'Community': Loyal Fan Base Gooses Ratings for NBC's Cult Favorite

Yvette Nicole Brown Gillian Jacobs Alison Brie Jim Rash Community 2011
NBC/ Trae Patton

The NBC comedy hit season highs in its first episode back after three months off the air.

Community came roaring back Thursday night, renewing viewers' hopes that a future at Greendale is possible.

After three months off the air, the cultish ensemble returned to a season high, garnering a 2.2 rating with the adults 18-49 demographic (and 4.9 million viewers overall). Far more impressive was its younger viewer tune-in. Among the coveted 18-34 demo, last night's Community was the top program across the big four broadcast networks -- even topping American Idol in its half-hour.

By comparison, Community's previous episode drew a disappointing 3.6 million viewers and a 1.5 rating, hardly "must see TV" figures for a network that once dominated the time period. Sports excluded, the episode posted NBC's best numbers in the time period since Jan. 27, 2011.

"All right, feeding the cat and WHAT THE HELL MY EYEBALLS DON'T EVEN RECOGNIZE THESE NUMBERS. Are these Z's?" creator Dan Harmon tweeted Friday morning. 

The news comes after weeks of social media and other digital campaigning for the show. Community returned a week early with a series of animiated shorts, Abed's Master Key, on NBC.com and Hulu, news announced during the cast's appearance for the third consecutive year at PaleyFest. A week earlier, a new trailer was launched on series star Joel McHale's E! series, The Soup.

The twitterverse took notice. During the episode, Community assumed four of the 10 top trending topics worldwide, including "Inspector Spacetime," "Troy and Abed" and "Annie's Boobs," according to Sony TV, the studio behind the series. When NBC announced the return of Community in February, it was met with sighs of relief.

In November, NBC opted not to include the comedy on its midseason schedule, instead shifting 30 Rock to the 8 p.m. slot and moving freshman series Up All Night from Tuesdays to Thursdays. That prompted some confusion as to whether the series had been canceled for good, though sources reassured at the time that it was not.

Even NBC entertainment chief Bob Greenblatt acknowledged the faction of passionate Community followers earlier this year saying, "the loyal fans of Community will be pleased with its return to its home on Thursdays at 8:00 p.m.”