Dear NBC: It Is Okay If You Cancel ‘Community’

There’s been a lot of yammering about Community lately, which by itself is nothing new. This is the Internet, there’s always a lot of yammering about Community. What makes this latest round different is that it’s coming from big, fancypants NBC executives instead of the hoards of blog- and Twitter-types that usual rouse this particular brand of rabble. (Related: Hi!) Due to a combination of new management, the build-up for the spring schedule, and the TCAs, NBC bigwigs have been making themselves available to answer questions, and — SURPRISE SURPRISE — many critics and television insiders have had questions about the show that’s widely adored among critics and television insiders, if few others.

Josh touched on some of this earlier today in his TCA Roundup, where he mentioned NBC President Bob Greenblatt saying generally that Community could “absolutely get a fifth season,” and specifically “You’re going to see relatively the same show you’ve seen before and I hope that’s a good thing. Maybe there’s a little more heart built into it, but we didn’t fundamentally change it.”

And in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, new-ish President of Entertainment Jennifer Saltz had this to say about the show, and the state of the network as a whole:

THR: You’ve said you want to change NBC’s brand of comedy. How?

Salke: We’ve talked about the idea of going broader. It doesn’t mean going broad. We’re trying to increase the ratings. That’s our job. We have these shows in 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation and Community that we love. They’re super sophisticated, and they attract a very upscale audience, but we need to expand beyond that. […]

THR: How long do you intend to stick with Community, which is both narrow and adored?

Salke: There’s no way to deny that the show is loved by many, many people who aren’t measured by Nielsen. So the giant question on everybody’s mind is how do we go about getting an accurate representation of who’s actually watching all of these shows when you have entire generations of people who do not watch any live television.

THR: Does it live beyond this season with those ratings?

Salke: Well, first of all, any show that’s doing okay that we love we will try to support as much as we can. But there are more things that go into that decision. For instance, it depends on what’s happening financially with the show. We have shows that we love that lose tons of money. So those factors obviously come into the equation

There’s a healthy, robust amount of PR spin to dig through in both of their answers, but the gist of it is this: NBC has pretty much decided that a schedule full of “sophisticated” comedies like Community, Parks & Recreation, and 30 Rock is an unsustainable business model, and something needs to give in order for the network to remain competitive. This is fine. They are, after all, a business. I wish them nothing but the best in all their future monkey-wearing-a-labcoat-style endeavors.

But I would like to make one small point, if I may. A request, really: Please don’t screw around too much with my shows in the process. I know this may go slightly against the #SixSeasonsAndAMovie mantra, but I swear to God it is okay with me if you cancel Community after this season. Please don’t mistake me here, I would prefer that you don’t. But if my only options are that, and, like, a reworked, post-Michael-Scott-The Office-ed version of the show — with more “heart,” whatever that means exactly — I’ll take the former 100 times out of 100. (Same thing goes for Parks & Rec, which, for the record, has so much heart that it’s oozing out its various orifices and dripping all over Pawnee.) This is the same argument I made last season when people were clamoring for more “accessible” episodes of Community, ones that could draw in a larger subset of viewers, preferably with Nielsen boxes. I don’t want an accessible version of my favorite shows. I want the same laser-focused, from-concentrate stuff that made me like them in the first place.

No, I’d rather you give the show a firm end date so it can finish telling its desired story, then let it die a noble death by firing squad instead of allowing it to wither away in a dungeon somewhere, rambling about Halloween and Christmas sometime after February like a lunatic. I may not be as frequent a viewer as I once was after this happens — I’ll still buy all the seasons on iTunes or Netflix, I promise — but, to be honest, you and I were growing apart anyway. I’m more of a cable guy at this point. You know: FX, AMC, HBO, and heck, even USA and TNT, sometimes. You don’t really want my business, because I am a snob and the snob market can’t keep you afloat. We’ve seen that. It’s fine.

And after you let Community go out the way it deserves, the way 30 Rock will later this year, you can fill your schedule with whatever you like: a multi-camera show starring Paul Reiser as a grumpy grandfather forced to run his daughter’s daycare after her untimely death (HEART! PRECOCIOUS KIDS!), a laugh track-filled goof-fest about four 30-somethings — two of whom could be gay, if you like — trying to open a hip Brooklyn-style brunch spot in rural Texas (CULTURE CLASH!), whatever you want. Those are freebies, gifts from me to you. And you can have either or both of them if you agree to one simple condition: Leave my shows alone.

Thank you for your time. I’ll be watching Archer if you need me.