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10 Things We Learned from Dan Harmon's Brilliant Keynote Speech on the Death of Television

By Dustin Rowles | Seriously Random Lists | December 3, 2012 | Comments ()


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Last week, Dan Harmon -- who created "Community," before he was fired from "Community" -- gave a keynote speech to the XOXO Festival on the Death of Television. The speech was at times amusing, at times somber, but it was thoroughly enlightening and entertaining. It was also half an hour long, and even those who love Dan Harmon might have a time limit to what you're willing to ignore at work, in your cubicles, in the service of listening to Harmon's speech.

If you have time, listen to it all (the embed is below). If not, here are the major points, and I'll just start about by saying that the crux of the speech was about "connectors," the things that connect people. Money was the original connector. Then drawings came along. Then television began connecting people, and now the Internet is killing television because the Internet is the world's primary people connector now. But like television, the Internet can be killed by money.

I think the take home from the speech essentially is: Have fun with the Internet. Stop trying to turn the Internet into a profitable enterprise because as soon as the Internet is swallowed up by corporate conglomerates, then the Internet will stop working as a great connector.


  • "You shouldn't take the Internet to seriously because the Internet is not people. People are more important than anything. People is more important than everything, even grammar ... Remember, no matter how much that technology allows you to connect to people, you should never start to worship the connection more than the people it connects you with."

  • Television peaked in the 80s, and then came the day in "September 2001, when in my opinion, everything really changed, and the way we perceive television changed, because of a tragedy called the premiere of NBC's 'Inside Schwartz.' It was that day when we realized that television was broken."

  • "It's a dying organism, television, it's showing symptoms of fading, and some of those symptoms result in euphoria, like Breaking Bad, but most of you are watching it on a laptop."

  • "When you take a people connector (like the Internet) too seriously, it stops connecting people. The more powerful the connector, the more power it has to divide us."

  • Essentially, the original people connector -- money -- is the problem with television. Money corrupts, and the reason why television is dying is because all the money is still in television, at least until the Internet figures out how to make money.

  • People in television don't trust "creatives" because they don't want "poor people" in charge of deciding what is aired. There's a middle layer of bureaucracy between the conglomerates and the creatives, and that layer of people knows nothing about television, except for a select few -- like John Landgraft at FX -- who provide freedom but little money, which results in "better content" than "casting a wide net, shoving money at things, and mistrusting everybody by putting layers of threshold guardians between things." But, if FX gets more successful, more money will be involved, and it will ruin FX.

  • Multicamera sitcoms -- as much as we all hate them and continue to hate them -- work because the sound of laughter connects us.

  • Harmon distilled Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey model down to an eight step process, which is what basically resulted in the story model for "Community."

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  • Harmon was fired "for money." His contract was up. The people he worked with, their contracts were up. They didnt want to promote "Community" or extend it because it would've cost more money. "It was all about money, and had nothing to do with anything else ... Money will be the death of everything good in your life, I guarantee it."

  • "You don't want to monetize the Internet. You're having fun right now because it can't be monetized. You're getting away with murder on the Internet. You're doing wonderful Rodenberry-ish thing on the Internet because it has eschewed money and all the crappy people are back on TV wasting everyone's time while Rome burns to the ground."

  • "Follow your bliss."



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    Comments Are Welcome, Douches Are Not


    • Mike

      Money is not bad. its people. money is just a means to make trade easier. instead of taking three cows and and a sheep to a shop you take some coins. therefore money is a good thing because it makes things a lot easier. it doesnt make people bad, thats taking away the responsibility of the people. you are bad, not the money.

      same with guns. people have been killing people way before guns were invented and if we get rid of them people will still kill people.

      money is in no way the problem. its greed and lust for power.

    • John G.

      This reads like the manifest of a cult leader

    • Community-------> was and remains------> CRAP.

    • libertyftw

      I'm left wondering what you watch on television. Considering the writing crackles and the plots are often edgier than any comedy on network television.

      I'm not not trying to make the assumption you're into The Big Bang Theory or Two and a Half Men, but the lack of substance in the comment mirrors those two shows perfectly.

    • e jerry powell

      Dustin, think you made a Freudian slip there; it's John Landgraf, not John Landgraft.

    • Siham

      I love Community, but Dan Harmon is a bitter ex. Maybe he wasn't fired just for money, maybe's he's really difficult to work with. Yes it's unfair that great shows get cancelled for lack of an audience, but, TV is a business and it needs money to run.

      HBO and Showtime cost money and have some of the best TV. Generally their shows are fair better and more creative.

    • YY

      Dan Harmon was the person who got me reading Joseph Campbell. Its fascinating stuff.
      Here's a link to more of Harmon talking Campbell and story structure.

    • BWeaves

      I wouldn't be here if it wasn't free.

      Although, I think sex was the first connector.
      Then beer, or maybe mead.
      Then sex.

      Then, wine.
      More sex.

      Then tea, chocolate and coffee.
      Sex, sex, sex.
      Then internet.
      Sex, porn, sex.
      It'll all end with sex.
      When the world ends, it'll be the only thing people will do. "Ah, screw it. Let's screw!"

      I predict a lot of babies being born 9 months after 21-Dec-2012.

      I've already lived through 3 end of the worlds that didn't, so I'm confident on this one.

    • Socraz6

      For anyone interested, Dan Harmon has a really interesting podcast called Harmontown. Co hosted by Jeff Davies (SP?) of Who's Line fame. Highly recommended for people who enjoy his voice and style.

    • The king is dead. Long live the King!

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