If Community – created by Dan Harmon – is an acerbic, middle-aged faculty member with attitude, then Arrested Development is his dry-humoured, self-involved uncle that got him the job in the first place. Both shows are highly regarded comedies with relatively low ratings. Both had well-received pilot episodes written by their respective creators and directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, and both centre around a wildly dysfunctional, disparate group of people, barely tolerating each other for the greater good. Indeed, it could be argued that Arrested Development broke the very ground that Community strolled in on.
Most importantly for the shows in question, however, both have a core group of die-hard fans that regard the creators of their favourite shows as comic geniuses – Mitch Hurwitz for Arrested Development, and Dan Harmon for Community. It comes as no surprise then, that the sound you just heard was an explosive fan-gasm that ricocheted around the world when news echoed forth from the SXSW Film Festival that Harmon and Hurwitz are planning a meld of their comedic minds for our future entertainment. As Neil Berkeley’s documentary, Harmontown, premiered at the famous Austin, Texas event – Dan Harmon explained to Rolling Stone the process through which this epic collaboration will spring:
“I’ve begged him to come to the writers’ room on Community, but he has wisely declined. I don’t think he’d be able to stand being on someone else’s thing. He and I have talked about doing a project together, so that every time I see him, I’m like, “We weren’t just drunk, we’re really gonna do that?” And he’s like, “Yeah.” … I don’t want to talk about it… Okay, it would embrace the emerging mediascape, and use us both in a way that we weren’t compromising each other, but are still collaborating, and giving the audience a lot to digest. That’s all I’ll say…. I could lay it out in one sentence, but then it’ll be on the Internet and I’m worried that that’ll somehow ruin it. Right now it’s the genie in the bottle, and I don’t want it to come out and go away.”
We don’t want to let that incredible genie out of that particularly well-crafted bottle before it’s ready either, so we’ll simply enjoy Harmontown in the meantime.
Chronicling the adventures of Harmon and friends, on the road with his Harmontown podcast during a year-long forced hiatus from Community, the film is an uninhibited exploration of Harmon’s relationship with his fans, and with himself, at a very difficult time. Harmon had been unceremoniously fired from his own show by NBC following a clash of personalities and differences of opinion with star Chevy Chase. Famously, following NBC’s announcement that Harmon would replaced as showrunner for Community’s Season 4 (but would remain ‘involved somehow’) Harmon used Tumblr to rip back the PR curtain and expose the reality of his situation:
“The important one is this quote from [NBC Entertainment President] Bob Greenblatt in which he says he’s sure I’m going to be involved somehow, something like that. That’s a misquote. I think he meant to say he’s sure cookies are yummy, because he’s never called me once in the entire duration of his employment at NBC. He didn’t call me to say he was starting to work there, he didn’t call me to say I was no longer working there and he definitely didn’t call to ask if I was going to be involved. I’m not saying it’s wrong for him to have bigger fish to fry, I’m just saying, NBC is not a credible source of All News Dan Harmon.”
A year later, Harmon was sensationally re-hired for season 5 of Community, and has been working hard to get his show back on track. He also has a number of other irons in the fire – besides his debut as documentary star – including his role as producer and writer for Adult Swim’s Rick And Morty, which was just been renewed for a second season.
Mitch Hurwitz – as has been the case since Arrested Development left the air in 2006 – is allegedly working on Arrested Development. Following the success of its 2013 season collaboration with Netflix, it has been suggested that a further visit with the Bluth family is in the works – either in episodic format, or as a feature film. He did recently stretch his acting muscles in an episode of Community, though, following Harmon’s fleeting cameo appearance in the latest Arrested Development episodes.
In true Hurwitz fashion, everything is connected. Attention must be paid, lest we miss the biggest joke of all. As he and Dan Harmon figure out what exactly their big collaboration will involve, we’ll be over here, on the edge of our seat.