Characters from the show Community sitting at a table

‘Community’ Finally Has the Netflix Spotlight It Deserves

Enduring trials and tribulations while on the air, creator Dan Harmon's show has finally garnered some long overdue popularity.
June 21, 2020
8 mins read

Despite the popular sitcom’s trending hashtag, #sixseasonsandamovie, “Community” fans may not see the show’s glorious debut on the big screen; however, the show still managed to salvage a sixth season. Regardless of its low ratings, the network’s back-and-forth on cancellation and the overwhelming odds stacked against the comedy series, it managed to survive thanks to the support of the show’s niche, but dedicated fanbase. It may not be a movie, but as of April 1, “Community” obtained the Netflix spotlight it so rightfully deserves.

Dan Harmon, co-creator of “Rick and Morty,” created “Community.” The show follows Jeff Winger (Joel McHale), an ex-lawyer who forms a study group with an unlikely bunch of classmates from his community college. The show is (to some degree) based on Harmon’s own individual experiences at community college. The writers often create a more meta and satirical plot that references other sitcoms and pieces of pop culture throughout history, using the character Abed’s (Danny Pudi) significant interest in television and movies. The writers use the community college setting mostly as a breeding ground for misadventures and hilarity. The cast might be recognizable from other popular television shows such as McHale from “The Soup,” Alison Brie from “Mad Men” and Netflix original “GLOW,” Ken Jeong from “The Hangover” film series and Donald Glover from being Donald Glover (producer, director, actor, singer-songwriter, artist, etc.). The star ensemble goes further with hilarious performances out of Jim Rash, Chevy Chase, Gillian Jacobs, Pudi and Yvette Nicole Brown.

The sitcom is critically acclaimed and arguably one of the funniest and most innovative comedy series of all time. The show can surprise audiences with each episode exceeding expectations. One episode features a zombie outbreak during a Halloween party while another episode depicts a paintball free-for-all with every student viciously battling for a secret prize. So when “Community” wants to make an episode about a heartfelt game of the-floor-is-lava? They did it. Episodes are unpredictable and can range from sweet to absurd. Not only can an episode defy audience expectations, but it can also show heart, with plenty of moving moments to go around. The previously mentioned floor-is-lava episode comes to mind.

With such heavy praise, it begs the question: Why did “Community” only recently become popular? Why didn’t the show gain the traction that “The Office” gradually did? For one, the series always battled low ratings. Airing on NBC, the show had some competition with shows like the returning30 Rock” in the 2011-2012 mid-season, inevitably hurting the already struggling sitcom. Even if the show was not working with mainstream audiences, creative differences between Harmon and Sony executives would still incite more issues over the show’s fate. Harmon needed a bigger budget, more time, and again, a bigger budget. Despite Harmon wanting quality in the show’s execution, a disagreement between Harmon and Sony executives resulted in Harmon’s firing, with NBC still keeping  “Community” alive. But as an anonymous writer for The Hollywood Reporter described, it was “at the expense of the show itself.”

Unfortunately for fans, Harmon’s absence was the first in a long line of dominos. Following Harmon, Anthony and Joe Russo, the directors of “Avengers: Endgame,” left the show behind; the Russo brothers had directed some of the most popular episodes of “Community” and had a major role in the show’s earlier success. During the fifth season, Glover would walk away to pursue his music career under the alias Childish Gambino. Chase, who was known to voice his displeasure with the show’s direction, also left. One after another, fan favorites disappeared, and it would look as though the life of the show was draining away. Even Harmon’s return after the fourth season would not keep ratings high enough. NBC inevitably canceled the show after an underwhelming fifth season and, just like that, the show was over.

But wait! If the show was canceled by NBC after its fifth season, who brought back “Community” for a sixth? Yahoo! Screen, if you can believe it, saved the cult classic from extinction. While the sixth season is surprisingly good and provides a fitting end to the series as a whole, Yahoo! lost an estimated $42 million and blamed “Community” for failing to attract long-term advertisers. Despite Yahoo’s overwhelming expectations for the show, “Community” made a lasting impression for fans. Even so, many are still waiting for #sixseasonsandamovie. Will Harmon and the others pull through? Well, maybe.

The possibility of a “Community” feature film was always slim and quite often joked about. While Harmon always liked the idea and even hinted at developing a potential story or two for it, no new developments have leaked. Most of the ensemble cast seems extremely on board with the idea though. McHale publicly addressed his thoughts in an ET interview where he said he’d do the movie “in a New York minute” while Brie hinted at a possible “Community” movie-related phone call in a Reddit post four months ago. As of now, it’s too early to raise hope, especially given the possibility that a “Community” movie may be without fan-favorite Glover, considering the cost it would take for him to sign on, presuming he would even agree to it.

With the show’s highs and lows, budgetary restrictions, hype and the infamous Yahoo! incident, “Community” has earned a chance at a proper home. When April 1 came around many fans thought of the show’s Netflix launch as a cruel prank, but the release is real and the show will finally see the rise in popularity it needs. “Community” is perfect for binge-watching and with Netflix’s support, it will continue to gain more and more of a following. The revival of such a popular cult classic could stir more speculation for a “Community” movie, which may tempt or even pressure producers into caving. If production companies see the money in it, somebody is going to finance it, which might be all a fan can hope for now. Until then, fans can relive the show’s classic episodes and appreciate the show’s long-awaited time in the spotlight.

James C. Loftis, University of North Texas

Writer Profile

James C. Loftis

University of North Texas
Media Arts

Hello, my name is James Loftis! I am a writer/screenwriter, podcast producer (in the works), and student at the University of North Texas!

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