I don’t agree with everything Dan Harmon says in this talk about the television business model, though I think it’s definitely of interest to anyone who likes his work and wants to understand the dynamics around his dismissal from Community better:
One of the things that’s fascinating here is the extent to which Harmon’s lecture is a love letter to FX, which has both let a lot of low-budget creativity thrive and, though this is a factor Harmon doesn’t really discuss, has figured out how to financially support that creativity. Something like Sons of Anarchy had a lot of time to grow into the relative ratings success it is now, and has merchandising deals that help support its production. And as much as I dislike it, making Anger Management on the cheap and syndicating it is a way of financing both that patience and wild experiments like Louie. In a way, this talk clarified something for me: I’m very interested in how we make the production of certain kinds of content that I think are important first sustainable, and then how to build the audience or expectation for them so they can be successful. Harmon seems to be saying that sustainability eventually turns into expectations of larger profits, and the murder of creativity. There’s tension between those ideas, but I think in an ideal world, we need both sustainable models and people working at the frontiers to build the markets for ideas that will eventually improve whatever’s being produced by a profit-oriented model.