I suppose the real question here isn’t so much “Hey, how were the ratings for the Season 5 premiere of Community last night?” as it is a deeper, philosophical one like “Are you an optimist or a pessimist, by nature?” Allow me to explain.
First, the good news: Community picked up over 300,000 viewers from its most recent episode, the Season 4 finale that depicted Jeff’s graduation from Greendale. Considering that figure was only in the neighborhood of 3.4 million viewers to begin with, this represents almost a 10% increase! And it was, like, really good with Dan Harmon back! Hey, was that Zack Braff doing a voiceover at the end of the premiere? Wow!
Community had 3.7 million viewers for its 8 p.m. season premiere and then 3 million viewers for its special second episode at 8:30 p.m. Among adults 18-49, Community had a 1.3 rating and then a 1.2, down 32 percent from last year. This is an all-time low for a Community premiere. Community didn’t help The Michael J. Fox Show or Sean Saves the World, with both returning to a series low.
So there, as it usually is, is the rub. The show was either up or down depending on how you skew the figures (although it’s probably not a great sign that it couldn’t nudge ahead of the figures for any other premiere, even with all the drama and buzz between the last two seasons). And any way you look at things it lost a big chunk of viewers pretty rapidly, with both episodes combining to pull in about a third of what The Big Bang Theory scored for its solo 8:00 p.m. airing. A lot of that is, shall we say, not good for fans of Community. Although it does bring to mind this quote from that Dan Harmon profile from a few weeks back:
NBC’s policy is to “let him do his show, as long as it’s coming in on budget and on time, and celebrate that,” said Vernon Sanders, a network entertainment executive who oversees “Community.”
The series, despite low ratings, is shown in repeats on Comedy Central, broadcast in more than a dozen foreign territories and sought by advertisers who want to reach younger viewers. “It’s a show that we make money on,” Mr. Sanders said. But more important, it is a show that cultivates an enthusiastic audience, a feat that he said NBC did not take for granted.
“When a show is really well done, that’s not a guarantee,” Mr. Sanders said.
Long story short: I dunno. Watch Community. Enjoy it while it lasts. However long that is.