Jeremy Likes TV

I like TV. Probably more than any human should.

Let’s Not Say Goodbye To Community Just Yet

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On Monday afternoon, NBC announced their midseason schedule and critical/cult favorite Community was not among the shows granted a spot on the slate. The news of its absence was met with no small amount of anger and fear from its rather vocal online fanbase (of which I consider myself a part of). We wondered, how can a network that’s languishing in fourth place in the ratings among the Big Four networks [1], a network that’s renewed shows like Chuck repeatedly in recent years [2] solely because they can’t do much better and a small loyal audience is still a loyal audience, cancel a show like Community which brings NBC buckets of critical goodwill and a fiercely loyal (if small) audience? But there’s the rub – has Community actually been cancelled?

Note first that NBC mentioned nothing about shutting down production on the show, which is a good sign [3]. Sure, it’s alarming that the network still hasn’t revealed when the show will be returning to the schedule (summer, perhaps?) but similar circumstances have occurred with both Parks And Recreation and 30 Rock in recent years, and both of those shows eventually found their way back onto NBC’s air.

Secondly, while Community is one of NBC’s lowest rated shows while occupying a critical Thursday night slot (it’s averaged barely over 3.5 million viewers per week leading off NBC’s Thursday night slate), NBC has always tasked the show with taking on heavyweights on other networks, from Survivor and The Big Bang Theory on CBS, to Bones and The X-Factor on FOX, to even genre hit The Vampire Diaries on The CW. It’s done yeoman’s work for the network in no-win situations, all the while keeping its creative bar set very, very high, never dumbing itself down when doing so could potentially pad its Nielsen rating. And kudos to series creator Dan Harmon and his writing staff for not taking the easy way out in that regard.

Finally, it’s in its third season and, but the time that all of this season’s episodes have aired, Community will have produced 71 episodes which is very, very close to the “magic number” of 80 episodes needed for a studio to sell a show into syndication. While there isn’t much incentive for NBC to continue airing the show due to its low ratings, Sony Television (which produces the show) could conceivably cut NBC a very nice deal to continue granting the show a spot on its schedule in order to reach the 80-episode plateau. It’s done so in the past, so why not now? Even if Community aired in the summertime (which could be a benefit due to the lower ratings expectations that the summer months bring), it could provide NBC with some inexpensive original programming during the more lightly scheduled summer. The network has used this strategy in recent years with Friday Night Lights in a sharing arrangement with DirecTV that kept that show alive for three additional seasons. As Community  and Friday Night Lights both share small but fiercely loyal fanbases, this could be a viable option for NBC.

In the end, while it’s more than a little infuriating that NBC can find room for an hour of back-to-back sitcoms featuring such, ahem, comedians [4] as Whitney Cummings and Chelsea Handler, as well as hour upon hour of worthless and empty reality programming such as The Voice, The Sing Off, The Biggest Loser, and Fear Factor yet can’t afford even a 30 minute slot for one of the most original and funny comedies on television, the fact is that Community isn’t dead yet. So, thankfully, we have yet to reach the darkest timeline. Don’t break out the felt goatees yet, but maybe keep ‘em handy just in case.

[1] It’s kinda cute that The CW still considers themselves a network. I mean, I watch a lot more CW programming than I care to admit but, come on. They’re barely hanging on.
[2] And no offense to Chuck. I still watch that, too, but there’s a reason why this is finally its last season.
[3] Not so lucky was Prime Suspect, another show absent from the midseason schedule. NBC announced Tuesday that production will end after the 13th episode has been completed so, for all intents and purposes, Prime Suspect is dead.
[4] I mean, I guess technically you could call them comedians. But, by rule, aren’t comedians supposed to be, you know… funny?

Public Service: If you’ve never watched the show, why not start now by watching one of the best episodes the show has ever produced, “Remedial Chaos Theory,” handily embedded below. You can thank me later.

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