“Cool. Cool Cool Cool.”
This was probably the reaction of the majority of fans of NBC’s genre-breaking “Community” when they learned that their sitcom had been rescued from the maw of cancellation by a last-minute deal between Sony and Yahoo, paving the way for a sixth season of the show with a relatively small but famously dedicated audience.
For many, this was just another surprising “up” in the lifespan of a television show that has had more ups and dramatic downs than a world-class rollercoaster. This is a show that had threats of cancelation leveled its way since its first season, had constant behind-the-scenes drama that drew nearly as much attention as its episodes, that fired creator Dan Harmon and then had him come back once ratings and quality started to drop. That’s not even counting the departure of Chevy Chase or key actor Donald Glover, who left to pursue a rap career, among other things.
Still, that hasn’t stopped excited fans from hopping onto Twitter to express their excitement and their relief at the show’s salvation, as well as their surprise that it was Yahoo — not Netflix or Hulu — that pulled the show out of the fire.
This is exactly the reaction Yahoo wanted.
Even though Marissa Mayer has made clear her intentions of becoming a powerhouse in online video — the Yahoo Screen service holds the rights to a trove of Saturday Night Live clips as well as a Ben Stiller-produced dating show parody that is, by all accounts, very funny — it still lacked a show that is guaranteed to pull in a dedicated audience and make a wider viewership aware of the fact that they do original video.
The average “Community” viewer is demographic gold. As Harmon himself said when old episodes of the show were picked up by Hulu, “The most coveted demographic, and most coveted of that demographic, these very smart, upwardly mobile, college-age kids just don’t watch TV anymore.”
Yahoo’s acquisition of the show, spurred on by the app it has provided to Android and iOS devices, could prove that the show draws just those coveted viewers. The use of web analytics rather than Nielsen boxes, which tend to skew more towards households and families rather than single college students, could also have a significant impact on the show’s audience data.
There’s even more in this for Yahoo. “Community” is, by its very nature, a show that breaks convention. Starting in the mold of a stereotypical situational comedy, it has taken on its own particular brand of meta-humor that simultaneously embraces the sitcom format and thumbs its nose at it, parodying every genre from action blockbuster to history documentary. It’s quirky and funny, but most of all, it’s experimental.
HBO used “Game of Thrones” to become known for skin and gore. Netflix used “House of Cards” to become known for character-based slow burners. By cementing “Community” as a cornerstone of its lineup, Yahoo could become a home base for experimental, clever comedies. "Our hope is to build and extend and prolong the series beyond the upcoming season six,” said Yahoo CMO Kathy Savitt in an interview with Vulture.
That all remains to be seen, though. The series has no announced date, and so far details are minimal. Until we hear more, check out this list of other TV favorites that have been given new life by the broadening Internet marketplace for video.
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