When Community‘s third season came to a close, disappointment was widespread. The show was at the time hailed as one of the last remaining great sitcoms, capable of capturing a crazily devoted (if not particularly sizable) following. That being said, the writing was on the wall: there was behind-the-scenes drama brewing in the form of bickering between creator Dan Harmon and perpetual asshole Chevy Chase, cast members were starting to pop up in rumors for other projects, and the third season did a good enough job of wrapping things up that it truly did come across as the end. It seemed as though the show was destined to go out relatively on its own terms as yet another classic show that simply couldn’t find a broader audience.
Then came NBC’s shocking decision: they would renew Community for a fourth season, while dropping Harmon as showrunner and bringing in a duo (Moses Port and David Guarascio) of relatively unknown writers to helm the revived project. This new team did its best to match the tone of the first three seasons, but with much of the original staff gone and Harmon’s creative touch lost, the entire season just felt “off”. Not helping matters at all, Chase would decide to quit the show prior to the end of filming, leaving a couple of episodes at the end where his character is simply shrugged off as being missing. Once the internet’s favorite sitcom and a frequent conversation topic, the buzz for Community had been irreparably damaged.
NBC, realizing they had screwed up, decided to go out on a limb and renew the struggling show for a fifth season while also signing on Harmon to return as the showrunner. However, the damage had been done. Harmon and his reassembled group struggled to recapture the original charm of the show, and new dilemmas arose: they would not only have to replace Chase’s character, but now Donald Glover would be departing (amicably) after five episodes to focus on his rapping career as Childish Gambino. Jonathan Banks (Better Call Saul) was brought in to replace Chase’s character and performed phenomenally as expected, but would have to leave at the end of the season to begin filming on his new show. Not even the replacements would stick around. The show seemed done.
Nonetheless, the show found a home for its sixth season on Yahoo!, hours before the cast’s contracts were set to lapse. Paget Brewster (Criminal Minds) and Keith David were brought in to soften the blow of the now three original cast members to depart (Yvette Nicole Brown would depart shortly before filming began). The show soldiered on, and remained as consistent in quality as one could possibly expect. However, with so many upheavals in cast and crew as well as a lackluster roll-out on Yahoo! Screen, the show had completely lost all hype. Once a force to be reckoned with on social media, the show was now lucky to trend on Twitter at all.
So now that the show is almost certainly over (barring only a potential movie), where does it land in the lexicon of great sitcoms? Does it land there at all? It’s a complicated issue to consider. Community is perhaps the best show to ever have to experience the level of upheaval and controversy it did. The show has hit syndication on local stations and Comedy Central and figures to remain there for at least a few years, making it at the very least a profitable entity. It never received much award buzz, but that doesn’t necessarily mean much. The biggest issue is that its once passionate fanbase has seemingly moved on, losing interest through its various twists and turns of development hell. Perhaps one day Community will be revisited and appreciation will return, but for now it seems as though the show has made a relatively unceremonious departure.