Apr 24 2014

Community and the Changing Definition of a “Struggling” Show

Published by at 12:00 pm under Editorials,Television

six seasons

Community’s fifth season ended last week, concluding on a similar note as a few of the last seasons. #SaveGreendale was the official  hashtag of the evening, and the night ended with a cannon barrage directly into the face of NBC.

Their final tag listed a bunch of fictional NBC Thursday night comedies of varying levels of ridiculousness, almost daring them to cancel Community. Because what else can they do? They’ve shown time and time again they’re incapable of making better shows.

Now the hashtag reverts back to an old favorite #SixSeasonsAndaMovie. It started as a a joke, a rallying cry when seasons two and three were up in the air, but now after season five, it seems weirdly close to a reality.

I have to ask though, after 97 episodes, can a show really still be considered the scrappy, starving, on-death-row underdog?

Firefly’s Alan Tudyk watched the recent social media #SixSeasonsandaMovie push (complete with variants of the posters above) with amusement, eventually tweeting, “Or just 14 strong episodes shown out of order on a Friday at 8PM. in 2002-2003.”

wash

Maybe he’s just being funny, but the snark is strong. “You think your show has it rough? Well, I’ve got a space opera to show you…” Is he right?

The increasing quality of TV as a whole has started to weed out bad shows quickly, and allowed struggling shows to survive almost indefinitely, particularly on a troubled network like NBC. Community can openly mock the hand that feeds them in their finale because well, they’re right. NBC has nothing else to replace them.

For years now, NBC has shown they have no idea how to craft an effective new comedy, with shows like Sean Saves the World and The Michael J. Fox show employing big stars but going absolutely nowhere, as they revert back to laugh-track format to try and compete with CBS.

I have little doubt that Community will be renewed for season six because at this point, NBC would be dumb to cancel anything they have that’s A) a pretty high quality show or B) has an avid fanbase. Community has both, just not the ratings. But at this point, NBC will take what they can get. It’s also why Parks and Recreation has survived this long despite not great numbers.

community9

Still, Community comes across as a bit self-involved given the history of how quality shows used to struggle. Firefly had two-thirds of a seasons and no finale. Freaks and Geeks was cut after one. Arrested Development was axed midway through season three. Community? It’s been given five full seasons to thrive, and is already in syndication. Do they really need to make it to #NineSeasonsandaTrilogy to be considered a success?

I guess I don’t blame them. Everyone wants to remain employed, and Community is still producing good episodes. The navel gazing has sort of reaching insane proportions, but even a woefully overly meta episode of Community is better than 95% of other shows on TV.

That said, it’s hard to be genuinely concerned about the fate of the show at this point. I don’t necessarily like seeing shows have every last drop of comedy squeezed out of them, and I’m frankly far more concerned about a show that would actually be considered “killed too soon” on NBC, Hannibal. At 24 episodes and two seasons, that show has many, many more stories to tell, but airing on Fridays to low ratings, it’s about to be eaten for lunch.

I hope Community makes it to six seasons, and I have faith it will. I’m just glad we’re living in an age where critical acclaim and niche audiences are enough to make a pretty low rated show survive for this long. That’s the changing landscape of TV, and we seem to be running into less Firefly/Arrested Development horrific “what are you thinking?” situations these days. In fact, I bet if both those shows had debuted in this era, both would have lived long, healthy lives.

But in Community’s case I’m not sure how many times you can play the #SaveGreendale card and still have it resonate. Even if the show doesn’t come back, it’s had a pretty great run compared to many others, and its talented cast will find work anywhere and everywhere.

And yet, I’ll agree. #SaveGreendale. Because what’s the alternative?

 





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3 responses so far

  • daveyJ1

    Community has never been a sure thing, it had to struggle for each season. And where most shows are pretty comfortable when they’ve got 4 seasons, Community was at its most fragile. So it’s not weird to still call it a struggling show, especially for the critical acclaim it’s been getting. Fans have been fighting for all seasons, that’s how it got to a pretty good amount of episodes. But the show is not finished yet, and it hasn’t been a smooth ride to get to 97 episodes. 5 seasons might not be that short, it’s clearly not the end for the show yet and fans want to attract attention. That’s why they’re still shouting “#SaveGreendale”. There’s still a fight against cancellation.

  • Dzuksi

    God, Hannibal so deserves full 6 seasons. Based only on the ratings, Hannibal would have been a goner last year –
    but it was saved because its almost entirely paid for by its
    international co-production status, with NBC having very little
    financial risk (if any) involved. That, capped off by the glowing
    reviews, could (and hopefully will) once more bring Dr. Lecter back. If
    NBC does cancel it, there’s also hope that another outlet picks
    it up, which was in the cards last year when the show was in the same
    precarious situation.

  • goseebananafish

    I just wish the show was funny.

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