Or: Five seasons and 97 episodes: Why Dan Harmon leaving Community isn’t the darkest timeline
Let’s get this out of the way up front. Dan Harmon leaving Community is a Bad Thing. It is the second-worst thing that could have happened to the show (cancelling it is obviously the goatee-sporting darkest timeline). Harmon was the reason the show was what it was: Daring, inventive, unconventional and wildly original. He’s the reason for dreamatoriums, darkest timelines, and dinners with Abed.
But a Harmon-less community is what we have. The renewal also saved us the endless Arrested Development-esque speculation over whether there would ever be a movie.
Dan Harmon is a genius, and the show will not be the same without him. It won’t have the same mindblowing episodes like “Paradigms of Human Memory” or “Mixology”.
But still: Community is coming back for 13 more episodes. And here’s why it won’t suck.
First off, Harmon has created a great world to play in. The genre/parody episodes will stay. The characters (and the phenomenal actors that play them) will stay. The weird world of Greendale, with its wealth of secondary characters will stick around.
Secondly: The guys coming in, David Guarascio and Moses Port. Their names mean absolutely nothing to me. But they were consulting producers on Happy Endings, which is one of the best comedies on TV. They’re (probably) not idiots, so they won’t mess with what works on the show. Community will remain a good, funny show.
Yes, they are going to tone down the weirdness. Not the overall weirdness, necessarily, but the inaccessible, oppressive weirdness. That might be a good thing.
An entire episode done in a Ken Burns style is easier to admire than it is to enjoy. The Dreamatorium episode was certainly ballsy, but it was weird. Crazy weird.
They’re also not going to publicly feud with one of their regular cast members. They’re going to colour inside the lines. But they’re not going to be meddled with too much. Sony has the 84 episodes they need to bring the show to syndication, and they know there’s no way they’re going to grow the audience to where it can be a hit. It will always just be a weird little cult show for them. It’s never going to be a profit-maker - they just need it to keep to itself and operate without any headaches - something Harmon clearly didn’t (or couldn’t) do.
So Community won’t be doing the ballsy, weird stuff it did after its hiatus. But it will be likely doing something similar to the latter half of season 1/beginning of season 2. There will be a couple fun, flashy paintball-y episodes. But mostly it will be small-scale stories about 7 students at Community College. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
And then there’s the time slot.
Friday night is a great place for the show to wind up. It will no longer have to go head to head against The Big Bang Theory. It will keep a lot of its viewers, and benefit from the diminished expectations of Friday night. It will have to do a lot to stay on the air for a fifth season (or get picked up for at full 4th season), but it could be helped by some poor performances by NBC’s outrageously large offering of new comedies.
Yes, Community would be better with Dan Harmon. But unfortunately that’s not the world we live in. But at least we don’t live in the world where Pierce is dead and Jeff only has one arm. We just live in the one where Shirley burnt her pies or something.
Tomorrow, a group of friends and I will be watching all three Jurassic Park movies. And, since the trilogy really goes downhill after the first one, we will be playing…
Jurassic Park: The Drinking Game
On the drink menu is Goldblum-shlager (which is actually gin), Samuel L. Jack-and-coke, and Hold on to your Buds: we’ll have good beer instead.
Here are the rules. We may drop or add some, but here’s where we start.
Best lines: The first movie is incredibly quotable, so whenever someone says a memorable line, drink.
So I guess what I’m saying is drink, because it’s a Jurassic Park marathon and you won’t want to be sober by the time the third one starts.
Hold on to your butts.
Die Hard is the perfect action movie. It is what all other action movies should aspire to be. It’s action-packed, well-written, perfectly paced, funny, and boasts one of the greatest villains in film history. Its greatness is even more apparent when looked at relative to the string of diminishing returns that are the Die Hard sequels.
Let’s start with the main character. John McClane is a badass. He’s also completely overmatched and vulnerable - and he knows it. He actually spends a lot of time in the movie running away from the action. How often does that happen? He gets beaten up, bloodied, bruised, but he doesn’t give up, because he’s a good guy and the good guy doesn’t give up. We know he’s going to win, because he’s the good guy and that’s how it works. There are scenes where it’s not clear how he’s going to get out of this one, and holy shit he just jumped off the building attached to a fire hose. The sequels make the mistake of having him be an unstoppable juggernaut of badassery, who jumps on top of jets and drives cars into helicopters. He’s not Rambo - he’s a New York Cop in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Bigger Isn’t Better
Another big reason the sequels don’t work is because they make the wrong assumptions. They seem to think that bigger is better, more is more. Die Hard is so effective because the setting, the Nakatomi Building, is small and well-defined. There aren’t chase scenes because there doesn’t need to be. All the action takes place on 4 different floors, plus the lobby and the roof. That’s it. It’s enough to keep space between John McClane and the bad guys, but keep the danger present. You don’t need to keep making the setting bigger, and have McClane take over Dulles, or New York City, or the Eastern Seaboard, or Russia. Die Hard doesn’t really waste space. It takes place at a Los Angeles skyscraper, and that’s it.
In the same way Die Hard doesn’t waste space, it also doesn’t waste script. Every moment, especially in the first act, works towards a larger payoff. The guy with the tip to avoid jet lag? That pays off over an hour later in the iconic scene where John McClane has to walk over glass. The fact that his wife goes by Gennaro instead of McClane is a slow-burning fuse that provides additional tension whenever she’s on screen. The movie is also content to take its time setting the scene. It’s not going to get to the good stuff until all the pieces are in place. The first death happens 18 minutes into the movie - there’s no ‘teaser’ of action before then. But what makes Die Hard the perfect action movie doesn’t happen until 25 minutes in.
“Welcome to the Party, Hans”
Hans Gruber is the best action villain of all time. Easily. I know I’m prone to hyperbole, especially on twitter, but I can’t think of a better action villain than Hans Gruber. Alan Rickman plays him with the right amount of detached arrogance and unflappable confidence you come to expect in your East German terrorist-turned-thieves. He’s a courtly villain, the cool, collected customer that would serve as the archetype for countless villains in TV and film (Gus Fring, to name one). He steals every scene he’s in. I could definitely see how Stockholm Syndrome would set in. You almost want to see him win, or at least get to the last possible moment before he’s thwarted by the hero of the piece.
Plus he’s smart. The scene between him and the wonderfully smarmy cokehead Ellis (with McClane on the other end of the radio) is one of my favourites. It’s a battle of wits, but he’s the only one who knows it. Unfortunately, there’s John McClane, who sees through his very convincing act as a scared partygoer. Plus the line “I am an exceptional thief” kills me. Every time. If it wasn’t for the whole ‘murdering’ thing, I could see a version of this movie where he’s the hero and John McClane is the villain who ruins his perfect plan.
There’s a whole lot else that makes Die Hard so perfect, like the various and sundry dickheads that get in the way of John McClane winning. But once you’ve got Hans Gruber, what more do you need?
Every so often (read: all the time) a show, usually one I haven’t seen before, will suck me in to a TV rabbit hole. I’ll put pretty much all other TV on hold and binge like crazy.
For this to qualify as a legitimate rabbit hole I need to:
My current TV rabbit hole is The Good Wife, a lawyer show I had been meaning to get into for about a year, but hadn’t. I picked up the first season for $15 over the holidays, and only put it down when I finished it, and then left my apartment to go purchase season 2.
Here’s the deal: Alicia Florrick (Juliana Marguelis) is the wife of a disgraced former State’s Attorney. She becomes a lawyer at Stern Lockhart Gardner to pay the bills while her husband is in jail. There’s a whole bunch of really interesting characters, which I won’t get into here (but they’re all quite good). The show follows pretty standard lawyer show fare, following cases, but adds on top of it some mild serial elements, great writing, and interesting characters.
Here are some very specific reasons I like it:
There are other reasons, like the always-excellent courtroom scenes, but those are the ones that seem the most pertinent to me. Check it out - if you like the idea of lawyer shows, this one is probably the best one out there.
I love hockey. Let’s get that out of the way. And I love cheering for my country in international competition. In watching the world junior championships, I’ve realized one thing.
We, as Canadians, need to stop being such assholes about hockey.
(above: A bunch of assholes)
Let’s take the world juniors. We’ve been the home team the past 4 years (Buffalo counts). We’re on home ice all the time - packed house, lots of red. We cheer for our guys, we boo the other guys, and are sometimes dicks about it. That’s normal. Taunting the Americans when they lose to the Czechs. That’s acceptable.
But: We cheer for the team we’re most likely to beat in the finals, despite destroying every other team we come across. That’s some cold shit.
And we put signs like that one up. “Hockey is Canada’s Game”. Nobody is trying to take hockey away from us. Hockey is better for having other strong countries. If we lose we’re not going to have our hockey privileges revoked. We’ve been in the finals for the past 10 years, and we win half the time.
But we’re not content with being the best half the time. We have to be the best all the time, and humiliate all who stand in our way. The message isn’t “Go Canada”, it’s “You little shits shouldn’t even try, because we’re Canada, and we’re better than you.”
Then there’s the annual tradition of cheering for the Canadian team to win the Stanley Cup, because ‘the cup needs to come back to Canada’ and it’s ‘where it belongs.’ It happens every year, and it will continue to do so forever. Even after a Canadian team wins, the cup should ‘stay where it belongs’. Count on it.
Canada is so single-mindedly obsessed with hockey that If Canada was a kid, we’d be diagnosed with asperger’s. Hockey’s all we care about - and we’re insecure and threatened if anyone tries to compete with us at it.
We’re starting to act like Americans about it.
Inspired by The A.V. Club and the season, here’s what I want to cross off my pop-cultural list this year.
- Catch up on shows I haven’t seen yet. This year, that means I should watch Doctor Who, Twin Peaks, and Curb Your Enthusiasm. And probably Cheers.
- Go to TIFF this year. I’ve now lived in Toronto during two TIFFs, and haven’t been once. I need to change that.
- See more classic movies in the theater. I saw 2001: A Space Odyssey yesterday at the Lightbox. I find the movie overrated, but the ability to see awesome old movies in the theater is something I should take advantage of more often.
- See more comedy shows. Not only big names that come to town, but there’s a whole world of local stand-ups that I know absolutely nothing about. This seems like a good year to get into it.
The real trick? Finding the time to do it all.
Another resolution: Slow the rotation of the earth so there’s 25-26 hours in a day. I’m not greedy.
Welcome to the first step towards my new year’s resolution. The final step is (of course) world domination. Although that’s more long-term. Let’s just start with this.
A while after really starting to post on twitter, I figured that the world really needed to hear more of what I had to say. 140 characters were not enough! So I should really launch a blog… For the good of society, really. And so I can get better at writing, because I’m terribly out of practice.
Of course, I decided that it wouldn’t launch that blog until it was perfect. I needed a dot com! I needed a cool banner picture! A great title! A great first post! A high concept premise! A love triangle! Clearly it wasn’t going to happen.
So I did something drastic. I went in the opposite direction of perfection… to a shitty tumblr.
I will probably post about TV, movies, sports, comedy, sports, TV, books, or whatever the hell else I want. And TV. Mostly TV.