NBC’s been on the receiving end of a lot of questions and criticism for their upcoming mid-season TV schedule; however, this time it’s not because of some new show that looks terrible. Instead, all of the flak is coming from what’s not there – it seems that Community didn’t quite make the grade this time around.
While Community has continually been ratings-challenged, this isn’t necessarily the end. On the flip side though, it’s never a good sign when a show is unexpectedly pulled from the schedule with no established return date.
Besides the general anger directed towards NBC, critics and fans have primarily reacted in one of two ways: rationalizing why NBC wouldn’t actually cancel such a beloved and creative show, especially since NBC’s ratings suck in general or declare doomsday and rally the troops for a save-the-show campaign.
While I really don’t want to see Community cancelled, I’m more willing to believe that NBC’s overall disarray will ultimately save the show. Well that, and the fact that one more season gets the show closer to the magic number needed for syndication. (Although so was Arrested Development.)
Not quite convinced, the seemingly intelligent people at AV Club and Vulture have also provided a number of rational reasons why everyone should just calm down. It’s too soon to whip out the felt goatee and embrace the evil timeline.
Plus, to be honest fan campaigns only work when there are other important factors involved – like money or sponsors. And as much as I love signing online petitions, voting in SOS polls, and mailing bags of marshmallows to network executives, I’ve become a bit of a realist. You can’t just cause a ruckus and hope that sheer will power will buy you an extra season or at the very least a couple of episodes.
If you look back on other shows that have been saved or more notably failed to be saved, a not so surprising pattern emerges. Networks need to have a good incentive besides boisterous fans in order to renew a show.
Jericho fans barrage CBS with nuts – they earn just seven more episodes to wrap up its season one cliffhanger.
Rabid Roswell fans similarly utilized a mailing campaign. Bottles of Tabasco sauce were sent to The WB, which kept the show alive for two seasons before the ax fell. However, another fan campaign and a deal between Twentieth Century FOX and UPN that included Buffy the Vampire Slayer extended the life of the show into an 18-episode third season.
Veronica Mars was another UPN show constantly on the verge of cancelation, but committed fans and the creation of The CW helped the show last three seasons. Low ratings however finally triumphed over a last ditch marshmallow-mailing effort by the fans and a willingness to reboot the series by jumping ahead by the show’s creator were not enough. Although rumors of a movie continue to circulate by both Rob Thomas and Kristen Bell.
The beloved series Friday Night Lights may have went out on top and when it was ready, but for a while it looked like it was going to join the cancelled too soon club. Low ratings combined with the Writer’s Strike caused NBC to question its future. Fan campaigns that included DVD purchases, football and light bulb mailings, and donations to charities were great and all but a deal with DirecTV ultimately gave the show three more well deserved seasons.
And on the completely opposite end of the spectrum is Family Guy, which was cancelled by FOX in 2002. No fan campaigns were ever launched. The show simply found an audience in syndication on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. Coupled with outstanding DVD sales, FOX resurrected the show in 2005 and it continues to be a staple on FOX’s Sunday Night Animation Domination block.
There’s plenty of other successful and failed examples out there too, like Angel and Chuck or One Tree Hill and Everwood. So while I am not trying to discourage Community fans, since I am one, I’m just trying to present a more realistic picture of how fan campaigns play into a show’s overall lifespan. Also it never hurts to let networks know that there are fans out there who want more.
So let’s enjoy the remaining few episodes Community has to air and then hope that whatever NBC has lined up for the mid-season fails terribly. But just in case, here’s the link to make your very own Community evil timeline goatee.
If you prefer to sign a petition, visit Save-Community.com. And here are more Community fan campaign ideas to run with if you’re interested in a more active approach. And lastly, if you need posters for whatever campaign idea you’ve concocted, check out these awesome non-NBC Community posters created by graphic artist Jon Defreest, two of which are pictured above.