There’s been a lot of talk recently about the future of NBC’s “Community”. Both TV critics and the Internet adore it, and I’ve made no secret of my love for that ragtag group of community college nutjobs. Unfortunately, to say its ratings are less than stellar would be an understatement. And even though the bar is lower on NBC than on other networks, “Community” is still struggling to step over it.
When the show was renewed for a shortened fourth season of 13 episodes following the very public departure of showrunner Dan Harmon, it was originally scheduled to air on Fridays at 8:30, following “Whitney”. Friday is generally considered to be a TV graveyard – the night where networks throw the shows they have low expectations for and little faith in but need a place to burn off episodes.
The show was originally scheduled to premiere on Oct. 19, but it didn’t. The network issued a statement saying they pulled the Friday night premieres in order to focus promotion on their Monday through Wednesday night schedules, noting that holding the comedy block would allow “Whitney” and “Community” to step in to fill schedule slots in the event of early cancellations. Well, NBC cancelled Wednesday night’s “Animal Practice” and “Whitney” took its place. But “Community” was still dead in the water.
Oct. 19 came and went. The cast treated fans to a video explaining the change. “Even though the powers that be agreed to put the premiere on Oct. 19, they couldn’t decide where to put Oct. 19.” They jokingly added Oct. 19 wasn’t a date, it was a “state of mind.”
Meanwhile, the cast is still filming. They’re scheduled to finish before the December break, two months before the first episode of season four will finally see the light of day on Feb.7.
So here’s the good(ish) news: when the show does premiere, it’ll do so during its old time slot, Thursdays at 8. From a programming standpoint, a midseason airing on Thursday night isn’t necessarily better than fall Friday nights, but it’s not worse. The downsides? If “Community” had somehow managed to find its footing on Fridays, NBC might have chosen to extend the season in order to include additional episodes. And the obvious one — we now have to wait to see the study group and their crazy antics.
Now to the ugly — “Community” won’t have a life beyond these last thirteen episodes. It’s a damn shame, too — the show is fresh, ingenious and insanely smart. It brightens up a world where fifteen million people watch Alan Harper leech and beg on “Two and a Half Men” each week. It’s clever in the best kind of way — “Community” is both immensely proud of its wit and constantly willing to poke fun at it.
At this point, Community’s future is set in stone, and there isn’t anything that we can do about it. (Whovians would call it a fixed point in time, and tell you not even the Doctor could change its fate. They also would start crying, because any fan of “Doctor Who” knows that fixed points in time are the worst and nothing good ever happens.)
The only thing left to be decided is how these last thirteen episodes will be remembered. We can celebrate them as the grand finale of one of this generation’s greatest comedies, or we can let them fade into obscurity, unnoticed and unwatched. I’ve seen too many shows cancelled and forgotten, left only in the minds of stubborn, nostalgia-prone TV addicts like myself. (“Better Off Ted”, anyone?)
So listen up, human beings. Don’t let the study group disappear into the vast, unending TV universe. If “Arrested Development” can produce new episodes almost ten years after undue cancellation, if “Firefly” can host a reunion special that breaks the Science Channel’s all-time record for Sunday nights with ages 25-54, then Greendale doesn’t have to die with NBC. It can live on in our hearts, minds, and Troy and Abed in the Morning mugs until that fateful day when the world truly recognizes and hails its genius.
In the fateful words of Jeff Winger, “Yes, Troy, like the Traveling Wilburys of pain, [prepare] for any insane adventure life throws our way. And I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to every one of them.”
Well Jeff, let’s hope one of those adventures is coming to a theater near you.
Office Quote of the week:
This week I’ve decided to preempt your regularly scheduled Office quote for my hands down favorite Community bit, Batman and Troy. Enjoy!