Warning: contains spoilers for Community season 6.
For the first time since 2009, Community just got through a season without the threat of cancellation looming over it at any given moment. NBC finally pulled the plug on Dan Harmon’s weird and wonderful series in 2014 after five seasons, but like Arrested Development before it and The Mindy Project since, it got another season by moving online, to the Yahoo! Screen streaming service.
Given how Harmon was fired in 2012, following a harried production schedule on season three and a very public dispute with Chevy Chase over filming, it seems kind of impossible that the show ever got to the six seasons for which the fans campaigned ceaselessly. #SixSeasonsAndAMovie became the rallying cry for Greendale’s Human Beings and the lifespan of the show has now doubled since that seemingly disastrous firing, thanks to the unprecedented decision to rehire Harmon for season five.
At the end of the beginning of the Yahoo! Screen era of Community, we Greendale Human Beings may be divided on whether we’d like the story of the show to be “six seasons and a movie” or “six seasons and then some more seasons.” This week’s finale, “Emotional Consequences Of Broadcast Television“ brings a definitive end to the “six seasons” era, but what’s next?
Six seasons and another season
“I think everyone should imagine their own personal version of season seven and not share it with anyone and then maybe it’ll come true.”
Although streaming services don’t tend to release audience figures for their original programming, Yahoo seems pretty happy with how season six has been received. Harmon’s closing narration in “Emotional Consequences“ suggests that it showed them how “millions of people were watching all along” and that would seem like enough for Yahoo to want more episodes in the future.
Furthermore, the case for the series to continue with new seasons every year has been made over the last 12 weeks, by the season itself. The run has had its ups and downs, but at its worst, it’s never knowingly un-Community, and at its best, we’ve had instant classics like “Queer Theory & Advanced Waxing“ and “Wedding Videography.”
It’s not the most consistent run of episodes in the show’s history, (season two is still the unchallenged golden age of the show) but it’s in surprisingly rude health, given its longevity and some unexpected changes to the regular cast.
At the top of this season, the show once again had the task of adapting to losing regulars, with original cast member Yvette Nicole Brown leaving the regular cast for personal reasons and season five mainstays John Oliver and Jonathan Banks having committed to Last Week Tonight and Better Call Saul respectively.
The double bill season premiere weathered this with much the same panache as last year’s more prolonged farewell to Chevy Chase and Donald Glover, and also introduced a pair of new characters in the form of Paget Brewster’s socially awkward administrator Frankie and Keith David’s washed-up inventor Elroy.
As Frankie puts it in the finale, they’re humble outsiders who come in and nail it, and by episode 12, it’s almost as if they’ve been a part of the show since the start. While it’s hard to forget that three of the original regulars from the show are no longer present, it’s easy to adapt to the new status quo.
The big question mark over any seventh season, at least if it were to happen within the next year, would be the availability of the remaining original stars, with the completion of six seasons, the cast have all been released from their original contracts.
Gillian Jacobs (Britta) is part of the cast of Judd Apatow’s Netflix original series Love, which has been picked up for two seasons starting next year, and Ken Jeong is headlining his own sitcom Dr. Ken starting on ABC later this year.
Danny Pudi’s NBC pilot Strange Calls didn’t get picked up and Alison Brie apparently isn’t attached to anything since the end of Mad Men and now Community, but it’s hard to imagine either of them struggling to find work. Certainly Harmon doesn’t seem to think so, because it’s Abed and Annie who are effectively written out of the show by the end of season six.
Joel McHale has been vocal about his commitment to Community in whatever shape Harmon chooses- he was instrumental in getting NBC to re-hire the showrunner in the fifth season- and in an appearance on Conan to promote the finale this week, said that while he would love to do another season, he thinks they’re doing a movie next.
The show has proven that it can evolve to circumstances in which characters come and go, but if it were to lose Britta or Chang and bring in more new characters to replace them, a seventh season of Community might start to resemble Theseus’ paradox or, as sitcom fans know it, “Trigger’s brush.” Is a show that has replaced all of its original components still the same show?
Aside from cast availability, the finale stubbed out the most viable “evergreen” idea for the show to continue from here. Jeff suggests that the gang should become teachers at Greendale, with new characters coming in through their classes. This was the basis of the ninth and final season of Scrubs, which brought in a new main cast with cameos from the regulars after season eight’s “My Finale.”
But season nine is nobody’s favorite season of Scrubs, so whether that parallel is intentional or not, it’s doubtful that anyone is teeing up a seventh season.
Six seasons and a movie
“If the movie has to be made out of clay and duct tape in my basement, then that’s how the movie will be made, because there has to be closure. The title of the book about the show is not Community, An Interesting Journey Into A Show No One Ever Watched. The title of the book is obviously going to be, Six Seasons And A Movie. So it’s already over.”
This 2014 interview with Hitfix wasn’t Harmon’s last word on the movie, but it’s the one that most clearly demonstrates his intent. Plus, there was the great big “#AndAMovie” caption at the close of what seems like a pretty conclusive end to Community as we know it. Certainly, tweets by the cast and crew in the last 24 hours seem to be more in favor of the movie coming next.
There has also been talk of what we could expect from a movie and even a wishlist of film directors who have previous worked on the show. Jay Chandrekesar, (Super Troopers) Bobcat Goldthwait (World’s Greatest Dad) and Rob Schrab (the upcoming Lego Movie Sequel) have all directed episodes of the last season, but the show also boasts Captain America directors Joe and Anthony Russo and Fast & Furious director Justin Lin amongst its previous coterie of talents behind the camera.
Lin will likely be occupied with the breakneck schedule of next summer’s Star Trek Beyond until mid-2016 at least and the Russos are apparently fully booked with back-to-back Marvel movies- Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War Parts 1 & 2 are all pencilled in between now and 2018. It may be that a Community movie can wait a few years in order to bag its ideal director(s), rather than coming as early as we’d expect for another season.
You can reasonably expect that the movie would be just as meta as the series, but with a different set of storytelling rules to lampoon. At the end of season six, aspiring filmmaker Abed is bound for Hollywood to work as a production assistant on a Fox show, so just as the show was about TV in a roundabout way, the movie could well be about making a movie.
Harmon has admitted in interviews that while he started out empathising with Jeff the most, basing the show on his own experience of community college, he now identifies more with Abed. With that in mind, maybe Abed will pitch a movie about friends at community college and then getting the gang back together from there to make it a reality. Of course, now that I’ve told you, that probably won’t happen.
It has previously been suggested that we’d get a movie about rescuing Donald Glover’s Troy, last seen sailing away with LeVar Burton mid-way through season five, but mentioned in a sight gag an episode later when a news broadcast mentions that Burton and his “non-celebrity companion” have been kidnapped by pirates.
The return of Glover would be a hugely fan-pleasing turn and it’s probably easier to engineer this kind of thing for a movie than for a full season. Schedules permitting, there’s no reason why we couldn’t see all of the show’s regulars, past and present, make an appearance in the movie (except that Chevy Chase and Jonathan Banks’ characters have both been apparently killed off.)
Serenity would be the obvious unlikely example of a movie being based on a TV show, but Firefly was cancelled well before its time and Community needn’t necessarily have a big screen outing to fulfil the “And A Movie” promise, given the different methods of distribution that exist a decade later. It could well be a feature that’s distributed on VOD, or even through Yahoo! Screen if that’s what works out best, especially as Sony Pictures isn’t exactly getting the best press for handling its own IP of late.
With Serenity as the best case scenario, we can also look to what wound up happening with Arrested Development as an example of how the best laid plans of a movie spinoff can wind up going back to the original format. Mitchell Hurwitz (“Koogler!”) planned a movie after the show was cancelled by Fox in 2006, but when the Bluth family eventually returned, it was for another season of 15 episodes after all.
It’s hard to see Harmon coming back around to making more episodes after season six was so elegantly and definitively tied up, but if we don’t get a movie, what else is there?
Six seasons and… that’s your lot.
“TV defeats its own purpose when it’s pushing an agenda, or trying to defeat other TV, or being proud or ashamed of itself for existing. It’s TV. It’s comfort. It’s a friend you know so well and for so long you just let it be with you. And it needs to be okay for it to have a bad day, or phone in a day. And it needs to be OK to get on a boat with LeVar Burton one day and never come back.”
Abed delivers this monologue towards the end of the finale. The episode sometimes feels like pre-emptive bereavement counselling for the fans, who are clearly in love with the show. While we don’t think the #AndAMovie thing is baiting us unfairly, it could also be preparing us for these characters to never come back, except in rewatching the series for comfort.
If it’s really all over, I think we should be OK with “Emotional Consequences Of Broadcast Television” being the end. While it could be a “My Finale” or a “Development Arrested,” (the open-ended finale of AD’s original run) it could as easily be the very last time we see these characters. It’s almost as if an uncertain future is in the bones of this show, even when it’s seemingly brought to a close.
We don’t doubt that anyone involved would turn down the chance to make a movie, but we think the book is well and truly closed on another season of the show in its current form. We wouldn’t rule out Abed’s “30 Rock meets IT Crowd meets… me” spinoff about his work life in Hollywood, but that doesn’t seem any more likely than any of the other jokey spinoffs touted in season six (The Butcher And The Baker, Hard Drive And Wing Man and The Guy At Jeff’s Gym amongst them.)
When that finale has time to settle, even if the long-promised movie never manifests for some reason or another, it will still be clear that Community’s long and unlikely life as a series has ended on a hugely satisfying note. If you don’t mind your personal version not happening, feel free to cut away to what you want next in the comments section.