Wednesday, August 08, 2012
Still, curiosity got the best of him, and Sorkin did check out WEST WING. It only took him a few minutes to realize Larry David was right. He turned it off and claims he never watched another minute of the series.
I could have given him the same advice. After my partner David Isaacs and I left MASH I found it extremely difficult to watch the last three years. Not so much because it was better or worse; just that it was different.
I became hypercritical. That edit is abrupt. Would like to see a reaction of Alan there. Was that Loretta’s best performance on that line? Start the music sooner. We need more jokes in this scene. You get the idea.
The series definitely took a turn after we left. It became much more earnest and mining comedy was harder and harder. Was it a good direction? The ratings were higher than ever. And the writing staff they assembled was the best in TV. Creatively? You tell me.
But it was different. So it was tough for me to watch.
So here's my message to Dan Harmon: Don’t watch COMMUNITY next season. Trust me, buddy. You do not want to go down that road.
I can’t tell you how many times I’d screen a final edit of one of our shows and wonder, “What would Larry think?” I mean, on our best day we weren’t as good as Larry on his worst. I had never met him at that point. Meanwhile, there was radio silence. He didn’t seem to be in communication with anybody – not Alan Alda, not Gene Reynolds, not Burt Metcalfe.
I thought there was one of two explanations: He either didn’t watch the show at all or he did and hated it.
A year after we left MASH David and I did finally meet Larry. He was effusive in his praise. We were beyond stunned. I asked why he never said anything during the time we were there. He said (and this is so Larry) that he didn’t want to influence us. I’m sure there were creative choices along the way we made that he wouldn’t have. But he didn’t want to be a backseat driver. Now, I assume if he thought we were totally destroying his baby and our ineptitude would cut short the series and deny him millions from the additional seasons we might’ve gotten a little note. But he genuinely seemed to approve of what we were doing. Enough that when he sold AfterMASH he asked us to collaborate on it with him.
One of the true blessings in my life is that Larry Gelbart became a friend and mentor. Thank you for not taking Larry David’s advice. That said, Dan Harmon – still, go play poker on Friday nights, bar hop, join a bowling league, anything – just don’t watch COMMUNITY.
By Ken Levine at 6:00 AM