Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Renewal of wows

As you have no doubt noticed, I am not usually the kind of person who is visited by thoughts like “Hey, whatever happened to that show I used to watch last year?” I read (more than) enough television criticism-analysis as well as inside-industry journalism to remain more or less perpetually aware of what’s happening with the shows I’ve been watching (and, for that matter, shows that I don’t watch but many other people do faithfully tune in for, which just might come up in conversation at some point). So on the one hand, lately I’ve been living from Thursday to Thursday enjoying every new episode of Community that’s aired since it came back from hiatus and simultaneously anticipating the season finale with equal parts excitement and dread. But on the other hand, I’ve been living from online article to online article, because now is the time of year when networks announce which shows are being renewed and which shows are being cancelled, and what their fall line-ups are going to look like and so on, and the announcements are dutifully reported by the entertainment press. And I’ve been just as dutifully scouring those releases looking for clues to Community’s fate.

So the good news is that a fourth season of the show is due in the fall, or a partial season at any rate. A full season would be 22 episodes, and NBC ordered 13; this happens to all kinds of shows all the time and ordering the remaining 9 somewhere down the road is quite common as well. At the very least, it’s a stay of execution, and there are potential upsides and better-case scenarios, too.

The bad news isn’t so much bad as … thought-provoking, I guess? One item of interest is that the showrunner, Dan Harmon, might not be back for season four. On the one hand Community has a fairly well-established identity as a meta-sitcom at this point, and a great deal of the pleasure of sitting down and hanging out in its world for half an hour a week comes from the stellar performances up and down the ensemble, but it’s still worrisome to me to hear that the head honcho of the team responsible for generating the behind-the-scenes magic might be on the way out. I’ve always felt that Community just has a certain sensibility that hits me in very specific cerebral sweetspots, and I attribute that the Harmon’s vision for the show. Maybe that’s not actually true, or maybe it is but over the course of the past three years he’s shared his thought process openly enough with the rest of the writers that they could keep it going even without his day-to-day input, or maybe all of this is just rumor-mongering against the backdrop of contract negotiations and the show will still be Harmon’s baby in the fall. Time will tell.

But speaking of time, the other bit of weird news is that NBC is changing the scheduling for Community, moving it to Friday nights at 8:30. From a certain perspective, there’s a silver lining or two in that: Community’s usually on Thursdays at 8, up against The Big Bang Theory which gets huge ratings and could potentially appeal to a lot of the same geeky sitcom fans that Community might attract, and maybe that explains why Community’s ratings are never as good as they should be, and so a change could do it some good. And moving the show is better than cancelling it, so at least NBC is showing a certain willingness to give Community enough rope to hang itself (the very nature of that metaphor of course implies that at a certain point one party may be falsely appearing to help another party while secretly plotting its demise, but if there’s that kind of politicking between network and show going on, I can’t pretend to know how deep and dark it goes).

If I’m feeling negative, though, there is the undeniable fact that no shows on Friday nights ever get terribly good ratings, since a lot of people seek out better things to do on Friday nights than watch tv. And frankly, whoever thought about rescheduling the show obviously did not stop to take my personal viewing habits and needs into consideration. Why couldn’t they have put Community on Mondays at 8:30?

It’s kind of funny (to me, anyway) but there are a couple of shows my wife and I both really, really enjoy: Community and How I Met Your Mother. We actually like a fair number of other shows in common, as well, but those two have some important traits in common. They’re both major network half-hour sitcoms that follow predictable weekly schedules (as opposed to sporting events or reality shows that air on multiple days a week if not all the time), they’re both moderately-to-heavily serialized to the point where missing any single episode potentially impacts our ability to appreciate everything going on in subsequent episodes, and they’re both on at 8 p.m. on weeknights. Specifically they air on days when my wife does not have to go to work, HIMYM on Mondays and Community on Thursdays. So this is the funny part, the fact that these shows are major motivators in keeping us on a household schedule on those nights. When I get home from work on Monday/Thursday, either my wife or myself can get right to the task of making dinner while the other one keeps the kids occupied, we all sit down to eat, and then my wife and I tag team getting the kids bathed and put down to bed, all the while racing the clock as it approaches primetime. Sometimes we get everyone squared away and settled as early as 7:30, but generally it’s close enough to 8 that we have just enough time to settle ourselves in the den and turn on the tv before the show begins.

Clearly, no, we do not have any kind of DVR service. But knowing that Community is going to be on Friday nights in the fall, and knowing also that every other Friday my wife tends to work the late shift and get home some time between 9 and 10, I am presently very strongly considering looking into how much DVR would add to our cable bill. A tiny irony of that would be that, after three years of lamenting the fact that I do not live in a Nielsen household where my steadfast and unwavering support of Community would be counted in the ratings, if I were to start DVR’ing the show my eyeballs would become statistically significant, not in the traditional ratings but in the new time-shifted numbers that networks are slowly realizing actually matter and might as well be looked at since all the data is sitting there on the cable company servers waiting to be parsed. Living in the future!

There’s also, I should acknowledge, the possibility that my wife could simply find another job before September, and no longer be at the mercy of her current work-schedule demands, and watching network broadcasts together at 8:30 any night of the week will be all the same to us. Not that she would go job-hunting just based on the scheduling of Community, of course. She’s already been seriously mulling making a change in the employment area for a while. And changing jobs over a tv show is something I would do, and really there’s only room in a marriage for one crazy person like that.


  1. "Troy and Abed in the Moooooorning! Nights!"

    1. Oh man, how great was that? Truth be told I went looking for a picture of Troy and Abed all pyjama'ed and brandy-sniftering first, but couldn't find a really good one. Too soon, perhaps? So I went with the one above, because Spider-Man tie, obviously.