After an extended hiatus, series' creator Dan Harmon's firing and a network re-tooling, "Community" returned with surprisingly strong ratings for NBC.

The cult comedy attracted nearly 4 million total viewers and scored a 1.8 rating in they key 18-49 demographic. The ratings are up from the Season 3 finale (1.3) and slightly better than Season 3's September premiere (1.7), according to TV By The Numbers.

The "Community" ratings for the Season 4 premiere are a 38 percent increase from the average ratings "30 Rock" had been pulling in for NBC in the same Thursday at 8 p.m. timeslot during its final season (excluding its series finale).

The numbers are even more impressive considering that "Community" was going up against CBS's "Big Bang Theory" and Fox's "American Idol" in the 8 p.m. hour. "The Big Bang Theory" was Thursday’s No. 1 program with 18.85 million viewers and a 6.1 rating in the key demo, while "Idol" raked in 13.2 million viewers and 4.1 rating in the demo.

"Community's" ratings bode well for the comedy's prospects of eventually getting renewed for a fifth season. NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt said the show could "absolutely" get another season at the 2013 Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour.

"Community" airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. EST on NBC.

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  • Episode 401: "History 101"

  • Episode 401: "History 101"

  • Episode 401: "History 101"

  • Episode 401: "History 101"

  • Episode 401: "History 101"

  • Episode 401:" History 101"

  • Episode 401: "History 101"

  • Episode 401: "History 101"

  • Episode 401: "History 101"

  • Episode 401: "History 101"

    Pictured: Jim Rash as Dean Pelton.

  • Episode 401: "History 101"

    Pictured: (l-r) Joel McHale as Jeff, Yvette Nicole Brown as Shirley.

  • Episode 401: "History 101"

    Pictured: (l-r) Ken Jeong as Chang, Yvette Nicole Brown as Shirley.

  • Episode 401: "History 101"

    Pictured: Yvette Nicole Brown as Shirley.

  • Episode 401: "History 101"

    Pictured: (l-r) Crystal as Annie's Boobs, Alison Brie as Annie.

  • Episode 401: "History 101"

    Pictured: (l-r) Joel McHale as Jeff, Gillian Jacobs as Britta.

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