The darkest timeline is almost over: "Community" is finally coming back (Thurs., March 15, 8 p.m. on NBC).
In November, NBC revealed it was pulling the ratings-challenged comedy and replacing it with Tina Fey's "30 Rock." However, in the 8 p.m. timeslot, the veteran comedy, now its sixth season, fared no better -- in fact, it did worse -- than "Community," proving NBC's problem wasn't exactly its programming, but the timeslot. One of "30 Rock's" early February outings pulled in just over 3 million viewers. "Community" was averaging about 4 million in the timeslot.
"Community" creator Dan Harmon told The New York Times that the "30 Rock" ratings “became an objective measure of what those waters are like." The "30 Rock" ratings coupled with a new partnership with Hulu that made previous episodes of "Community" available online worked in the show's favor. "Community's" biggest supporters are younger, hipper and usually don't cop to watching that much TV.
"The most coveted demographic, and most coveted of that demographic, these very smart, upwardly mobile, college-age kids just don’t watch TV anymore," Harmon told The Times.
After three years on the air, "Community" cannot be called a big hit, but its viewership is loyal. Fans staged flash mobs in support of the show and took to Twitter with new icons to show their support.
Also working in "Community's" favor: NBC brass. Series star Yvette Nicole Brown tweeted photos of an executive, Edwin Chung, the senior vice president of primetime, at a "Community" cable read wearing a homemade T-shirt two days after NBC announced the midseason hiatus.
"This is someone who's kind of in the process with us and knows that it's not ideal that we're not on the air," Brown told The Hollywood Reporter.
With all eyes on "Community's" return, it will still have the tough competition: CBS's "The Big Bang Theory," Fox's "American Idol" and ABC's new Ashley Judd series "Missing." As spring approaches, shows will find out their fates at the networks. HuffPost TV put "Community" on the dreaded cancellation bubble, but Vernon Sanders, executive vice president for current programs at NBC, said he "wouldn't use the word 'bubble'" to describe the show's status. Why? Money. As "Community" produces more and more episodes, it becomes easier to sell into syndication, making more money for NBC.
Whatever happens, we'll have Greendale's Human Beings back, even for just a little while.