'Community's' Dan Harmon 'Won't Try' to Censor Himself

"I say what is in my head," the showrunner acknowledges during a TCA panel designed to peddle his new Adult Swim series, "Rick and Morty."
Ramona Rosales
Dan Harmon

Dan Harmon was on his best behavior Wednesday at he greeted the TV press.

On hand to peddle his forthcoming Adult Swim series, Rick and Morty, at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour, the fired-and-rehired Community creator was far more interested in praising his new bosses than bashing his old ones. But the journalists assembled didn't make it easy for him.

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When one asked Harmon to describe the difference between the notes process at the Cartoon Network vs. NBC, the famously outspoken creative focused primarily on the “genius” of Adult Swim executive vp Mike Lazzo. “He has the autonomy, humility and mental power to take a script and recognize what it is and give you his thoughts,” Harmon says , adding that the exec never confuses the script for the final product. And without calling out any NBC execs by name, as Harmon has done in the past, he implied that Lazzo takes a different approach to constructive criticism: "[Mike] never says, ‘I don’t think people are going to like this’ … or ‘People are going to respond this way.'"

But Harmon couldn’t appear before a group -- particularly one that knows all about his colorful feuds with executives and co-star Chevy Chase -- and avoid addressing the kind of candor that got him in trouble as recently as last month when he blasted the fourth season of Community. So when another journalist pressed him on whether there was a way for him to control his tendencies to lash out, he responded: “I don’t want to try.”

Much as he did in The Hollywood Reporter's recent cover story, Harmon used the TCA platform to explain what happens in such circumstances. “I think thoughts in my head and if they keep bouncing around in my skull they get worse and worse, and when they come out of my mouth they make people happy," he continues. "The most important thing is that when I go to bed at night, I don’t have this thing eating away at me. I say what is in my head.”

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Harmon was later asked to assess how much of the drama at Community was his fault versus that of the executives at NBC and studio Sony. He laughed, throwing out a ratio of 90 to 10. "Everyone who is powerful and controls things and has lots of money – I’m sure they meant no harm and are very good people," he quipped, noting at one point that he had little choice but to return to the show. "If I had not gone back, the worst case scenario was 30 years of wondering. I had to go back," he explains. "The worst case scenario if I go back is one shitty season. Who cares?"

There were periodic moments during the half-hour panel when he and Rick and Morty co-creator Justin Roiland were able to refocus the media on their new show. The 10-episode effort, which offers some of the trademark elements that helped make Harmon's Community a cult favorite, follows a brilliant inventor (Rick), his dim grandson (Morty) and the adventures they share.

The animated series, which features a voice cast of Sarah ChalkeSpencer Grammer, Harmon, Brandon JohnsonChris Parnell (Morty's dad), Ryan Ridley, Roiland (who voices both title characters) and Kari Wahlgren, will premiere on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim block in December.

Watch the trailer for the new Adult Swim series, below.