“I’m not writing as if it’s the end,” Community creator/showrunner Dan Harmon insisted this morning at Winter TV Press Tour 2015, correcting speculation about the sixth season of the comedy series that’s moving from NBC to Yahoo. “This show has lived by the sword of a very intimate relationship with fans and needs to die only by that sword, so only when people stop watching it would I stop wanting to make the product. I would never feel comfortable walking away from any version of Community.”
“It will be weird when we are canceled by the Internet,” he added.
That said, Harmon has no idea how to gauge the series’ success or failure on Yahoo. “That is going to be the coolest thing in the world,” he said of his mornings after a new episode comes out minus Nielsen fast national ratings. “The worst part was where a 0.8 rating could mean the best day of your life and a 0.7 meant no donuts. It was such an odd religion to live under. I can’t wait to find out how it’s going to work,” he said of Yahoo’s metrics for judging success or failure. (Unlike Netflix and Amazon, for instance, Yahoo has been betting on advertising to generate most of the revenues for its original programming.)
Harmon danced around Chevy Chase’s report he’s coming back to the comedy series. “He was talking about Season 4,” Harmon joked. When reporters at the tour, being held at the Langham hotel in Pasadena, would not let it go, Harmon reverted to: “If you were to take a man and bring him back to life like that I would think you’d want to keep it a secret. That would be god-like power. You wouldn’t just run into a hotel in Pasadena and go, ‘I’ve created life’ – you would wait to scream that in crashing thunder at the heavens, as rain spattered on your face.”
Asked how happy he was at how badly NBC’s comedies are doing this season, Harmon shot back, “I will not fall into that trap.”
“I will say I am relieved, from my own perspective, to see the state comedies’ numbers are in – to see them coming down. It wasn’t us, it was the weather. There’s a relief there,” he confessed, adding, “I don’t take pleasure in others’ creative pain. I would love Selfie to run 100 episodes. I know how hard it is to make the show.”
Right off the bat Harmon and cast members from the show took a mess of “How surprised were you?” and “was it a nail biter?” in re the negotiations to find the show a new berth after NBC took a pass on another season.
“It all happened in the last eight hours of its legality,” Harmon said, in re expiring cast options, etc. In June, one month after NBC canceled Community, and after a couple weeks of negotiations, Sony Pictures TV closed a deal with Yahoo for 13 new episodes of the comedy series on Yahoo Screen. Talks went down to the wire as those cast options were set to expire. Complicating negotiations, the series had a digital syndication deal in place with Hulu, and a cable off-network pact with Comedy Central.
Yahoo will not release all of next season’s episodes at once; instead debuting two episodes when the show returns in March, and then an episode every Tuesday. That, in contrast to, say Netflix’s binge-viewing model. Harmon said today there never was any talk of releasing all episodes at once. “I feel in my old-school bones, it feels to me the right way to do it…Maybe old school is the best school — it is for rap.”
Because of the studio’s domestic and international syndication deals on Community, viewers will not see wholesale changes to the show in its move to Yahoo. “We still have to hold to that 20 minute [format],” Harmon said, though it may be a little more “chubby — like me. A little extra.”
Ditto with regard to the content, though Yahoo is not subject to the same content restrictions as is NBC. “I don’t want to make the mistake of making the show unrecognizable,” Harmon said, calling the changes to content this season a “loosening of the corset.”