At the TCA panel for his forthcoming Adult Swim series “Rick and Morty,” it was almost impossible for Dan Harmon to avoid questions regarding his uproarious year following his departure from and return to NBC comedy “Community.”
Harmon offered kind words to NBC during the Turner TCA session, dubbing the Peacock “incredibly permissive” when it came to the creative liberties he was able to take during his initial run on “Community.”
“NBC was in the business of critical darlings,” Harmon mentioned.
Many journos lobbed questions at Harmon inquiring whether he now maintains more conservative approach to how he deals with networks and executives after several highly-publicizes blowouts with NBC, Sony and actors, including “Community” cast member Chevy Chase.
“I walk with god and he protects me,” Harmon quipped, before more seriously stating, “I don’t politic…I suffer no illusions that I generate things myself. I surround myself with loyalists, and people that I would die for. I would rather die than make bad stuff for people because I’m a terrible dishwasher, and a terrible lover, and a terrible pet owner, and this is my only recourse to go to bed having done anything with merit…Overall, it allows me to fail upward.”
He continued: “If I had been invited back [to ‘Community’] and not gone back, the worst case scenario would be 30 years of wondering what would have happened. If I went back, the worst thing that could happen is one shitty season.”
In spite of the drama experience by Harmon while working at one of the Big Four, he is nevertheless a fan of the broad medium, noting that he grew up watching network television with his parents and hopes writing for network TV doesn’t become a “dying art form.”
One journalist asked if the “constraints” Harmon faces at NBC would turn him away from working at one of the Big Four again once “Community” comes to a close.
“The constraints you’re describing are the same as iambic pentameter, haikus,” Harmon explained. “It’s a different way to reach an audience…and I want to step up to that plate and do it often as possible.”
Adult Swim’s “Rick and Morty” marks Harmon’s first foray in the animated sphere, and the scribe remarked that “you very quickly learn that you have to be strategic about your resources” in the same way you must be with live-action budgets.
Per Harmon and fellow creator and exec producer Justin Roiland, “Rick and Morty” derives inspiration from “‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,’ a little ‘Back to the Future’ and a heavy dose of ‘Dr. Who.'” Toon comedy centers on a sociopathic scientist who drags his unintelligent grandson on a dangerous adventure across the universe. Harmon voices one of the characters on the show, and drew a comparison to network notes at Adult Swim versus NBC, where the scribe has a tumultuous history with laffer “Community,” which Harmon has ankled and then returned to for the upcoming season.
“[Adult Swim exec veep] Mike Lazzo is a bonafide, actual genius, especially in the world of network executives,” Harmon remarked. “He has the autonomy, humility and mental power to actually take a script, recognize it as what it is — which is a document — and tell you what his reactions are as an individual as he reads it…He never says, ‘I don’t think people are going to like this,’ or branches out into speculation about this biomass. He never says ‘People are going to respond this way when this happens, and he also never confuses the script with the finished product.”
Harmon added: “The big, bad suits don’t exist at Adult Swim.”
“Rick and Morty” will bow in December and is produced by Starburns Industries.