Yahoo, Community, and the Cancelled TV Show
The popular fan mantra #sixseasonsandamovie took an improbable step closer to reality as Yahoo announced it is picking up Community for another season. An earlier post focused on the unlikelihood that such a pickup could happen and quite frankly, given who picked it up, I can’t say any of that was unmerited at the time. The popular opinion was that Hulu was Community’s best bet and hope began to dwindle once that fizzled out last week.
There was never any question that Community had value to somebody. Few shows on TV have half as good a fan base. That value translates best into buzz appeal, which is likely Yahoo’s primary reason for picking the show up. Yahoo is a bit of a dated website to begin with before you consider that it actually does have original programming. Community will bring significant attention to that line-up when it returns next year.
Buzz is also the big reason why Netflix should never have been considered a season contender to pickup Community in the first place. Netflix didn’t need the exposure. They’ve done that already with Arrested Development and to a lesser extent, The Killing. A show that aired on network TV for five years comes with a pretty hefty price tag that Yahoo can justify by the exposure alone. Even before we consider that Netflix has actually been referenced in multiple Community episodes, it’s fairly safe to say the average Community fan knew what Netflix was and probably had access to it in some form. They probably also know what Yahoo is, but the original programming angle is new territory for many.
29% of the new shows that premiered on network TV in the fall of 2013 were cancelled, a number that’s largely consistent with previous years. Most of those were rightfully cancelled though critical hits like Enlisted and The Trophy Wife are mourned. Cable shows fare a bit better, but in most cases, the reaper is kept at bay because those networks can afford a little more time to see if a show can be successful.
So what can we learn about Community’s revival? Is this lightning in a bottle or a shift in the TV dynamic. The latter is tempting, but it’s still the former.
This worked because Community has a massive cult following that’s been fostered in this sort of environment for years and a network looking for a shiny show to get some attention. Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon all could’ve picked it up, but they didn’t because quality alone isn’t a reason to bring something back from the dead. If that were true, 2013 wouldn’t have been the year that Enlightened and Bunheads left before their time. Television can still host Shakespearian tragedies, there’s just more hope now than ever before.
But now in theory, Yahoo is out of the mix for whatever show gets a big fan campaign next year. There’s still Hulu and Amazon who haven’t hosted a refugee just yet. Will they? Maybe, but if they do it’ll be for economic reasons and not for quality purposes.
Over the years of covering TV ratings, a common reaction I’d hear when people would respond to a grim prediction I’d made was, “but it’s so good.” There was a time where that really didn’t matter and it’s good that we’ve moved toward a direction where now that sort of matters. Ratings still influence cancellations but the landscape has evolved to the point where shows like Community can survive to the natural conclusions that fans desire.
Is that a good thing? Fundamentally, yes. I think people were starting to come around to the idea that Greendale wasn’t going to be saved this time and we won’t know if it really should’ve until the new season comes on next year. I’m excited to find out.