I’m open to suggestions on this, so please feel free to name a fantastic, inventive, hilarious show that has been treated worse by a network than NBChas treated “Community.”
The obvious answer is “Arrested Development” by FOX, but that show at least had a more straightforward path to oblivion, whereas NBC seems intent on tormenting, sacking, and wringing all joy from Dan Harmon’s quirky brain-child before leaving it to die in the gutter.
For those not in the know, “Community” tells the story of seven troubled, bizarre students at Greendale Community College who form a study group and follow the tropes and plot contrivances of every TV sitcom while assassinating them at the same time. “Community” is not the funniest show on TV or even NBC (“Parks & Recreation” and “30 Rock” being stiff competition) but it is without a doubt the most creative, clever, and innovative.
Whether it’s the classic “paintball episode” or the “alternate timelines dice-rolling episode”, the show continuously shatters, satirizes, and embraces all at once the dying sitcom form. If you haven’t watched it, do yourself a favor and catch up on Netflix or Hulu Plus. Donald Glover as Troy, Joel McHale as Jeff, Gillian Jacobs as Brita, and Danny Pudi as Abed have all but guaranteed themselves bright futures with their turns.
Meanwhile, following rumors of cancellation last year, NBC put it on “hiatus” this winter (although it was never clear what was gained from this). Now it’s renewed the series for just a short, thirteen episode season at which point it will probably replace all its original programming with Mormom sister wives who are sixteen and pregnant or whatever the hell reality trend people are watching. This season’s final episode ended with the intriguing hashtag #sixseasonsandamovie, but six seasons seems like a long shot. Now they’ve also fired creator and showrunner Dan Harmon, who responded in this quite funny post on his Tumblr blog.
What is it about NBC that allows it to consistently discover and produce truly great television (its Thursday night line-up remains brilliant; they discovered Conan O’Brien) yet then makes it decide to blow up everything pretty it has and replace it with more pandering crap (at one point, NBC was threatening to cancel the three best comedies on network TV; they fired Conan O’Brien).
In aggregate, these incidents become troubling not because any particular NBC exec made this decision or that decision, but because of what it says about what’s wrong with programming on “the idiot box” as a whole.
Like a poem or a novel or a film or a painting, television is just another way to tell a story—the way all art is and always has been since we started smearing paint on a cave wall. It has the potential to be more than we’ve seen from it thus far in its short existence, yet on network TV the profit motive has begun to reward useless crap celebrity singing contests and other unscripted artifice while the unorthodox and daring shows are smothered in their cribs or allowed to limp along under the threat of cancellation while fans have to waste our time going on idiotic “Save Our Show!” campaigns just to point out to the talentless hacks in charge of leading their network to a stunning fourth place that they have a really good product.
Having said that, a “Community” movie? Wha?! Yes, please.