When NBC released its midseason schedule late Monday and Community wasn't on it, fan panic and outrage quickly spread via Twitter. Now that the dust has settled, it's clear that Community — the quirky, innovative sitcom about a community college study group — hasn't been canceled. The series will, however, be put on an indefinite hiatus (as of Dec. 8) to make room in the schedule for the return of 30 Rock. What went into the benching of Community — a show with a small, but passionate viewership — and what are critics saying about the decision? A guide:
Why was Community put on hiatus?
It's show business. "Television, like any other commercial endeavor, is an exercise in generating revenue," says Jace Lacob at The Daily Beast. According to Ad Age, Community only pulls in $93,533 for a 30-second advertising spot — a far cry from fellow Thursday night sitcoms The Office ($178,840) and The Big Bang Theory ($198,348). The last new episode of Community earned a paltry 3.5 million viewers; Big Bang Theory scored 15.9 million. Community also ranks a pathetic 68th among all network programs in the key ratings demographic of viewers age 18-49 — the group most desirable to advertisers, according to Lynette Rice at Entertainment Weekly.
And fans are mad?
Oh yes. The Twitter outrage was swift and noisy, with fans quickly adopting the #savecommunity trending hashtag. Of course, it's worth noting, says James Poniewozik at TIME, that Twitter seems to have "a 10-to-1 greater ratio of Community fans than the actual TV viewership." Critics are miffed, too. Pulling Community while leaving the critically trashed sitcom Whitney on the air is inexcusable, says Alan Sepinwall at HitFix. The decision was plain "stupid," says Lacob.
What's the business argument for keeping Community?
Among the network's generally low-rated offerings, it at least inspires passion. Dumping a critical favorite like Community in order to tinker with the network's Thursday night lineup, says Lacob, "feels a bit like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic." The network is screwed across the board, says Tim Goodman at The Hollywood Reporter. At least Community is "a loss-leader that will engender good will." It would behoove the network in the long run to treat the show with respect and "toss the super loyal fans a bone."
And the argument against?
Community is a "guaranteed money-loser for NBC, no matter how many people on Twitter love it," tweets Scott Collins of the Los Angeles Times. Besides, says Kelly West at Cinema Blend, it's hard to see where on the schedule Community would fit. NBC's revised Thursday lineup is packed with 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation, The Office, and Up All Night. Other nights are crammed, too. Community may just be squeezed out.
NBC vows that Community will only be off the air briefly, says Bill Carter at The New York Times. Still, "this is not a great sign," says Poniewozik. The fact that NBC found the show dispensable in the short term bodes ill for its future. "Its chances of being renewed next year are painfully low," tweets Brain Stelter of The New York Times. Still, says Goodman, given NBC's track record of keeping low-rated fan favorites on the air for longer than expected (think: Chuck and Friday Night Lights), a renewal for Community may not be such a long shot.