‘Community’ Creator Dan Harmon ‘Lives In Terror’ That Show’s Comeback Will Let Fans Down

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A streak of self-loathing in Dan Harmon is likely what fuels “Community” to achieve the comedic heights it does, but while the show has been on hiatus, its creator has been under more self-induced stress than ever.

“I live in terror,” he told reporters on a conference call last week. When the show returns tonight at 8pm Eastern, it will the be the end of a three-month period where the show got a lot of attention for how its fans rallied behind it, including flash mobs in front of 30 Rockefeller Center, Twitter campaigns and viewer-generated viral videos.

“My stomach is in knots coming back from a hiatus,” he continued. “I feel like we’ve got this – the hiatus is the best and worst thing that can happen to this show simultaneously. It has awakened a fandom – and intensity of which may, like what if it outweighs quality of the show? What if people love this thing too much? Like what if let them down?  I wake up in the middle of every night for the last two months with my stomach in knots – I’m terrified.”

One thing he does realize now, though, is that “30 Rock” pulling in similar ratings to “Community” in that timeslot is in a way a godsend, and that “scientifically I was relieved to see that my suspicion that that environment temporally was a little bit hazardous to anybody who might step foot in it. “

Though what was interesting during the call was that he concentrated more of his attention towards “American Idol,” calling it a “juggernaut,” rather than “The Big Bang Theory,” which has been routinely out-drawing “Idol” over the last few weeks. “Our hats off to them for figuring out how to keep people watch live TV in an era when you don’t have to,” he said, citing the fact that viewers for shows like “30 Rock” and “Community” are more likely to watch them later, either via DVR or online.

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Speaking of ratings, Joel McHale, who was also on the call, is still amazed at how the Neilsens don’t seem to reflect who’s watching the show. “It was so weird because we’d read the ratings and you know we – they weren’t you know weren’t great but it was so weird to see the ratings. But then at the time the show was on we would be a trending topic worldwide,” he said.

The only problem with that, which Harmon is well aware of, is that “you can’t sell that number to anybody that’s willing to pay money for it because you can’t guarantee those people will watch a Colgate ad.”

As far as what we’ll see in the second half of the season, which McHale joked would be the “greatest second half of any television show in the history of the world,” we already know that McHale’s snarky but lovable Jeff Winger will have trouble writing a wedding speech for Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown), who’s getting rehitched to her ex Andre (Malcolm-Jamal Warner). We will also see Chang (Ken Jeong) unleash a reign of terror on Greendale Community, an episode with a pillow fort that McHale said that “stylistically it will be totally different than anything” they’ve done before, and a “Law & Order” style episode.

And that “darkness” Harmon predicted for the season? It’s still there, but even moreo. “It turned out to be right I mean because the show itself in a medical sense suffered a cardiac arrest,” he said. He was used to the feedback weekly airings gave him, calling himself 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. Me being deprived of that I think we can translate that into a darkness that seeps into the second half of the season.”

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