If you've noticed a curious preponderance of strange black goatees popping up on the Twitter photos of your friends and friendly television journalists, there's no need to be worried that you're missing a new (and awful) fashion trend; you should, however, be concerned about the state of television.
Earlier this week, NBC announced that it was shelving the cult hit "Community," from its mid-season schedule. But more on that in a moment; the news that ABC is cutting back another fan favorite, "Cougar Town," is another jolt that TV viewers must deal with.
The Courteney Cox-starring sitcom suffered a blow when ABC announced on Friday that it is cutting the show's order down to 15 episodes from the customary 22. And while it was announced immediately afterward that it will return to TV at some undetermined point, The show's creator and runner, Bill Lawrence, was clearly not pleased. Which he made very clear on Twitter.
"No, Cougar Town isn't cancelled. Yes, I'm mad. We will see you soon, I'm sure (I know when/where but can't say). Might speak my mind..." he wrote, before doing just that. "Look, we will be back, and the show will be on for a long time (Parks and Rec style). Only people hurt by reduced order - crew and fans."
That was just the beginning.
"Will vent later. Must go edit episode that will be on in... sometime. Enjoy Celebrity Wife Swap on ABC. Your kids should watch," he continued, smacking the network for its reality programming. "All fans - thanks. Truly. My timeline is destroyed. Maybe I'll slide some episodes out early and we can see what you all think... uh-oh."
Yes, he knew exactly what he was doing with that one.
"That last tweet will get me a nice call from a Disney attorney," he continued. And then, after retweeting some harsh notes from fans, he hit out at one of ABC's other shows that did make the schedule.
"ahhh, I think we'll survive. Will have to self promote. Man, 'work it' is bleak, though. Will hurt my heart if it does well," he told a fan Saturday morning.
Personal passion in television -- a good time to revisit the "Community" debacle. The shelving was a cold splash of water on the faces of its small but rabid fan base, which soon turned its Tumblr-powered devotion into an action center dedicated to convincing the network to bring the series back. Blogs, petitions and other acts of solidarity -- including adding to their avatars the goatees that character Abed wore when he wanted to be "evil" -- sprung up post haste, all in hopes of reviving what is largely considered the smartest comedy on television.
The vague response from NBC was the promise that the show would come back at some time or another, but no date has been set. So for now, the Greendale Human Beings sleep in a fetal position, changing the channel in hopes of finding something else worth watching -- and it won't be "Cougar Town," which fans of the show became fond of after Abed began professing his love for the series in the super meta "Community" way.
All of this, of course, doesn't even touch on the loss of Regis Philbin, who, while the most mainstream TV figure of all time, also engendered sympathy after he left "Live!" after 28 years due to contractual issues.
The one silver lining is that "Arrested Development" will indeed be making its long awaited comeback, with new episodes coming in 2013. But the platform won't even be traditional television; while original episodes were carried by Fox, new adventures of the Bluth family will be streamed on Netflix, the web video rental service.
What this means for traditional network TV remains to be seen, but one thing is clear: they are not working to reach out to young fans, or at least those who congregate on the web and share a joy of niche comedy. Will it matter, or is Twitter just a beehive for criticism that has little sting in the outside world?