Community's Sort-Of Cancelation
How NBC Failed Its Fans With Community
Published: Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 31, 2012 01:10
At the end of the third season of Community, fans were relieved to hear that their struggling show would return for a fourth season; the third season seemed like it would be its last. Halfway through the season, NBC put the airing of new episodes on hold indefinitely, saying that they would air, but did not know when. Fans rallied, organizing “Occupy NBC” events. Six seasons and a movie was a trending topic on Twitter for months and NBC was bombarded with complaints. Community finally returned in March, but the possibility of a fourth season looked bleak. In fact, the final episode of the third season was titled “Lessons in Finality,” because they expected to be canceled.
As it was, NBC fired Community’s creator Dan Harmon as show runner and replaced him. Harmon caused a bit of a stir earlier that year when he played an angry voicemail from Chevy Chase that he had received live at his Harmontown Comedy Show. This caused a media stir, with more voicemails turning up.
Community is known for being a groundbreaking television comedy. Harmon is responsible for the show’s genius. He created it and, as show runner, was involved in every aspect of the show. Without Harmon’s mad genius, the show will already not be the same. Harmon was replaced with David Guarascio and Moses Port. Guarascio and Port are writers and co-creators of the short lived series Aliens in America. They assured the audience at this year’s Comic-Con that they are fans of the show and do not want to change anything. However, after Harmon was fired, writer Chris McKenna (who wrote and was nominated for an Emmy for “Remedial Chaos Theory,” which was arguably the third season’s best episode), actor and writer Dino Stamatopolous, and directors Joe and Anthony Russo left as well. The only writer still present who was heavily involved in the development of the show and responsible for many of the most memorable episodes is Megan Ganz; she wrote “Basic Lupine Urology,” season three’s Law and Order Parody.
The fourth season of Community was supposed to premiere on October 19th, but NBC postponed the premiere indefinitely. This, of course, was upsetting to many fans who have been patiently waiting to see if their beloved Community would be the same. But there was a glimmer of hope when the writers and the cast tweeted that they would tweet a link to the premiere Friday at 10 a.m. What fans found in the tweet was not the premiere, but a minute and 30-second video.
The video attempts to assure us that October 19th isn't just a day, but a state of mind. That the powers that be know what they are doing. I beg to differ. Remember Arrested Development? It is arguably one of the greatest television comedies ever, yet it was canceled.
Arrested Development aired from 2003-2006. Fox barely promoted Arrested Development and the show failed to grow in viewership. Now, to be fair, Arrested Development was on television before Hulu and before pretty much anyone had a DVR. It was not one of those shows that you could have on in the background and still enjoy; you really had to pay attention. Community is the same way.
In today’s digital age, NBC has no excuse for not promoting Community better. Fox may have not understood the appeal of Arrested Development and NBC may not understand that same appeal in Community, but when a show has won multiple fan-favorite awards and been praised by critics as being the best thing on television, a network should step up and do their part to make sure it is seen by as many people as possible.
Community’s problem is ratings; ratings are what network TV is all about. The show’s ratings have hovered around 4 million since it first aired, not including DVR, Hulu, iTunes, OnDemand, and Netflix viewership. Nielsen, the company that calculates ratings for cable and network television only counts live TV viewing. Why? Commercials. You can fast forward through commercials on a DVR; therefore, your viewership counts less, because the network does not gain as much money from advertisers. Hulu has advertisements, yet only generates a small amount of revenue. The fact is, to executives, TV is all about making money and not about quality. This is why there is so much reality TV. Reality TV is cheap and lots of people watch it live. Nielsen ratings are, in a way, to blame for why many shows with large fan bases get canceled.
But if NBC fired Harmon, why not just cancel the show as well, since it has not shown an increase in ratings? This is what confuses me. It seems like NBC is trying to run Community into the ground. By replacing Harmon, the show will definitely lose its magic. There is no question about that.
When the fourth season finally premieres, whenever that will be, fans will be disappointed. At first, I had hopes that the show might be able to carry on. But after watching the clip that was released, it was evident that the magic was gone. It is missing Harmon’s genius touch. Also, with Harmon gone, the show is definitely going to lose viewership, fueling its cancelation. All of us diehard Community fans just have to come to terms with the fact that our beloved show has reached its end and that the fourth season will not be the same.
Luckily, we have “Lessons in Finality” to serve as our series end, even though the end came too soon. Fans will always wish that we could have gotten six seasons and a movie. Maybe, like Arrested Development, we will get them someday.