Cubs fans. Reform Party members. Lindsay Lohan apologists. Some bandwagons are just hard to be a part of. You instill all your faith, all your die-hard devotion to your team, your party, your problem drinker, all to keep getting let down time and time again. That's what it's like being part of the Community cult — a steadfast demographic of adoring television junkies who find within the series something majestic, and unlike anything else TV has ever given us. But with this piece of gold comes all the coal we have to mine through to actually get to it: Community's luck has hardly been great since its 2009 inception on NBC.
Times Have Been Tough...
The calm before the storm
Throughout the series' three-season run, Community has never earned especially impressive ratings. In light of this, the show's second- and third-season pickups were both somewhat surprising — the latter especially due to showrunner Dan Harmon's proclivity to veer dark and experimental with many of the Season 2 episodes. The writing staff crafted particularly "inaccessible" stories (a notable example being "Critical Film Studies"), which Harmon has historically cited as a source of contention between he and the network.
"We were very lucky to be at a network that was sort of in flames the whole time," Harmon recently told IFC, referring specifically to the aforementioned episode. "It was like Beirut wasn’t a nice place to live in the '80s, but there was a lot of ammunition lying around, and people got to do some stuff they had always been dreaming of doing."
Things get ugly
But while Community fans had always lived with the fear that their favorite show might be given the boot, the third season brought an entirely new degree of palpable dread. Season 3 kicked off with "Biology 101", one of the most poorly received episodes in the show's history, from the fans' point of view. It was a slow hike up to the season's renewal of fans' faith, with the fourth aired episode, "Remedial Chaos Theory" that finally did it (and then some — it stands as one of the best achievements the show has landed to date). But just when the fan base had reinstituted itself as diehard Human Beings, we were treated to the announcement that Community would be put on hiatus.
The show was conspicuously left off of NBC's lineup for the upcoming Spring 2012 season, evoking helplessness in those who looked forward to it desperately week after week. After the winter closeout of "Regional Holiday Music," fans were left with a gaping hole of uncertainty: will the show come back, and when? How could they do this to our favorite program?
A brief ray of hope
And then, something amazing happened: This. And this. And so many other explosions of support from fans, including a Twitter wave of #sixseasonsandamovie hashtags and black goateed pictures. And eventually, our efforts paid off. Our voices brought attention to the network that Community needed and deserved a place on television, and the show was returned to its Thursday night spot on NBC.
A much less brief destruction of aforementioned hope
But that wasn't the end of the heartbreaks. Yes, the remainder of the third season of Community was fantastic, right up to the final shot in the sensational finale. Yes, the series was renewed for a fourth season. But escalating public feuds between Dan Harmon and Chevy Chase led fans to wonder whether or not Pierce Hawthorne would be returning to Greendale for a fourth season. And then, an even more shocking and devastating bit of news: it was announced that Harmon would not be coming back with his show — Community's beloved creator was removed from his showrunner position and replaced with new writers, Moses Port and David Guarascio.
But there's more, for those still insistent that the show might maintain its magic even in the absence of Harmon: Community's fourth season would consist only of thirteen episodes, and (here's the kicker) would be shoved into the loathsome Friday night spot. And now, the series' premiere, originally set for October 19, has been delayed indefinitely. It's been a tough year for us, Human Beings.
...And We Wouldn't Have It Any Other Way
In short, it ain't easy loving Community. Hitching your wagon to a show whose production is introduced to a new setback just about every month. But if any true devotee of the NBC sitcom were to answer you honestly, odds are he or she would tell you that this history of hardships — the low ratings and small audiences, the near-cancellations, the behind-the-scenes disagreements — are what fuel the fandom. It's not that we've stayed involved despite the problems, they've actually forged a tighter bond between us and the show.
The absence of Community back in the beginning of 2012 is was brought fans together nationwide. They united via social media, created Internet phenomena, grew facial hair, and rallied to bring the great program back to life. Because of Community's turmoils, its fan base has become, itself, a community. A group of people banding together for a like cause, bonding over similar interests, and sharing a unique language: quips of "Cool, cool, cool," and "You Britta'd it," and "Monkey gas."
We might be at the apex of yet another pitfall, but we'll see it through. If Community finds difficulty getting back on air, its fans will help it earn a spot. Once it does return, we'll all be there watching eagerly, whatever forces are planted backstage. No amount hiatuses or production problems will deter us. We love our show, we love loving our show, we love our fellow fans, and we love the experiences, onscreen and off, that Community has brought us.
[Photo Credit: NBC(2)]