So, the news came down last week from on high at NBC that Community, the sitcom created by Dan Harmon, would be placed on hiatus. Reason? Ratings, folks. The numbers aren't great, for sure, but then again this is network TV we're talking about and things like online viewership don't really mean jack to television executives.
Community is a show that, from the first episode on, I fell in love with. This was a show, much like Arrested Development, that NEEDED to be seen. This is a prime example of a show that caters to an demographic full of people that not only relish great writing (believe me the writing is fantastic) but also worship at the altar of pop-culture. I, for one, tend to view things through a lens of said fandom and this show fits me like a glove.
There really aren't many shows on television, let alone one of the major networks, that can morph from being a play on a Dungeons and Dragons game one week to a homage to My Dinner with Andre. It was an oasis from the typical multi-camera sitcom setups with laugh tracks that STILL dominate situational comedies after all these years. The episodes can be dense at times lending to their replay value but also to the fact the Harmon and crew aren't just churning out crap. They aren't just sticking to the conventional tropes of the genre and just making what is deemed "acceptable" by most television audiences. The same plotlines and same shtick has been so many times in so many different forms over the years that Community, like Arrested Development, is a true breath of fresh air.
A show such as Whitney on the same night on the same network manages to pull in more viewers consistently but is the show better? Not at all. Critics have panned the show for it's unoriginality and, frankly, considering just how funny Whitney Cummings can be in her standup work it's a shame that the show has turned into the formulaic slog that it is now. CBS's Big Bang Theory is a ratings juggernaut compared to Harmon's little sitcom that could and, for it's faults, can be a very entertaining show. All that said it still has, for all the science jokes and pandering nerd humor, is still very VERY formulaic in it's delivery. It is, essentially, the sitcom we've known for decades now just dressed up differently.
That's the problem. We EXPECT things to not change with television. Eric Eisenberg of Cinemablend pointed out, rather eloquently, that perhaps this is just a product of the general attitude of the average television viewer. We don't want to be hit with densely layered comedies that require us to really think, at times, to appreciate just how good it is, but rather something that is what we're used to, something safe. Reality shows are a great example of this. WHY are there so many shows related to finding the next big pop star? Or dancer? What the hell?
Network television NEEDS a show like this to stay relevant. Another damned reality show where the depths of society are searched for talent, or another generic sitcom where the actors are pretty much plug-and-play isn't what's needed. The microcosm of Greendale Community College is an amazing playground for the very talented writers of the show to work within. The characters are a vast array of archetypes we know, but they are not the carboard cutouts we assume we're going to get. We have a boisterous hippie (Britta), curmudgeon (Pierce), douchebag (Jeff), moral compass (Shirley), overachiever (Annie), underachiever (Troy), and the narrator (Abed). We've all seen these types before in sitcoms but few have ever been this well written or well played. The cast is stellar and paired with a writing team that knocks it out of the park way more than they ever lay an egg you've got the ingredients for true "Must See" TV on Thursday nights.
Seriously if you HAVE not experienced the magnificence of Magnitude. To quote fellow ZG contributor, Sam Hurt, "should..have..sent..a poet..!"
Seriously. Make sure this show comes back. We need more shows like this. Give me a REASON to believe there is still good left in humanity DAMN YOU NBC.