Brilliant and wildly creative he may be, and the father of Community, one of the one of the most idiosyncratic, funny and inventive sitcoms I have ever had the privilege to watch but there’s no escaping the fact that Dan Harmon is a polarising figure.
His flair for flawed, self-destructive behaviour what led Sony and NBC to temporarily remove him from stewardship of Community – he was absent for a rather lacklustre season 4 – but it’s his willingness to be brutally honest about these failings and the way it impacts those around him that has endeared to people like his collaborators on the rambling two hour podcast he calls Harmontown – actor/comic Jeff B. Davis, Harmon’s fiancee Erin McGathy, and fan Spencer Crittenden.
Neil Berkeley’s documentary Harmontown, which recently premiered at SXSW, and obviously takes its name from the podcast, and does a supremely effective job, says Indiewire, of examining what makes Dan Harmon tick, the reasons for his success, the controversy that seems to follow him and the unwavering devotion of his fans (of which I am most assuredly one):
” … the film finds its substance, in its depiction of Harmon as a hugely smart, hugely funny man with a tendency to give in to his own demons. His collaborators, most notably Silverman (who says, tellingly, that she’s Harmon’s biggest fan, and still fired him) don’t sugarcoat his failings, and the film is at its most effective when examining, in the context of a fight between Harmon and then-girlfriend-now-fiancee McGathy (evidently the best thing that’s ever happened to him), his less cuddly side.”
Harmontown, which is essentially a road movie of sorts, documenting a concert tour embarked upon by the podcast crew plus guests like Patton Oswalt and Jason Sudeikis, is not prettied up PR for Harmon, and is all the better for it, says Indiewire:
“That it doesn’t sugarcoat this makes the film’s ultimate message all the more satisfying. Harmon, as “Community” watchers have probably realized, is a man who loves almost everybody except himself (and maybe some network executives…), and constantly seems to be working towards self-improvement while acknowledging that it isn’t easy. But in the process, in part thanks to his absolute, savage transparency about himself, he’s become a sort of figurehead for those like him — people who may struggle socially, who are depressed or drink too much or just feel that they don’t fit in.”
It sounds like a fascinating insight into one of the brightest creative minds of our time and I can’t wait to see it when it opens widely at a yet to be announced date.