I get a real visceral thrill reading a master of his craft dissecting his own work. To peak behind the curtain and glimpse the thoughts and doubts and luck that brews together to make one of the greatest comedies ever. (Seriously, it is.) It's humbling to see how much he dislikes what he has done, how imperfect he feels it is.
Dan Harmon walks us through Community’s second season (part 1 of 4) | TV | Interview | The A.V. Club
AVC: That’s also the episode where Shirley and Chang hooked up. How much of that arc did you know going into that episode?
DH: None. Halloween was where it all began. I don’t know how to access the character of Shirley. I don’t know who she is. All I know about her is how big her purse is and that she talks like Miss Piggy and Gary Coleman in alternation. I know these circumstantial facts about her: She’s got kids. Her husband left her. She’s a Baptist. She’s allergic to blibbedy-blah. Meanwhile, you’ve got Britta next to that, which is a fucking phenomenal study in the work you can do developing a character. I’ve dated women like Britta. I have politics like Britta. I’m awkward like Britta. I pronounce the word “bagel” like Britta. There’s just a million tools that are brought to bear in creating a character that to me is a unique move in a sitcom. I feel that way on one level or another about almost all the other characters, and my white guilt kept saying to me, “Is she sticking out because she’s a black woman?” And that all the more made me say, “I’ve gotta get in there. I don’t want to perpetuate this cycle.”
So my impulse was to start doing to her what I was doing to Britta in the first season in response to people saying, “We don’t like that character. We’re not responding to that character.” My response was to start pulverizing that character, putting pressure on her, saying, “You’re not supposed to like her. It’s all part of the show. Have you ever not been liked?” And slowly but surely, this Britta character went from being perceived as a mistake to being perceived as an achievement and numerous people’s favorite character, including mine, frankly. I want to always make sure that all of these characters can all be worlds and universes in and of themselves. And I just felt obstacles there with Shirley, and I felt like I just wanted to make her human. So I had her make out with Chang in the bathroom.