Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Community Is Returning... Wait. What, Now?

When you’re a kid and you act up or misbehave, occasionally your parents will yell at you. They’ll punish you and send you to your room without dessert or take away your favorite toy. But sometimes – on those rare occasions when you actually wince and anticipate a blow-up – they’ll remain quiet. And then, just as you peek to open your eyes and brace for your punishment, they’ll calmly utter six words that make your stomach curl into a knot.

“I’m not mad. I’m just disappointed.”

That’s kind of how I feel right about now toward NBC. I’m not mad at you, really. I’m just disappointed. For those of you who have remained blissfully unaware of any sort of news involving Community, I’ll fill you in – last night it was announced that the quirky comedy’s fourth season premiere would not be on October 19th, as was previously scheduled (Whitney, too, will not be premiering that Friday).

Before I explain why I’m disappointed in the network’s decision to further push back the premiere date of Community’s fourth (and likely final) season, I’ll just lift your spirits up a bit. Because I think we’re going to be okay. Yes, you DID just read that correctly. I think we’re going to be okay. And here’s why:

  • We thought being put on hiatus was the worst, and we survived. Do you remember the moment you heard that Community was going to be put on hiatus following “Regional Holiday Music” to return at “a later date”? I sure do. It was a dark point for all of us, knowing that the show would not return like it should have, come January. But the best and most amazing part about this bit of bad news was what followed. #sixseasonsandamovie became not just a hashtag, but a battle cry. We rallied together as fans of the show and campaigned across social media for the show to return. We donned felt goatees, sent in letters to NBC, made fan videos, participated in flash mobs, and tweeted advertisers. We did everything that a small but mighty army SHOULD do. And it paid off because we returned to the air.
  • We thought Dan Harmon being fired was the worst, and we survived. A blow that should have – and could have – been fatal to the entire fandom wounded us, surely, but did not destroy us. When we all discovered that Dan Harmon would no longer be the showrunner for the fourth season of Community, we were – rightfully – devastated. A wave of anger and panic rocked the entire fandom. We wondered how the show could be the same without the voice of its creator. We assumed that the new showrunners would be incompetent or try and change the direction and voice that Community had established. We became even MORE worried when writers like Chris McKenna, the Russo brothers, and Adam Countee announced their departure from the show. When Neil Goldman and Garrett Donovan stepped down as co-producers, we assumed that all hope was lost. And yet, in the midst of even all of that, we banded together and spent the night Harmon’s departure was announced trending #sixseasonsandweloveyouDanHarmon (twice) and playing a “This must be how ___ felt” game (that the lovely Kerry kickstarted). We laughed, half of us got thrown into Twitter jail, and we were convinced that we could survive anything together.
  • We thought that Dan Harmon’s replacements would be the worst, and we survived. We weren’t sure exactly what to make of Moses Port and David Guarascio when we first learned that they would be replacing Dan Harmon. We figured that they would try to cater to the studio and network (since that seemed to be at least part of the reason that Dan Harmon was let go), and that the writing would be radically different. But then Megan Ganz, Andy Bobrow, Port, Guarascio, and the cast attended Comic-Con this year, announcing plans for certain episodes. And, in demonstrating what a classy fandom we are, the entire audience applauded politely and some even cheered for the new showrunners. They proved that, while the show certainly wouldn’t be IDENTICAL, it would have the same spirit that Harmon’s era had. So we were okay, even when…
  • We thought that the season four premiere being pushed to October 19th was the worst, but we survived. It was disappointing, to say the least, to hear that we would have to wait an extra month to see the fourth season of Community. But we survived – we decided to make the best of it, to take the opportunity to convert more fans to the show. We’re Community fans, which means we adapt to pretty much anything and everything. … usually because we don’t have a choice.

Of course, all of the positive things that this fandom has done for the show and for one another don’t make press releases like this one any less disheartening:

“Given the success we’ve had for the past four weeks – including winning the first week of the season in A18-49 – we’ve decided to continue to concentrate our promotional strength on our new NBC shows that are scheduled Monday through Wednesday and have therefore decided to hold COMMUNITY and WHITNEY from their previously announced premieres of October 19th.  Without having to launch these comedies on Friday at this time, we can keep our promotion focused on earlier in the week -- plus we will have both comedies in our back pocket if we need to make any schedule changes on those nights.  When we have a better idea of viewing patterns in the next few weeks, we will announce new season premieres of WHITNEY and COMMUNITY.”

There are a few things that grate my nerves about this official note from NBC. To begin with, if the network was merely waiting (like many of us speculate) for Animal Practice and Guys With Kids to flop, why announce a return date for Community at all? Rather than postpone the return date until November or later – which, admittedly, would have made us a bit disheartened and upset – NBC choosing to announce a premiere date, compile a promotion for it, include that in their NBC Primetime Schedule special, and then yank both Community and Whitney from the aforementioned schedules… well, it just makes for some very upset audience members.

Additionally, the first sentence in this released statement rubs me the wrong way. NBC won the first week of the 18-49 season for the first time in a DECADE. And those wins may have been aided by new comedies (a little bit), but the strength – at least according to TV By the Numbers – was primarily in Sunday Night Football, The Voice, and Revolution (with a bit aided by freshman series Go On). The fact that NBC is a bit high and mighty on winning premiere week (not that they shouldn’t  be proud of that, I suppose), only lends itself to overconfidence. At the end of the week, the number of total overall viewers did not go to NBC but CBS, after all. So for a network to win one week in the 18-49 demo and then decide that, instead of promoting established shows, and shows that the network itself announced would return, it… decides to pursue more marketing of these new shows, hoping that – perhaps naively – these will help win them the demographic every week.

I’m no Marketing major (nor a business-savvy individual), but I AM an English major. And I know a backhanded compliment when I read one. Additionally, my mother always brought me up under the notion that what you DO has more impact than what you SAY, especially when what you DO negates what you SAY. Words are powerful things, but actions are a bit clearer. So for the network to claim that Community (and Whitney) are close to their hearts, and are acting as some kind of ace-in-the-hole for them, but then delaying their premieres in order to focus on marketing their new shows better… well, I’m beginning to feel more than a bit slighted, here. How about you?

And sure, I suppose one of the reasons that NBC is doing this is to believe that they have an advantage over other networks. They’re biding their time, watching carefully to see which shows are succeeding and which are failing. And then, at the right time, the network will yank the suffering shows and replace them with the “ace” comedies that they have in their back pocket. I suppose that this is likely the reasoning that they would give, if confronted on the street about their decision to delay the return of these comedies.

But what the statement SAYS and what it IMPLIES are important, too. I’m not a writer for Community, but they are the ones that I feel the most pain for right now. Oh, sure, I do love the actors. We all know that I care deeply about each one of them and think that they are truly wonderful human beings (and Human Beings). But I feel the most pain for the crew and writers – for the team of people who work HARD to create this show, only to have it snubbed, not only by awards shows, but by their OWN NETWORK. To have a critic say that your show is worthless is one thing. It’s kind of a critic’s job to be… well, critical. To have the network that your show airs on dismiss you like you’re the middle, red-headed step-child... well, that’s a bit of a sting.

I have no contact with NBC executives. I know that business is business, and the company is attempting to pull themselves out of a hole (they’re really the joke of the major networks, aren’t they?) in any way and at any cost possible. Unfortunately, that cost, in this case, is the audience. You can have an amazingly successful company and TERRIBLE brand loyalty. It’s one of the first things they teach you in Advertising and Public Relations classes in college (I know, as I was a Communications minor). What NBC fails to remember is that their audience is astute. More than being astute, we REMEMBER. But it’s more than just remembering… it’s SHARING.

So here’s what NBC is going to face in the future: the network may win the 18-49 demo again. There may be a miracle, and they may be able to brag about a second win. The problem, however, lies in the fact that NBC’s audience – particularly its audience of Community fans – will remember how much they were slighted. They’ll remember the firing of Dan Harmon, how the network dismissed a television show with a cult-like following, etc. But here’s the kicker, NBC: they will TELL people about it.

Community’s audience may be relatively small in comparison to The Big Bang Theory. But if we lack numbers and Nielsen ratings, there is one thing we do not lack (a fact which NBC should already be aware of at this point, and equally scared of): a voice. The smallest and mightiest fanbases are the way that they are because people CHOOSE to speak out. Make no mistake, NBC executives, Community fans will not forget the way that you treated them. Nor will they politely or quietly sit on the sidelines in the aftermath.

If your goal, as an organization or company, is to create some sort of brand loyalty to your organization/company (which every company SHOULD strive for, as it ensures that your audience not only returns but also brings MORE audience members and/or customers), the first question should be: “How can we retain our audience and simultaneously build upon it?” FOX is a great example of this, to be honest. They built their new Tuesday night fall schedule around comedy – Raising Hope, Ben & Kate, New Girl, and The Mindy Project now complete the line-up. They recognized that there are quirky comedies that exist. And they noticed that audiences seemed to be drawn to these comedies. So, they (wisely) shuffled Glee and built in comedies that helped support their already existing success (New Girl).

So, what is the point of this diatribe? I am simply acknowledging the fact that Community has a loyal fanbase and a very vocal one. NBC choosing to dismiss the fans (and the fans of Whitney too) in order to try and score another 18-49 demo is a surefire way to ensure that – once Community is off the air, and even before – the fans drag NBC’s name through the mud. If Community goes down, the fans will go down too, I presume… but not before they kick, scream, and fight and let everyone know what NBC has done.

In the end, if business is business, what is the point of even being a fan of a television show? The point, dear friends, is that YOU still matter. We have no set return date for season four yet, so it’s more important than ever that you show support of the-little-comedy-that-could. You can do this in a few ways:

  • Get people hooked on the show. It’s a blessing and a curse, isn’t it? We, who are fans and caught up on the series are disappointed in the lack of new episodes. But the beauty is that there are so many people who haven’t seen this show yet! Take the extra time that you have to lend out DVDs and marathon the show. By the time Community DOES return, we might have some new viewers.
  • Be positive(ly) productive and encouraging. I’m not going to tell you not to be upset. It’s your right to be upset. I’m going to, however, advise you to be PRODUCTIVE in your anger or disappointment. Wallowing never saved anything, nor did angrily yelling at your laptop. If you love the show so much, DO something. Tweet the cast and writers positive encouragement. If you think you are disappointed, bitter, and upset, imagine how much more they must be. This is their livelihood for the moment. Thinking about others is a sign of maturity, to be honest. Let’s show NBC that we’re not juvenile delinquents who threaten to burn their building to the ground, eh?
  • Social media makes a difference. Find ways to connect with people via social media platforms. They make more of a difference than you know! Follow @violincatherine, as she is always encouraging and has great ideas for how to productively help the show. Join #CommunityCakeNight on Friday, October 19th at 8:30PM EST. Started by @TweetingKerry as just a way for all of us to eat cake together (virtually) one night per month, each month we host a different type of cake. For October 19th, buy (or make) a cake/dessert of your choice with an autumn theme, whether flavor or decoration, and then post a photo on Twitter with the hashtag #CommunityCakeNight (or just #cakenight). Celebrate with people who care about one of life’s most important things… dessert! ;)

So, Community fans, do not despair. We WILL be returning, but until then, it is our job to represent the fans of this show in the best way possible. That is your charge.



  1. Oh my goodness has no one else realised the 'save garett campaign' was a metaphor for saving the show?? I mean, has it really been saved?