We’ve admittedly, regrettably, been remiss with our recaps and analysis of NBC’s Thursday night comedies. There was a time when we provided weekly thoughts on ‘The Office’ (luckily our neglect kicked in just around the time when Friday morning post-mortems on that show would have been unbearable) and periodic temperature checks on ‘Parks and Recreation.’ With the season already complete for half of these shows, and the other two concluding their runs this week, we thought it was high time that we put aside some real estate to check in on these programs, starting today with a discussion about ‘Community’ (whose season (and not series) finale airs Thursday night (preceded by two other new episodes and the ’30 Rock’ closer).
NBC announced their Fall 2012 pick ups last week and, despite lots of rumors and hand-wringing, Community will return for a fourth season. That much wasn’t quite a surprise to us. Could NBC have axed the criminally low-rated comedy? Sure, and they would have the cold, emotionless Nielsen numbers to back it up. But, at the same time, they know what they’re getting with Community. Will it ever break out into a Friends or even These Friends of Mine sized hit? Unlikely at this point. But does it have a devoted, die-hard fan base? Absolutely. Attractive cast? You bet. A smart, discerning, relatively affluent audience? We guess. Close to reaching enough episodes for lucrative syndication? Definitely. So the renewal, especially for the 13-episode order it received, is not all that shocking to us. What was unexpected, however, was the announcement at the NBC Upfronts that come this fall Community will be found on Fridays, as the lead-in to…Grimm?
Now, don’t misread us. We’re not up in arms about this move. We are not irate. We are not livid. Nor are we questioning the efficacy of the decision. It’s just that with the concurrent pick-ups of The Office (likely for its final season), 30 Rock (definitely maybe its final season) and Parks and Recreation (very possibly its final season), we assumed that NBC would keep the band together. Sure, as a whole they performed underwhelmingly, a far cry from the halcyon days of The Cosby Show, Family Ties, Cheers & Night Court or Friends, Seinfeld and whatever failed sitcom they put on in between (for the sake of argument let’s say The Single Guy and Caroline in the City), but as a cohesive, quality, symbiotic unit, it doesn’t get much better than those four shows in succession (lest we remember how utterly out-of-place Whitney felt this past season, or Outsourced the season before). Had that two-hour block known has “Comedy Night Done Right” wildly unperformed? Sure. But it felt like they were a package deal, and it was all or nothing. With the renewals of all four shows, it certainly appeared that NBC, wisely or not, had chosen all.
BUT let’s not consider Community’s move to Friday a death knell. The loss of viewership it will experience from not having Access Hollywood as its lead-in and Parks and Rec (or 30 Rock) as its lead-out is marginal. Clearly, while those shows work together beautifully on an aesthetic, contextual level, their scheduling marriage has not produced much viewership synergy (besides making of convenient consecutive DVR scheduling). So will Community leaving Thursday nights hurt its numbers (or vice versa)? We don’t think so. Especially because, as we noted above, Community has perhaps the most passionate (and hyper-vocal) fans of any of the shows currently on Thursday night or elsewhere on NBC ‘s schedule. They (and we’re certainly included in this group) would follow Community to end of the earth. Friday, then, is just a minor detour. In fact, it may help alleviate the Thursday night DVR logjam that was a curse as much as it was a blessing. And if E! wises up and moves The Soup back to Friday nights (where, in contrast, it should have never left) then it can be a night of back-to-back Joel McHale, which, along with a good whiskey, might be the perfect way to start the weekend (or top off a rather late Friday night).
Are we thrilled about the move? No. Are we somehow offended that Community is now paired with Whitney? Yes, but we’re really trying to cut that show some slack, because, hey, it didn’t ask to have a laugh track, it didn’t ask to steal precious real estate on Thursday nights, and it didn’t ask to shred Whitney Cummings of any likability (but that’s a different post for a different day, so we digress). Do we hold any great hopes that Community will somehow blossom on Friday nights and usher in a new era of a TGIF? No, because TGIF was on ABC, dummy. But are we ecstatic that Community, the still hands-down best, most inventive comedy on TV, gets another season? You better fucking believe it.
And now that Community will be on Friday nights with even less expectations Dan Harmon and Co. (and we’re assuming that Harmon is coming back, because we see no plausible reason why he would now abandon his child midstream) can push the envelope even further. Just like we argued with Community‘s mid-season hiatus, a shortened order and a dead-end time-slot can only mean one thing: Community‘s days are numbered, so go for broke. No one’s watching and the bosses don’t care. Which may mean that the best is yet to come.
Community, every episode may be your last, so give us all you got.