Dan Harmon Loves The Problems That Come With His Community Film Script

"Community" is one of the best TV comedies of this century. The Dan Harmon-created show constantly broke TV formulas and crossed many genres in order to tell a unique and infinitely rewatchable story that celebrated pop culture, friendships, and well, community.

The NBC comedy series was also the little show that could, a sitcom that was constantly under threat of cancellation, until it was actually canceled. But somehow, "Community" survived the axe, lived through a showrunner being fired, and marched onward after two main cast members left the series. "Community" was by no means perfect, and its treatment of certain characters left a lot to be desired, but it endured thanks to its clever sense of humor and memorable characters.

Unfortunately, the last we've seen of "Community" was back in 2015, when the show fulfilled the six seasons part of the "six seasons and a movie" rallying cry. We still haven't gotten the movie, but that doesn't mean Dan Harmon isn't trying. 

How we got here

The rallying cry originated, like many things in "Community," as a throwaway joke. The 21st episode of season 2, titled "Paradigms of Human Memory," deconstructed the trope of the clip show, but rather than show clips from old episodes of the show, it was memories the characters had that the audience never got to see.

In one of those memories, Abed (Danny Pudi) gets a new pop culture obsession: the NBC show "The Cape," which was about, well, a guy with a cape that fights crime. Abed starts wearing a cape to school and in a clumsy attempt to attack Jeff in the cafeteria with the cape, he just knocks a food tray off. "The show's gonna last three weeks!" Jeff yells, to which Abed utters the immortal words, "Six seasons and a movie!" 

This became the phrase that "Community" fans used to keep their hopes up across the many, many problems that production faced. After three seasons of unimpressive ratings, NBC decided to fire showrunner Dan Harmon for "erratic behavior. The fourth season of the show became a disaster, causing the network to bring Harmon back for a fifth season. Of course, things didn't last, and the show got cancelled after season 5, which was followed by one final season picked up by Yahoo! Screen, a very short-lived streaming service. Right as the final episode came to a close, the show ends with a title screen that read "#andamovie," but seven years later, we are still waiting.

Why it's taken so long

Shortly after the airing of the final episode of "Community," everyone's eyes turned to the promised movie, especially when Yahoo teased more stories, and Dan Harmon said that it would be easier to get everyone back together for a movie than a seventh season. This makes sense, particularly given how poorly things turned out when "Arrested Development" was revived on Netflix but couldn't get the whole cast together at the same time.

Cast availability has been the biggest challenge for a "Community" movie happening, because the stars of the series simply got too famous. Joel McHale said in 2015 that the cast's contracts were up after six years, and "all the actors on the show, almost without exception, their stock has risen significantly and it's out of the pay rate that is affordable to make the show."

Indeed, in the years since "Community" ended, the cast has exploded in popularity, particularly multi-hyphenate-artist Donald Glover and indie darling Alison Brie. Meanwhile, even if the cast remained enthusiastic about returning for a movie, Dan Harmon was less certain about it happening, which is understandable given how busy he became with the hit Adult Swim animated series "Rick and Morty," and other projects.

Where we stand now

As mentioned, "Community" is the little show that could, and even after all this time, it seems everyone is at the very least interested in reuniting. In 2017, Harmon said he was trying to get the movie made with the help of episode director (and "F9" helmer) Justin Lin, and even Joe Russo (who directed episodes of the show before going over to Marvel) shared his belief in the movie finally happening. In 2020, the cast got together for a hilarious table read with special guest Pedro Pascal, and afterwards, Dan Harmon teased that talks of a movie were happening once more.

Finally, last year, Harmon said the "gears are turning" on the movie. Cool. Cool, cool, cool.

Now, the question Harmon is facing is: what would the movie even be about? There is a simple option, one that the show itself offered back in season 5: to mount an epic rescue for Troy (Donald Glover) and LeVar Burton, who were captured by pirates off-screen.

The problem, according to Harmon, is whether to make a film full of fan service for those who have waited years for the movie, or "service a mythical new viewer." For Harmon, the sweet spot is making a movie that not only can fans enjoy, but they can stand back and go, "You know, the crazy thing about this Community movie is that if you didn't know there was a show, this is an insanely good movie." Thankfully, Harmon loves tackling these problems. The creator said

"The only problems are becoming the creative ones, which is great, because I love those problems. I love having these conversations, and they're being had."

Here's hoping he doesn't have to deal with those problems much longer and we can fulfill the destiny of six seasons and a movie.