When this season’s Community finale aired in May, I didn’t want it to be the series’ last episode, particularly after Abed said a comet would destroy the earth if the show didn’t return.
Then NBC canceled it. It wasn’t a surprising move — the show was on the bubble after its first month on the air — but it was still a disappointing one. Community had perked up creatively in its fifth season and the animated G.I Joe episode was one of the funniest things I had ever seen. The show even weathered the loss of Donald Glover, which I thought might be a crippling blow as Glover was frequently one of the two funniest people on the show and his exit would mean the end of Troy and Abed, the friendship that quickly became the show’s bedrock. But Glover’s departure allowed Danny Pudi to pivot toward Alison Brie (and in one great episode, Jonathan Banks) and prove his versatility.
I was particularly upset about Community’s cancellation when NBC announced it would bring back Parks and Recreation for an abbreviated, 13-episode seventh season. Don’t get me wrong. I love Parks and Rec almost as much as I love Community. But last year Parks and Rec started showing its age, especially after Rashida Jones and Rob Lowe left. The season’s final episode, which gave Leslie Knope her dream job in the federal parks department and put all of the supporting characters in their own happy places, seemed like the perfect conclusion for the series. Whatever happens next year may feel like a postscript.
I couldn’t help but think NBC canceled the wrong show. Community still has life in it, but I’m not sure the same is true of Parks and Rec.
Fortunately I wasn’t alone in my feelings for Community. As soon as NBC canceled Community, Sony Pictures Television — which owns the show — began shopping it around to cable networks and online video services. Many people, including myself, thought that if anyone was going to revive Community, it would be Hulu. But the savior turned out to be Yahoo, which struck an 11th hour deal to post 13 new episodes of Community on its Yahoo Screen page. I had never heard of Yahoo Screen before, and I suppose that’s why Yahoo is willing to pony up at least $10 million for Community, so that lunkheads like me who still buy a TV show’s DVD sets will learn about Yahoo Screen. And now that I’ve had a look at Yahoo Screen, I hope that its home page is a lot less messy once Community debuts there. It looks like a poor man’s YouTube.
Exactly when Community makes its debut there is uncertain. Most of the news stories about the Yahoo deal are saying this fall, but that seems unlikely to me. Show creator Dan Harmon has hinted as much in one interview. My guess is the show will return sometime between December 2014 and February 2015. I’m hoping for the former. It would be good to get another Christmas episode. Community often excelled with its holiday episodes, particularly “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas.”
The Yahoo deal was struck this Monday, only hours before the cast’s contracts were set to expire. One of the heartening things about this save is that the actors, unless they are a bunch of Twitter liars, are as psyched as the fans about the revival. The only other time I can remember a TV show being canceled then renewed the day the actors’ contracts were to expire was Remington Steele, and Pierce Brosnan certainly wasn’t happy about that. He had to wait eight years for another chance to play James Bond.
So Community will be back and I am already comfortable with the fact that I’ll be watching it on my laptop. With no television network overlords and no ratings to worry about, Harmon can be as weird as he wants to be, but I hope he’ll be smart enough to have some restraint so that Community doesn’t turn into a collision of Kafka and Dali and Zardoz (though we’ve already seen the Zardoz, and it was funny). It doesn’t sound like Jonathan Banks will return, which is too bad because his grizzled professor was a novel choice to fill the gap left when Chevy Chase quit. I suspect Banks won’t be replaced because that will be a way for Sony and Yahoo to save money. Perhaps that will give them enough to lure Donald Glover back for at least one episode, assuming Troy and LeVar Burton escape those pirates. I also hope they bring back Chris Elliott, who played the crazed Greendale founder in the fifth season finale.
Whoever is on board for Community’s sixth season, I look forward to seeing it and am grateful I won’t have to pay for a Hulu subscription. Now, about that movie…