Community has ended several times. First, in season 3, it completed a trilogy of excellent seasons of often genre-bending, frequently fourth-wall-breaking, occasionally tearjerking comedy on NBC. Then the network unceremoniously dumped the show’s creator and guru Dan Harmon, leaving the show’s rabid fan base with a superficial shell of a fourth season that retained the show’s stylistic inventiveness but lost nearly all of its humanity. It ended on the show’s worst episode to date, a sour end to a misguided attempt at brand extension from a network and production company that had clearly misunderstood what viewers actually wanted out of the show.
But then, miracles of miracles, the show returned again, and Dan Harmon with it. The fifth season was bumpy, especially because it had to deal with the loss of integral cast member Donald Glover and his lovable teary-eyed jock-turned-nerd Troy Barnes. But it was the show again. And then it ended, somewhat unremarkably.
Except it didn’t end, thanks to the #NewRules of television economics.
Watching last night’s two-part season premiere of Community was like greeting an old friend who just returned from a long trip around the world. He’s a little different than you remember, and he hasn’t quite readjusted to the rhythms of his old life, but he’s happy to be back and he’ll readjust soon enough.
Of course, Community didn’t go abroad last season – it went adrift. After Sony unceremoniously dumped the show’s idiosyncratic creator and showrunner Dan Harmon, replacing a singular voice with two journeymen Moses Port and David Guarascio, Community turned into an awkward hybrid of generic two-dimensional sitcom and desperate Community imitator. Aside from the dreadful premiere and finale, the show rarely fell above or below average, with a few episodes landing reasonably well but without the soaring heights of the show at its peak. Sony’s attempt to broaden the show’s audience failed – the show’s audience wasn’t ever going to expand no matter how many changes were imposed, and the loyal fans were unsatisfied with the subpar performance of the show in its unlikely fourth season. In a desperate attempt to win back the show’s jaded audience, Sony rehired Harmon in an apparent first for network television, hoping to stretch the show to syndication without alienating its core fanbase.