Nothing is worse than naval-gazing, which is at least part of the reason why Harmon's multi-thousand word sit down with Todd VanDerWerff is borderline unreadable. The other reason is that Harmon painstakingly illustrates all the problems with himself and his show, and yet the League of Extraordinary Internet Writers couldn't have been happier; Harmon's thoughts on female writers (he was against them, but happy they were forced on him) and race (he doesn't care) were twisted into something profound on Twitter this week, when they just seemed kind of simplistic and arch. Never has an "emperor has no clothes" situation been better presented, and yet everyone is still bowing. It's kinda infuriating to me, but in the words of the great Brian McNamee, "It is what it is."
It's never wise to cast aspersions on someone based on his or her discussions with the media, but judging from this four-part series, and Harmon's 90-minute interview with Marc Maron on the WTF podcast, the dude has some issues. He's got a chip on his shoulder, he's completely unsure of himself, he's kinda sad, kinda embarrassing, and kinda like an Ain't It Cool talkbacker. It's no wonder that the geeks love Community; Harmon is a geek, in both the good and bad senses of the word. If there's one thing the recent Harmon media tour proves, though, it's that he's making exactly the show he wants — it's just not the show that I want.
There are many, many ridiculous statements in the interview, but this one stood out to me as egregious and tone-deaf. Naturally — as anyone who watched season two of Community could guess — it's about Pierce:
I didn’t see it the way that other people saw it. Like, I have a lot of friends who are incredibly high-maintenance. In the Dungeons & Dragons episode, he is ditched by the group. He busts them ditching him, and he creates a ruckus that ultimately saves a kid’s life. So I just never really saw it the way other people saw it, until they started proclaiming it so profusely. And it’s like, “Okay, the customer is always right.” I never knew the character was loveable, or had the ability to be loveable. I always just saw him as a dick and a test of other people’s humanity. I feel like there is a heroic quality in non-redemptiveness there that at least gives the character the opportunity to have some backbone. But I’m not really interested in selling a fake Griswold grandpa character who’s kinda racist and sleepy. I mean, where’s the story? Someone pitch me a better storyline to do with a character like that.
I totally respect people’s right to ask, “Why would they hang out with him?” And it became my goal to answer that question, at the time, but at this point that you’re describing, I wasn’t perceiving this as a problem. If you asked me at this point, I wouldn’t have had an answer. My answer would have been, “What do you mean? Is there a problem here?” Why are any of them hanging out with each other? The answer is the same across the board, right? Is that a question, or is that the answer?” You are hanging out with him and you have been for a while. He’s like the shitty member of your family.
It’s like a sweater thread, and when you start pulling it, it’s like, “Why the fuck are you friends with anyone you’re friends with?” That’s how I would have responded at the time. And when this episode aired, I saw the comments section, and the audience was divided into two groups. One thought that Pierce being such a dick made the show unwatchable, and the other said “No, they have a plan.” And I was like, “There seems to be a consensus here, and it’s not really my right to say that there isn’t one. I need to have a plan that this other group is talking about,” so that’s the direction I went.That's a funny way to look at friendship. Better phrased, it's a simplistic way to look at friendship. Of course people have friends and family members that they dislike, but they remain friends or cordial family acquaintances out of some loyalty. That happens. Where it doesn't happen is with new friends that adults make. The characters on Community are adults, and if being an adult has taught me one thing it's that patience disappears as you get older. As such: no one in the study group would have the patience to put up with Pierce's personality; they would simply stop being friends with him. That Harmon doesn't seem to realize this — that he thinks otherwise — is sorta depressing. The Pierce Problem is like a microcosm for my thoughts on the entire series: Harmon just has differing viewpoints than I do — see also his thoughts on Britta/Jeff, Annie/Jeff, Chang, the Dinner with Andre episode, and the Apollo 13 episode — and that disconnect became too much to overcome this season. Community became a homework assignment during season two, and television should never be homework.
It doesn't matter, of course — Harmon doesn't know me from Adam, and he's not making the show for me personally — but if this week's bout of Harmon-spewed verbal diarrhea did anything, it put a focus on my issues with him and the show. The relationship between Community and me, as a viewer, has reached an impasse. As Alvy Singer once said, "A relationship, I think, is like a shark. You know? It has to constantly move forward or it dies. And I think what we got on our hands is a dead shark." Remind me to send condolences before season three starts this fall.