XOXO: Dan Harmon - Community

Dan Harmon is the Emmy-winning writer, former executive producer of Community, co-founder of Channel 101, and executive producer of Charlie Kaufman’s Anomalisa.

The Details

Dan Harmon


Projects: Community and Channel 101

XOXOing: Television and Community



Dan opens with the definition of “technology”. Which he used to find a definition of the word “keynote”. Thus preparing him for “The Internet: You can’t take it too seriously”, his talk today. Because The Internet is Not People, and Nothing is More Important than People.

You can’t start to worship the connection more than you respect the people you’re connecting with. So Dan compared people to the most important things ever, like the Internet and global warming and redheads and vodka. And the internet is the best people connector so far.

Then media evolved, from cave drawings to the peak of television in the 1980s, Knight Rider. Breaking Bad’s excellence is the sign of television dying, the euphoria of the show is a symptom of its medium’s illness.

A people connector absorbs and adopts all the functionality value and power of the connector that precedes it. When you take a people connector too seriously, it stops connecting people. Instead, it starts dividing people. The more powerful the connector, the more power it has to divide us.

VH1 is a “digusting, blood-encrusted meat-grinder of humanity” because TV still makes money and the Internet doesn’t yet. That’s why we don’t have Norman Lear connecting people through George Jefferson, but we have Flavor of Love.

And money is a great people connector. It caused efficiency and then like all young heroes, it became an old villain. But we’re in an in-between phase where the Internet doesn’t have any money yet but the evil people are still in TV, fucking everything up.

Proof that television is dying? Heat Vision and Jack. It doesn’t show the Internet’s importance, but it demonstrates why TV is dying. Because one of the execs in charge of their show didn’t know the difference between Star Trek and the Twilight Zone, who got her job because she was kinda rich and kinda dumb. But by contrast FX has people in middle management who care about the human connection, and that’s why they have Louis C.K.

Money killed Heat Vision and Jack. But people saved it. Harmon and his co-creator were invited to a screening in the depths of their depression after the show was cancelled. They got to watch their show along with a live audience. And their minds were blown by the reaction from the crowd.

This led to developing Channel 101 as a way of unplugging from the old TV infrastructure, but the audience could choose what succeeded or didn’t. It’s still running 9 years later, providing content that still holds up, and driven by reasons other than money since it’s never made a profit.

Channel 101 also led to the development of Harmon’s story model. At his poorest and most destitute, he created the story model that’s led to more of his success than anything else. Many writers, including those he admire, have found the story model a useful tool.

And that is how he created Community. And then he got fired. He got fired for money. And money will be the death of everything good in your life, except for the first forty grand a year, which you need to buy potatoes and stuff.

So what do we do with the Internet as a new people collector to make sure money doesn’t ruin it? First do what’s instinctive and connects, and the money will come to you.

We keep finding new ways to connect
We follow our bliss
We keep following it
We pray the money never finds the internet

The internet’s strengths come from the fact the money hasn’t arrived yet. The two things we can do:

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