Tonight at 12:01 a.m. Pacific, “Community” will become the latest cultish show canceled by a traditional TV network to live again via a streaming service – and the first of its kind to migrate over to Yahoo Screen, which will be debuting the rest of this sixth season every Monday night/Tuesday morning at this time(*).
(*) There are two episodes tonight, then one a week going forward. So long as I have advance screeners, as well as time in which to do it, I’ll be running episode reviews about a half hour (or, tonight, hour) after the episodes go live on Yahoo, for those of you who are up at that time of night (or in a more favorable time zone) to watch it.
This is the latest improbable behind-the-scenes development in a series that has seen more than its fair share, including the firing and later re-hiring of creator Dan Harmon, the ugly exit of Chevy Chase, the more prosaic but still sad exits of Donald Glover and (before this season began filming) Yvette Nicole Brown (not to mention season 5 recurring players Jonathan Banks and John Oliver getting other jobs that precluded their returns), constant brushes with cancellation, and even the eleventh-hour arrival of Yahoo – looking to use “Community” as a way to make the world (or, at least, the “Community”-watching portion of it) aware of the existence of the other programming on Yahoo Screen – after talks to take the show to Hulu (which has streaming rights to all the NBC seasons) fell through.
Now the show’s back in a new format, no longer having to deal with commercials (both of tonight’s episodes are less than a half-hour, but still longer than the NBC cuts would have been) or network censors (though there’s not suddenly a rush to swear or get people naked, much as certain Tumblrs might love one or both of those things to happen), and with Paget Brewster (as a sensible efficiency effort brought in to make things at Greendale operate with more sanity) and Keith David (as a computer genius who enrolls at Greendale after his virtual reality business fails) sitting around the study room table in place of the departed members of the Greendale 7.
None of this is perhaps as crazy as some of what’s been depicted on the show, like the many times the Greendale campus has turned into a dystopian future hellscape, but still far stranger than what tends to go on behind the scenes of your average sitcom in its sixth season, and it has me wondering what ridiculous turns the true story of “Community” might take next. So while all you Human Beings are watching the Yahoo countdown clock, allow me to make some predictions:
* After this season is complete, Harmon makes good on the “six seasons and a movie” meme introduced back in season 2. Rather than seek a traditional distribution deal, or even team up with Yahoo to debut it on Screen, Harmon and Sony cut a deal with Apple, whose executives are desperate for anything that will get people to actually buy the Apple Watch. It will be the first movie ever shot in a 3:4 aspect ratio, and will not play on any larger devices under any circumstances. Original “Community” directors the Russo brothers return to make the film, and take advantage of the tiny size to depict an epic mecha battle on the Greendale campus that the viewer can only vaguely see, allowing Annie and Abed’s running commentary to fill in the rest.
* With their contracts up and the unofficial “six seasons and a movie” compact with the audience completed, all the original actors but Joel McHale move on. Yahoo, pleased with the reaction to season 6, convinces Harmon to keep things going. They fill out the cast by hiring David Keith (for the tantalizing but never-before-realized team-up with Keith David), bring back Donald Glover after his FX comedy doesn’t work out, and hire Danny Glover, whose character (named Tony Barnes) will constantly be mistaken for Troy’s father, even though he’s not related to either Troy or Keith David’s Elroy.
* Though Yahoo, like Netflix, declines to release any numbers on how many people are watching its originals, NBC executives see that “Community” has survived two seasons without them, while their longest-running comedy has been on the air for four weeks. Failing to hire Harmon or producer Chris McKenna away from their baby, the Peacock backs a dump truck of money up to the houses of season 4 showrunners Moses Port and David Guarascio, who create “JUCO,” set at a junior college in New Mexico, and starring Craig Kilborn (as a doctor who never fulfilled all his biology credits as an undergrad), Dan Aykroyd (a bored retiree who made his fortune in cloth hand towel dispensers), Octavia Spencer (a single mom raising two young girls), and Nat Faxon (as the eccentric chairman of the school board), among others. It is canceled two thirds of the way through the opening credits.
* Harmon has to take a step back after season 9 to focus on development of the “Rick & Morty” theme park that’s replacing Disney Hollywood Studios in Orlando. McHale, reluctant to work without Harmon a second time, leaves as well. Panicked, Yahoo executives hire Ken Jeong to return as both star and the new showrunner. His first move: replacing the paper fortune teller from the opening credits sequence with a montage of Jeong doing Chang tongue.
* Jeong burns out after a season of writing every script himself, all of them featuring Chang as the central (and at times only) character. He is replaced by Alfonso Cuaron, who has decided the next cinematic revolution is happening in streaming video, and conceives of the entire 11th season as one continuous take, depicting Dean Pelton (now played by a returning Alison Brie) giving a tour of every single room of the remodeled campus.
* After season 13, Yahoo loses a bidding war for the series to Friendster, which has decided that original streaming content is its only way to return to its former relevance. By this point, all the second, third and fourth-generation castmembers have come and gone. Friendster execs push for a return to stories about community college students taking classes together, and the cast is filled out with Gywdion Lashlee-Walton and many of his “Too Many Cooks” co-stars.
* As the traditional broadcast TV networks begin shutting down, or turning into streaming-only operations, NBC turns in the opposite technological direction and puts all of its focus on radio plays. While “Community” has run out of original actors willing to appear on camera, five time Oscar winner Jim Rash agrees to play all the voice roles for “Community: The Early Years,” using old scripts from the first two NBC seasons.
* In the year 2093, Chevy Chase emerges from cryogenic stasis, has his head placed on a younger cloned body, buys the rights to “Community” from the mega-corporation that bought the mega-corporation that bought the one that swallowed Sony whole, and proceeds to film a new version of the series, with himself as Jeff and worshipful holograms of his deceased former co-stars in all the other roles. It is a smash hit for all the people with the proper brain implant required to watch it.
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org