The Biz TV News

Community: Age of Yahoo Is Almost Upon Us, But, Seriously, What the Heck Is Yahoo Screen?

If not for a 40-minute phone call between Kathy Savitt and Dan Harmon last June, what I am about to say would have never been possible: The new trailer for season 6 of Community is here!  There’s no Donald Glover or Yvette Nicole Brown, Chevy Chase is long gone, Gillian Jacobs’ Britta isn’t a blonde anymore, and two people who’ve already been on the show (Paget Brewster, Keith David*) have joined the regular cast playing new characters.  Danny Pudi and Ken Jeong are already plotting their exits, Pudi taking the lead in an NBC pilot and Ken Jeong developing a pilot at ABC based on his life as a medical doctor prior to becoming an actor.  So, should this thing get a seventh season who knows what the cast will look like.  However, even with all of that this season 6 trailer looks like vintage Community, innocuous plots like students throwing frisbees on the roof of the lunch hall quickly escalating into the absurd, characters dressed up in insane outfits which don’t make any sense now but will look hilarious in context, our primary characters repeatedly acting kind of like jerks, an odd dose of race jokes, and Jim Rash stealing every second he’s on screen as Dean Pelton.  Oh, yeah, How Did This Get Made? fans – Jason Mantzoukas shows up as a Whiplash-esque abusive acting teacher, and it looks awesome. Plus, going back several years the show has a knack for making trailers which poke fun at the self-serious movie trailers of the day, and this is no exception, aping the tone, font, and even title of Avengers: Age of Ultron, dubbing this Community: Age of Yahoo:

This all happened because Hulu blinked.  They have the streaming rights to the first 5 seasons of Community, and everyone assumed they would rescue it from the scrap heap after NBC canceled it.  This could have been to Hulu what Arrested Development was to Netflix.  Instead, negotiations broke down at the 11th hour, and Yahoo Screen swooped in, the chief marketing officer Kathy Savitt finally convincing Community creator Dan Harmon to say yes.  When was the new season going to premiere?  No idea.  Who in the cast was returning?  Probably everyone, though they didn’t know that for sure at the time.  How many episodes would there be?  13.  Would the show’s budget be hacked to death?  Yahoo Screen claimed it would be around the same as the show’s NBC era.  Had Yahoo Screen also scooped up the streaming rights for the prior episodes?  Nope.  Hulu still has those.  So, it’d be like if when Netflix premiered its new season of Arrested Development you had to go to Amazon Prime if you wanted to watch any of the show’s pre-existing three seasons.

Yahoo Sony Community 100
This new season did allow them to finally reach the 100 episode plateau

It’s an odd deal, but everyone involved with the show wears that distinction like a badge because of course in a streaming landscape ruled by Netflix, Hulu & Amazon perennial underdog Community would be saved by something no one had ever even heard of before.  Many of the questions we had have worked themselves out over time.  Yvette Nicole Brown and season 5’s Chevy Chase-replacement Jonathan Banks are out; Paget Brewster and Keith David are in.  The season will premiere with two new episodes on Yahoo Screen on March 17th and single episodes arriving every Tuesday after that.   The main question now is just exactly how you’ll be able to watch these episodes.  Refer below to an updated version of the Yahoo Screen back story I originally wrote about last year.

WHAT THE HECK IS YAHOO SCREEN?

Yahoo! Screen was formerly Yahoo Video, a video sharing website much like YouTube, one that allowed users to share and upload their own material. In February of 2008 (after less than two years in existence), Yahoo Video turned their focus to only sharing officially Yahoo-hosted materials — think trailers, Yahoo specials, and branded clips — before removing all uploading ability entirely in December of 2010 in order to relaunch as Yahoo Screen (they then went one step further, taking down all user-uploaded content in March of 2011).

In 2011, Yahoo Screen officially relaunched, including on-demand streaming for a variety of entertainment choices (from TV shows to movies to webisodes) and a steadily revolving homepage that places an emphasis on fresh material and viral videos. The relaunch also included the advent of original programming — including eight shows that range from comedy series Burning Love (which was eventually syndicated to E!) to Paul Feig’s Other Space (which was ordered earlier this year and has yet to premiere) – a lineup that Community will now join.

When you head over to the Yahoo! Screen site it comes off as a bit of a grab-bag of movie trailers, talk show & SNL clips with channels exclusive to influential websites (Buzzfeed) and cable networks (Comedy Central).  It is not an unpleasant-looking site nor is it one which immediately announces why it is any better than something like YouTube.  I actually watched (and loved!) their Bachelor/Bachelorette parody web series Burning Love (produced by Ben Stiller, starring comedy scene all-stars like Michael Ian Black, Ken Marino, Adam Scott, June Diane Raphael, Natasha Legerro), but the site has been completely re-designed since then to the point that I wasn’t completely sure if this was the same service that had made Burning Love.

WILL THERE BE A WAY TO WATCH THE NEW EPISODES ON A TV? 

Yahoo! Screen, which is available through Roku, is so low on the totem pole Roku didn’t even include it in this promotional graphic

With something like the Community re-runs on Hulu you can at least stream it on your TV through video game systems, Blu-Ray players, Roku’s, the Google Chromecast, and, of course, SmartTVs.  At first glance, SmartTVs produced by Samsung and Vizio support Yahoo! Screen as does the Roku, but the Playstation 3 and Google Chromecast do not.  All of the major players in the digital game – Netflix, Hulu, Amazon – create major network-quality original programming which you probably don’t have to watch on your computer if you don’t want to considering how many different platforms the services are accessible through.  Yahoo Screen doesn’t seem to be in nearly the same ballpark as them.  I know that in my current situation I’ll have to watch Community Season 6 through the Yahoo Screen app on my tablet.

YAHOO HAS BEEN TRYING TO MAKE A BIG SPLASH FOR A WHILE

Paul Feig’s “Other Space” will chronicle a misfit group of space adventurers who stumble upon an alternate universe.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Yahoo has been looking for 10-episode, half hour comedies with per-episode budgets ranging from $700,000 to a few million dollars, helmed by writers or directors with experience in television.  Before this led them to Community they handed out 8-episode orders for Other Space from Paul Feig (Freaks & Geeks, Bridesmaids, The Heat) and “Sin City Saints” from Mike Tollin (former Smallville exec. producer), following “the exploits of a Las Vegas-based pro basketball expansion team.”  Neither show has premiered yet.  You’d think securing a TV show from the guy who directed Bridesmaids and The Heat would be a big splash, but it pales in comparison to being Community’s savior. Those earlier shows were like polite coughs to interrupt us to get our attention while this Community is Yahoo grabbing us by the collar and screaming, “Do you notice me now!”

Yes, we do.  You have our attention, Yahoo! Screen, and before long you’ll definitely have our web traffic (or perhaps inspire the purchase of a Roku).  Personally, I now know what Friday Night Lights and Damages fans must have felt like when those shows went from major players to networks no one had heard of: I don’t know a lot about this new place, but I know I will be stopping by when these new episodes drop.  This season 6 trailer gives me the impression that will be time well spent.

What about you?  Does the new trailer look funny to you?  Disappointing?  Or have you bailed on Community long ago?  Let me know in the comments.

Sources: THR, WSJ

*Technically, Keith David’s prior Community appearance was just through voice-over

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