Jun 10 2011

So NBC Tried to Kill Community’s Dungeons & Dragons Episode

Published by at 11:00 am under News,Television

So normally the kind of stuff I choose to share with you is interesting pictures or videos or some of my reviews or columns and the like, but today, the focus is on straight up information, which highlights what’s wrong with network TV these days.

I know there are a lot of Community fans out there, myself included as you guys encouraged me to get into the show. Unquestionably one of the best episodes of the series so far was “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons” where the gang tried to help out a depressed classmate by organizing a game of D&D. Pierce promptly took over the game as the lead villain, and even though it was just eight people sitting around a table, it was one of the best comedy episodes (with a pretty heavy dramatic punch) that I’ve ever seen.

But as it turns out, NBC never wanted this episode to air. They were vehemently opposed to the entire concept of a D&D episode because they thought it wouldn’t appeal to the demos they were trying to target.

The Onion AV Club has an ongoing interview series with creator Dan Harmon where he talks about every episode in the season, and reading what he has to say about Advanced Dungeons and Dragons makes me weep for the state of network television, and it quite literally made him cry as well.

I’ve pulled some highlights below you should definitely read:

“They [the studio and the network] were so upset about the crime of this episode having been written. The note session as a whole was preceded by a 45-minute period of them walking around the lot whispering to each other. They told me they would come up to my office and meet me privately. When they came up, I had the director and all of the writers in the office with me, because I was terrified. They sat down, and they said, ‘Look, where do we start?’ I couldn’t believe this was happening. I was like, ‘This is opposite of how you should feel right now. This is a great episode. We’re going to get a 1.7 no matter what. We will build our ratings in other ways. The episode is not about credit cards; it’s not about Hilary Duff. It’s going to get the same numbers. There is a cultural build to a hit show. We have to prove to people that we’re capable of good things so they can trust us, so that we can have a relationship. One day we will either be a highly rated show or we’ll be canceled. It will not have to do with this moment. This episode is good, the story is good, these characters are good. Anyone who doesn’t tune in because the commercial says they’re playing Dungeons & Dragons, it’s not my fault. It’s not on me.”

“It was such a depressing note session, because they didn’t even have any notes on the story. They just didn’t want it to exist. I took a photograph of my eyes driving home that day at 3 p.m. because I was leaving work early. I looked in my rear view mirror, and I was crying. More than crying, I was red-eyes, tears streaming, weeping. And I was weeping out of self-pity and frustration, like a child weeps when he doesn’t understand his parents’ rules. ‘Why can’t I have ice cream when I ate my liver?’ I took a photo of it, so I could show it to them between seasons, because as I told my girlfriend when I got home, ‘I think I’m going to have to quit my own show, because I can’t operate under these circumstances. I can’t be this proud of something that the people paying me to do it are this ashamed of. It will never work. We’ll never achieve anything. It’ll never connect.'”

Read the entire interview over at the AV Club.

 





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16 responses so far

  • Justin

    Sorry, I have to agree with them. This was my absolute least favorite episode in a season that dropped the ball horrendously compared to last year. It wasn’t the D&D part that was the problem, it was that it was a painfully unfunny and depressing episode.

  • Cube

    I have only caught a couple episodes of this show but made it a point to catch this one episode. I’m glad I did as it was a great story. Humor, pathos and a great way to show non-D&D players why it is fun to play.

    Of course the big-wigs wanted to kill it. It was something fresh and thoughtful. It their minds all thing must be the same so they can wrap their little minds around the concept.

  • DarkPassenger29

    I thought it was a great episode. I don’t play/like D&D but I appreciate those who do.

  • Schiapu

    I am a D&D gamer, and I saw this episode with my girlfriend (She’s not) And we were both pissing our pants with laughter and having feelings for the guy. When a TV Show moves your feelings in such a way that you can laugh and cry at the same time, it is definitely a well thought and well written show.

    She still isn’t into D&D though U.U

  • http://www.the-back-row.com Gill

    Best episode ever. Better than Modern Warfare. Finally, us D&D nerds have a voice on TV. Maybe the always cool Jeff Winger playing D&D will show the world that you don’t have to have pizza-face acne and live in your parents’ basement to enjoy RPGs.

  • http://www.notzombies.com Brian

    This was the episode that made me stop loving Community. Not for the D&D aspect, but for the fact that they totally sold out Pierce’s character. He went from kind-of-cranky older guy to the most unbelievable asshole I have ever seen. And the way the study group just sat there and let him do it without putting up much of a fight? It was bizarre. He’s making this kid literally want to kill himself and they hardly defend the kid.

  • http://www.seasonedgamers.com JapJay

    I love this episode! Coincidentally, I just watched this again yesterday (at work, shhhh!), and its still just an amazing piece of writing. Sure, the whole “suicide thing” was a bit heavy-handed but the episode still clearly showcased each characters’ personalities and still fell in line with the heart of the show: interpersonal relationships.

    I get why the studio may have been leery of alienating a very small, segmented portion of their audience but anyone that watches this show, and then doesn’t watch it because of a D&D premise, clearly is not a real fan of this show anyways. I thought the Abed/stop motion/Xmas episode was much more of a leap of faith episode than this one.

    I didn’t real the AV Club article but if it doesn’t list the ratings for this episode, it’d be interesting to see how it did versus its normal rating.

  • http://nope Hallam

    They did sell Pierce’s character, like Brian said up there, but I still kinda liked the episode.

    I don’t really get how a bit of D&D could not appeal to a young, rather geeky American audience, though. I lived most of my life in Latin America (where D&D is strictly for the nerdiest) and I’ve never played it… Anyways, from my American friends I’ve gathered that it is -by comparison- wildly popular over there, I can’t wrap my head around so many people having played it and even having their own “wild” D&D anecdotes.

    I guess to a Latin American, a geeky American might as well be Japanese, and that’s a bold statement.

  • http://mandyatlarge.com Mandy

    This was my favorite episode of the season. I laughed so hard and made all of my D&D-loving buddies watch it!

    I do agree that what they’ve done with Pierce is just plain weird. The group doesnt seem to care about him being the way he is and the last episode was such a bummer. I hope he’s going to come back and redeem himself and not leave on such a sad note. Peirce really went off the deep end this season.

  • Andy

    I totally loved the episode (it’s one of the best of the second season)

    However, I agree with the complaints about what they did with Pierce’s character. It just seems like his character has been on a steady decline for a while now.

    I couldn’t stand the claymation episode. It was just horrible.

  • NY not NYC

    Aaaah, hate to break it to you all but the main focus of wtf that Harmon has is that ‘..they didn’t even have any notes on the story…’

    It wasn’t because the episode was unfunny or Pierce is a B, it was because some dude upstairs caught wind that their flagship up and coming show was doing a D and D episode.

    Tell me you are running a network and you catch wind of that and say “oh hell yeah, exactly what we need, more role playing on network television!”

    C’mon people. Ease up. And Harmon was crying, full on sobbing on the drive home from work? I’m flabbergasted by this entire story.

  • Random Leon

    this episode gave birth to one of the greatest tv character names ever: Fat Neal.

  • Ilikeicecren

    One of, if not the best, episode of season two (it’s hard to fault the flashback episode, best sitcom episode I’ve ever watched).

    Ps season two, far superior to season one, with a vast amount of setup taken care of, the characters were allowed to develop, and the writing was well developed.

  • KAG

    It was a great episode, maybe to serious for them to understand.

  • http://animeprincess.kokidokom.net lostty

    It really is depressing to read all this. I loved this episode! It made me want to play D&D, but I doubt it would have been as amusing and funny as this episode made it out to be!

  • Guy Incognito

    Best episode of the season. Even my wife thinks so, and she hates fantasy and RPGs.

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