This is an article about how Hulu might end up saving NBC’s canceled sitcom Community. However, in the spirit of Community I’m going to start out by riffing on a totally different pop culture entity. This will make sense in a minute.
Back before Marvel Studios made the concept of a shared fictional universe a well-known and sometimes despised thing, Joss Whedon was overseeing one of those on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its self-titled spin-off centered around Buffy’s beloved ex-boyfriend Angel. So, when Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) [SPOILER ALERT…FROM LIKE 15 YEARS AGO]saved the world but died in the process at the end of the fifth season the concurrent second season of Angel ended with ole captain forehead Angel (David Boreanaz) learning the news that the love of his life had died.
Buffy and Angel were the doomed human/vampire romantic couple of their time, predating Twlight, True Blood, and Vampire Diaires, although the latter was at least around as YA novels back then. Their’s was a love so hot that it could only quickly burn out, she a super-powered but ultimately mortal slayer and he an immortal vampire proving ultimately incompatible in the long term.
However, Buffy and Angel ultimately held true to the idea that maybe someday those two crazy kids would work things out meaning surely her sudden death would destroy him. Instead, the third season of Angel kicked off with the idea that Angel was not so much destroyed by the fact that Buffy died but instead distraught that her death didn’t kill him, telling his best friend Cordelia his being able to move on felt like betraying her somehow.
Well, maybe I’m betraying Community, but I’m kind of ready to move on.
Yet here we are with a new hope. Deadline says Sony Pictures TV and Hulu are in preliminary talks to save the show. For Sony, this way they could get Community up above the 100 episode mark since it currently sits at just 97 episodes, 3 shy of the hallowed promise land of truly rich syndication deals. For Hulu, this way they could make a genuine splash in the original programming department, mimicking what Netflix did with its original season of Arrested Development. Plus, Hulu has the exclusive on the digital streaming rights for Community meaning they are pretty much the only logical place for new episodes to go.
Show creator and head writer Dan Harmon is definitely involved. Although initially cool to the idea of more episodes, he’s come around, explaining that though it’s still a long shot to happen he won’t be the guy to “that re-cancels cancelled Community.” It’s hard to know which of the cast members would return in a still-hypothetical sixth season. Chevy Chase’s replacement, Jonathan Banks, was already on his way out anyways due to his role in upcoming Breaking Bad spin-off Better Call Saul. Donald Glover was written out of the show in such a manner that he could return in a sixth season, but that’s no guarantee to happen. Gillian Jacobs remains a busy actress in indie films, and recently scored a recurring role in the upcoming season of Girls. Allison Brie is also starting to land some big roles in films, and is currently producing a sitcom in development for TV Land. However, Joel McHale has been hosting The Soup on E! the entire time he’s been on Community, and Yvette Nicole Brown has pretty consistently popped up in guest roles on Disney Channel and TV Land sitcoms during her time on Community as well. So, there’s no reason these people couldn’t continue to multi-task.
That being said, it’s still just “preliminary talks,” and based upon the quality of Hulu’s other original shows like Deadbeat and the fact that it seems like they’ve been up for sale for their entire existence they may not have the money to fund something which would like the version of Community NBC aired these past 5 seasons.
If they do, I will watch because season 5 proved that Dan Harmon’s still got it, and there’s pretty much nowhere else to go to find a show which looks like this one week:
And then like this a couple of weeks later:
However, earlier this month during network Upfronts week when perusing what again look like a truly dreadful selection of new sitcoms coming our way in the fall I thought two things: 1) I’m really going to miss Community‘s oddball, genre-bending humor; 2) I’m not going to miss Community‘s characters.
That was always the danger with Community, and something that even its most ardent critical supporters pointed out during the heyday of the show’s second season when it pretty much could do no wrong. With the show’s feet so clearly gradually gravitating further away from reality and the characters used to prop up fantastical episode conceits and mock sitcom story-telling conventions we could eventually get to the point where we failed to actually care about Jeff, Britta, Annie, Abed, Shirley, Troy, and Pierce as recognizable human beings. Sure, we’d at least find them comforting presences due to built up familiarity with them over the years, but would we at some point stop giving a crap about whether (for example) Jeff and Annie ever get together?
That weighed heavily on my mind while watching what currently stands as its series finale, “Basic Sandwich.” Sticking with the Jeff and Annie story, those two first kissed at the conclusion of the first season. Ever since then the show has almost gone out of its way to mock anyone who wanted to see more of that mostly because there’s an inherently unsettling wide age-gap between the characters which the show never knew how to rectify. Some have argued this was another example of the show’s brilliance in that they were pointing out the idiocy of will-they/won’t-they pairings by choosing to continually remind everyone of their age difference, and the fact that they’d make for a horrible couple with Annie more in love with the idea of love and Jeff simply noticing how smoking hot she is. However, in “Basic Sandwich” Annie reacts liked a spurned lover to Jeff’s sudden engagement with Britta. When she makes her feelings known the show implies that perhaps Jeff truly does value her above all others, as it is when he looks at her that the computer which can sense love in individuals overloads and opens the locked doors which was holding them underground.
While that was a definite nod to Annie-Jeff shippers it also meant that in the 72 or so episodes since Jeff and Annie first kissed the show had flatly refused to make any real progress on those two. It feels like a story line they should have figured out by this point.
That’s not to say that the show has been bereft of narrative progress. By the end of its run, Jeff was a better person than he was at the beginning, and Abed had grown to the point of actually having a girlfriend. Plus, there was at least some sense that maybe Troy had matured a little by the time he departed the show. But with the show’s premise of following a study group at a community college having now become obsolete since they’ve all graduated the only thing to bring us back is either the characters or the humor (or both). When I think of a new Hulu season I don’t think of what might happen between Jeff and Annie or how Shirley’s business will be doing I think of what might crazy thing Dan Harmon might do next. After 4 seasons (instead of the full 5 since he wasn’t around during the fourth season) we’ve kind of seen everything in his bag of tricks, as even the fun G.I. Joe parody episode this season made a point of referencing how it was just a re-purposed version of their stop-go animation Christmas episode centered around Abed from years ago.
So, like Angel I’m a little bummed that Community‘s cancellation didn’t have more of an effect on me, especially considering how often I’ve re-watched those early season episodes and still consider Community one of my all-time favorite sitcoms Also like Angel since Buffy did literally return from the grave I will rush to embrace any new episodes of Community should they happen, pulling for the perpetual underdog to fulfill its self-inflicted mantra of #SixSeasonsAndAMovie. However, it is okay to let things end.
What about you? Are you ready to move on? Similarly conflicted like me? Just want more Community no matter what? Or are you a Buffy/Angel fan who just really wants to get to your nearest Netflix device and start streaming old episodes to your heart’s delight? I know I do. Let us know in the comments section.
Check out noted Community superfan Todd VanDerWerff’s AV Club review of “Basic Sandwich” for an excellent take on why it feels kind of like the show has run out of stories to tell and frustrates by refusing to conform to expected emotional journeys for viewers | AV Club