Tonight brings us the long-awaited return our beloved Community, the show that is, if you ask us, far and away the funniest, most innovative show on television (or off television, as the last couple months would have it). While we still had Parks and Recreation, and welcomed back 30 Rock with open arms, Thursday nights just weren’t the same without the Greendale study group, just not as magical.
However, even though we dearly missed the show, and do worry about its chronically low-ratings and tenuous chances of renewal, we were not in panic-mode like some others were over its benching. First off, the show was not canceled, and even though there was no definitive return date when the hiatus was announced, there was never a doubt that it would return this season. Even if the show pulls in dismal ratings (which it unfortunately does), it wouldn’t make much financial sense for NBC to produce a full season and then never air the back half. It’s not like Community will fare much worse than any of their other comedies, save for The Office. So the hiatus was not a punishment, or a really even a threat. Just a business decision, one that NBC scheduling has now applied to Parks and Rec, as that equally wonderful show takes a break til late April.
But even more than not being distraught about the hiatus, we were encouraged by it. Why? Because it gives Dan Harmon and the brilliant Community writing staff the motivation to push even further, to somehow break even newer ground, to make the most creative, adventurous, ambitious comedy on television even more so. Even though the show was always going to return to finish its third season, there’s no guarantee for a fourth, and if the break was cause for alarm for the producers, then it’s likely that this next stretch of episodes will be some of their best, as they perhaps figured that if they were going to go out, they were going to go out with a bang. Their backs could be against the wall, which may force them to deliver their best, most challenging material. Even more, those ideas they thought might be too crazy (yes, even crazier than a campus-wide paintball war and a zombie outbreak and a claymation Christmas special and alternate universes), may now get pushed to the forefront. Now or never. Stories they were saving, or were timid about introducing, might now be included in the second half of this season. Basically, they’ve been operating under the idea that they have nothing to lose, so, we imagine, they went ahead and shot for the moon. Which is incredibly exciting.
Which means, then, if this winds up being the final season of Community, we can take solace in the fact that we got three incredible seasons of the show, and, even more, at the end we got the best that Dan Harmon and Co. had to offer. Do we think that they have enough brilliant material for 3 more seasons and a movie. Absolutely. And we pray they get there. But, realistically, and we have to be realistic, we also must be thankful that we got even three seasons of the show. Which is a lesson we learned with Arrested Development and Veronica Mars. Sure, we wish those shows went on another decade, and were depressed when they ended with so many more stories to tell (and when AD ended we drowned our sorrows with frozen banana shots. Too many frozen banana shots), but, looking back, it’s pretty fucking amazing that we got that much out of those series. Both were too smart, too ambitious, and too little watched. As much admonishment that Fox received, they should be commended for giving the Arrested three seasons, even if they moved it around the schedule as if they were trying to hide it. And Veronica Mars actually survived the collapse of its network, which was no small feat for the little show that could but no one noticed. But now to sit back, and look on our bookshelf, and see three volumes of DVDs for each of those shows is incredibly heartening. And then to look down and spot one season of Freaks and Geeks, is quite the opposite. That show deserved more, and while it did get to somewhat go out on its own terms, with Judd Apatow seeing the writing on the wall and offering some measure of closure, we were deprived of too much.
But with Community, we’ve been treated, we’ve been spoiled. And if it ends here, we’ll learn to be okay with it, to appreciate what we were treated to.
And, if it ends here, we hope they go out guns blazing, our minds blown, with no story left unturned.