It’s the Internet. And, as Joel McHale said in Alan Sepinwall’s HitFix post regarding the breaking news of Community’s return to the air (err, the web?), “We can swear now.”
The news broke late this afternoon of a deal between Sony Pictures and Yahoo! for an eleventh hour save of our (mostly) beloved comedy about a study group at a Colorado community college. At HitFix, Sepinwall explains today was the last possible point to revive the show as the show’s cast, consisting of McHale, Yvette Nicole Brown, Gillian Jacobs, Danny Pudi, Alison Brie, Jim Rash, John Oliver and Jonathan Banks, were set to be released from their contracts at midnight. (Jacobs secured a recurring role on HBO’s Lena Dunham-vehicle Girls, while Pudi made a surprise cameo in Captain America: The Winter Soldier this past spring, Oliver launched Last Week Tonight on HBO, and McHale showed no signs of leaving his role at host of E!’s The Soup.)
Community, which had an unstable home at major US broadcaster NBC from 2009 to 2014, was not renewed for the 2014/2015 TV season, much to the disappointment of many fans, who redoubled the efforts of their ongoing social media campaign, spearheaded by Catherine Boyd. Fans lobbied Netflix, which resurrected fan-favorite Arrested Development from its premature death at Fox, as well as Comedy Central and Hulu, both of which have syndication deals in place for the show’s previous seasons.
While the relationship between NBC and Community often appeared adversarial, the show undeniably never contributed to returning the network’s Thursday night lineup to it’s “Must See TV” glory days. (Then again, scheduling Community opposite CBS’s inexplicable ratings juggernaut, The Big Bang Theory, never helped. And, like NBC’s other current Thursday night staple, Parks and Recreation, Community may not have drawn massive ratings, but it consistently received high marks from the critics. [For the sake of argument, we’re ignoring season four. Capice?]) The relationship did appear to deteriorate after NBC was acquired by cable TV provider Comcast, and the endtag of the fifth season finale undeniably flipped the bird at the network and its apparent inability to invest in popular primetime programming.
Yahoo! plans to air Community‘s 13-episode sixth (and likely final) season on Yahoo Screen, an online video service that the Internet corporation plans to use as a platform for new programming. Arguably, using Community to draw the show’s existing fans to the service in the hopes they’ll stick around for other new shows is a savvy move on the part of Yahoo!, although details regarding specifics (premiere date, global availability, access fees, returning cast, etc.) are as yet unavailable.
Community is hardly the first canceled show to be brought back to life. It joins the ranks of Arrested Development, canceled (twice) after three seasons at Fox; The Family Guy, which also fell victim to Fox’s programming manipulations; Firefly, another victim of Fox that was later revived as a major motion picture; and, most recently, Veronica Mars, canceled after three seasons at UPN/The CW only to have a full-length theatrical release crowd funded through KickStarter and released simultaneously as a digital download, through various Video On Demand (VOD) services, and in a limited number of AMC theaters in the U.S.
We here at WWFTP had mixed feelings regarding the show’s fifth season, but were still sad to think we wouldn’t see the cast on our TVs once a week. But as Community has, from the beginning, been immensely popular on the web, it will no doubt be interesting to see how the show transitions from a traditional platform to the brave new world of Internet TV.
More on the Sony Pictures/Yahoo! deal: