By Andrew Hendricks
Community is back! Six seasons and a movie is no longer just an ironic, meta hashtag by fans of the show, but at least partly, reality. The Sony-owned show that aired four seasons on NBC with meager ratings but a fanatic audience has officially been renewed by Yahoo following its tragic cancellation.
In a recent tv.yahoo post Yahoo gave concrete confirmation that Community will be revived for certain, and will be viewable on their fledgling online streaming service, Yahoo Screen. “We can't promise a Community movie,” the statement began, “but thanks to one Human Being-loving company (ahem, that's Yahoo), Community will be getting revived for a sixth season.”
Joking about no Community longer being a “cable” television show, creator and showrunner Dan Harmon said in an interview: “I look forward to bringing our beloved NBC sitcom to a larger audience by moving it online. I vow to dominate our new competition. Rest easy, Big Bang Theory. Look out, Bang Bus!”
It was no coincidence Yahoo was hungrier than their streaming competitors to pick up the Community, with it's paltry but vocal audience. It was type of audience Yahoo was seeking. For cable television, eyeballs are all that matter, but as new-media innovators are reminding us daily, online, all users are not equal in the eyes of advertisers. Hulu expressed significant interest in acquiring Community, however Yahoo was willing to keep the show's $2 million per episode budget, while Hulu was not.
So Yahoo saved Community—but what exactly is Yahoo Screen? Well, a look at their home page
might not give you a clear picture. A mishmash of associated content is linked to the left (Commedy Central, Buzzfeed, SNL) alongside categories including Music, Weather Sports, Live, and for some reason “Cute and inspiring” which turns out to be another random assortment of videos that at a glance appear to be 50/50 “how-to” and cat videos.
Just like Netflix is rolling out their own successful content with Orange is the New Black as well as purchasing and reviving dead content like Arrested Development. Yahoo is hoping they have can mimic that success while still having the best of all worlds with Screen's multiple functions. Unfortunately, at least for now, they have wound up with a product that looks somewhat muddled and confused. To really compete with HBO Go, Netflix, and Hulu, it seems like Yahoo has a long way to go to get people to know their service even exists, let alone use it.
Yahoo Screen began in 2006 as Yahoo Video, a streaming service similar to the YouTube model, wherein users could upload their own videos. As you have probably never heard of Yahoo Video, you can probably guess that it was not all that popular of a service. In 2010, Yahoo removed the uploading feature of Yahoo Video, and began development on a number of changes that would become Yahoo Screen the next year. Yahoo began producing their own original content, such as Burning Love which was met with enough popularity that the E! Network picked it up for syndication in 2013.
Despite NBC's willingness to dump Community after countless threats, its renewal is just one more end link] example of fans saving Community by their internet fervor. For an entire season of the show's run, NBC replaced Dan Harmon as show-runner in an attempt to boost ratings. Fans were apoplectic to say the least, and Harmon began his own podcast based on the notoriety, Harmontown. Harmon was brought back, and the overwhelming consensus of fans was an increase in quality, and a return to the unique sense of slapstick and meta comedy. Having Community without Dan Harmon is like having Breaking Bad without Vince Gilligan.
Harmon said in a recent Comic Con interview that the entire cast was on board: Joel Mchale, Dani Pudi, Jim Rashe, Yvette Brown, Allison Brie, Gillian Jacobs—everyone from the end of season five. Show-watchers will remember that Donald Glover's character, Troy, made an impromptu exit from the show (permanently?).
Of Glover's involvement, Harmon said, ““I told Yahoo to do everything they could do to get him back for as much as we can get him,” and that he and Glover were having regular communication on the subject and exchanging voicemails.
Whether Troy and Abed will every reunite, we will have to wait and see. Simply knowing Community will have a chance to run its full story arc is still more than most fans could have hoped for. Will Yahoo Screen be a success? Only time will tell—given their track record of innovation, they have a steep hill to climb to break into a market with such fierce competition. By pleasing a rabid internet fan base in their choice to battle it out for (and win) Community, Yahoo has at least shown that they want to try.