When NBC released its midseason schedule last week, Community fans were shocked to see that the show was nowhere to be found. The network later soothed fans’ fears of cancelation by confirming that the series would return at a later date.
Yvette Nicole Brown, who plays the bible-thumping Shirley on the comedy, discovered the news while she was shopping and noticed that “Twitter had exploded,” as she described it to The Hollywood Reporter. And despite the way she discovered it, Brown says she didn’t go straight to “doomsday” scenarios as some did that day.
“I was more struck by how much the fans loved us. I never went to ‘Wow, what does this mean?’ It was just ‘Wow, people really love this show.’ It’s a shame they don’t have Nielsen boxes,” Brown laughs.
Meanwhile, newly promoted series regular, Jim Rash, who plays Greendale’s kooky Dean Pelton, describes the reaction on-set, “I think coming in to the news that day definitely takes the wind out of your sails – certainly for that day of work,” he tells THR.
“But I think at the same time,” he continues. “It was met with a sense of optimism of what was relayed to us at the time. We shot all last week and go back to work after the holiday and continue to shoot our order with the faith that we’re returning and take NBC for their word.”
“They said ‘This is what we did with Parks and Rec and we’ve done it before’ and that kind of stuff,” Rash adds.
The network’s benching of Community wasn’t a total surprise as the cast and crew knew 30 Rock would inevitably return to NBC’s Thursday night comedy block.
“[We] knew we had five shows for four slots,” Brown points out. “So, at some point someone was going to have to step to the side and let them back on Thursday nights. NBC is a business. They have to make business decisions. This goes beyond what executives there feel about the show. The executives there love our show.”
“One of the executives came to our table read two days later with a ‘Save Community’ t-shirt that they made themselves with a sharpie and a Hanes shirt,” she says. “This is someone who’s kind of in the process with us and knows that it’s not ideal that we’re not on the air.”
Community has never been a ratings giant for the network, but what it did bring to the 8 p.m. slot was a small hardcore group of viewers who it could depend on coming back every week. Until now, the network had nothing else it could risk placing in that time slot. It also didn’t hurt that Community created some goodwill among TV critics at the same time.
But with the news that Community airings would be put on hold once 30 Rock returns on Jan. 12, there’s also some frustration involved. Rash says that he totally understands the business needs of the TV industry, but he feels the way it measures a show’s success seems archaic.
“I don’t pretend to understand how Nielsen works,” Rash says. “But, I don’t feel weird in feeling that there’s something antiquated about the style of knowing who and how someone is watching and at what time – from DVR and Hulu and all the availabilities of places to watch. Technology is advancing every day. It just feels like the ways of tracking TV needs to change.”
“I know it comes down to the ad dollars,” he goes on to say. “I understand the business side of it. I just feel [it’s wrong] to lose so many great shows in the history of television, because of not trying to figure out other avenues for revenue and for tracking people.”
At the same time, many have wondered what this move means for Community’s Season 4 renewal. Brown says that she isn’t worried about that quite yet as the show has typically had to wait until April or May for NBC to make a decision on another season.
“What’s great is that we do get to finish the season,” Brown says. “If they had cut back our order, I would say that may be the nail in the coffin. But, we get to finish. So, there’s always a chance we’ll come back next year.”
Email: Jethro.Nededog@thr.com; Twitter: @TheRealJethro