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'Community' Canceled, But Maybe Not For Long

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COMMUNITY
The cast of 'Community.' | nbc
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I don't think "Community" is dead.

Maybe that makes me sound like a lonely Abed, creating elaborate fantasies inside his Dreamatorium. Like one of the characters on the show, maybe I've fallen down the rabbit hole of my own obsessions and I need my friends to haul me out.

But the main reason I don't think "Community" is dead -- despite NBC's cancellation announcement on Friday -- is because it wouldn't make business sense for that to be the case. Yes, what I'm talking about here is cold, hard, business logic.

Sure, the show's ratings on NBC were anemic at best. I get that. But let's say I'm an executive at Amazon, which has made a bunch of pilots and even a few shows that have gotten very little buzz (a little buzz, but not much, let's be honest). If I'm an executive at Amazon, there's a really good chance I'm sitting on a sizable pile of money and that I would like to do more to put my streaming service on the map.

People know that Amazon Prime streaming exists -- and the service's recent deal with HBO bumped up the visibility of Amazon's offerings to a degree -- but in terms of buzz, media attention and brand awareness, Amazon is languishing way behind Netflix, and possibly even Hulu. Everybody and their brother is getting into the content business these days, and those who want to stand out need to make moves that are both smart and attention-getting. (Update: And as many have pointed out, the fact that Hulu already has the show's streaming rights and Comedy Central currently has a syndication deal for the show make those outlets among the logical contenders for the comedy.)

So here's what I'd do if I were that executive at Amazon, Hulu or some other streaming service or new-media venture: I'd give Sony, the studio that makes "Community," a check that would cover a sixth season and a movie. Then I'd watch the media attention, the fan love and and the chin-stroking thinkpieces roll in.

Giving "Community" fans what they want and fulfilling the hashtag prophecy would make a ton of sense, even if the venture was, on paper, a money-loser. Do you think Netflix made money on "House of Cards," which allegedly cost north of $100 million? Hahahahaha, I highly doubt it. But the splashy A-list names attached to "House of Cards" got Netflix a lot of media attention.

Same deal with Netflix's reboot of "Arrested Development": Who knows how many subscribers came on board (and stayed) due to Netflix commissioning a fourth season of the beloved comedy? The service is famously close-mouthed about numbers, but its subscriber base has grown in the past few years. The customers keep signing up, and the company's profile in the industry has shot up substantially in the past few years. The bottom line is that the "Arrested Development" deal made a lot of noise for Netflix at a time when it needed to boost its profile, and someone striking a deal with the "Community" folks -- with Dan Harmon on board, of course -- could benefit in a similar fashion.

Sony is famously aggressive about shopping its canceled properties around to other media companies. Before I've even finished writing this post, I'm betting there will already be posts on industry sites saying that various suitors are expressing interest in "Community." Whether or not that's the case at this very moment, it should be the case.

We live in a time in which fan loyalty and a property's notoriety are more valuable than ever. "Community" has a huge media footprint and its fans are its most energetic marketers. And of course, the show's quality is another big reason to bring it back. Its return-to-form fifth season was a gloriously messy, wonderful, emotionally acute demonstration of why the show has developed such a fervent fan base. There are a lot of comedies that efficiently place certain kinds of jokes into particular slots and call it a day. Comedies that comment on the human condition in bittersweet and eccentrically moving ways are rare indeed, and we've already lost the freshman "Enlisted" and "Trophy Wife" this week. "Community" shouldn't go too, and given how high-profile it is, it shouldn't have to.

There are a number of media outlets -- some of them quite wealthy -- who could use a show with the profile and prestige of "Community." And though its ratings are an indication of the fact that the comedy could not survive on NBC, ratings are less and less relevant these days. In this day and age, lots of things that would never survive on broadcast networks do very well for themselves elsewhere.

Perhaps this is just denial talking, but I honestly can't see why another entity wouldn't snap up "Community" well before Monday morning. I once wrote a piece about how "Community" should end if Dan Harmon wasn't going to be a part of it. If a new platform can give Harmon and the show's cast and writers a new place to hang their shingle for a season (and a modestly budgeted TV movie), I say keep those nerds around.

"Community" is dead. Long live "Community"! #sixseasonsandamovie #notdeadyet