months to come. Here’s a quick jaunt through the 15 movies I saw… Read More

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“I Hate Myself”: Dan Harmon on His Candid New Road Documentary ‘Harmontown’

AUSTIN, TX: One of these days, we’ll grow to understand that strange period a couple of years back when men were fired from their entertainment industry jobs, and responded by going out on tour. First came Conan O’Brien, whose Tonight Show ouster was followed by his “Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television” Tour and an accompanying concert documentary, Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop; Charlie Sheen followed suit after his noisy departure from Two and a Half Men, though that disastrous tour went thankfully undocumented. And then there’s Dan Harmon, who threw himself into his Harmontown podcast after he was removed from Community, the television program he created. In January of last year, Harmon and his crew of misfits went on the road for a 20-city tour, playing clubs sparsely populated by comedy nerds, and documentarian Neil Berkeley came along. The result is Harmontown, a film that is far more complicated and entertaining than the fanboy home movie you might anticipate (and dread). … Read More

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‘Community’ Season 5 Episode 8 Recap: “App Development and Condiments”

When we take the long view of Community, what may be most interesting—and riskiest—about the show is its total inconsistency with regards to “realism.” The word is worth putting in quotes, since it’s such a loaded term when you’re talking about television or film or any of the performing arts; it’s all fake, even the works praised most highly for their naturalism. But there are shows whose proximity to a recognizable reality are closer than others; The Wire is more realistic than, say, The Blacklist. Yet Community won’t let you find your footing; they change up their reality on an almost weekly basis. … Read More

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‘Community’ Season 5 Episode 7 Recap: “Bondage and Beta Male Sexuality”

The question of how Community would get over the loss of Donald Glover has proven as all-consuming, for fans, as how it would function without Dan Harmon—though with much happier results. After an interminable month off the air for the Olympics, Community returned last night with the provocatively titled “Bondage and Beta Male Sexuality,” with… Read More

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