Friday, February 24, 2012
Community and the Brilliant Hiatus
Community has never been a heavy hitter for the network. Its ratings numbers have always been just this side of pitiful. So it was no surprise to anyone that the Community fans immediately assumed that their favorite comedy was teetering on the edge of the cliff called cancellation. Immediately Twitter lit up with the #sixseasonsandamovie hashtag, a reference from the second season of Community. Equally popular, though less laden with inside humor, was the #savecommunity hashtag. Fans organized protests outside of NBC headquarters wearing felt and paper beards in reference to the darkest timeline from one of the best episodes of Community in season 3, "Remedial Chaos Theory." They created fan art depicting the Community cast as other famous characters - Batman and villains, Street Fighter, the Xmen - to try to draw some cross-cultural attention to the show (and themselves). Every person who had ever seen Community went to all of their friends with a rally cry, begging them to start watching the show if and when it came back on the air.
Twitter and Facebook were alive with the news of imminent cancellation, and the young demographic that NBC wants so badly to get a hook into, was talking about one of their shows in a positive way. It was loud. It was worldwide. It was an epidemic.
And best of all, it was completely predictable.
Community's fan base, while small, has always had a strong presence on the internet. Dan Harmon, the show runner and creator of the comedy, has an active Twitter persona, as does almost the entire cast, several of the writers and even a production assistant or two. All NBC had to do was convince the internet based fan community to stop being apathetic about the show. What better way to do that than with the very real and dire threat of cancellation?
Had NBC announced in November that Community would not be in their mid-season line up, but would return on March 15th, the response would have been entirely different. Most likely, fans would have grumbled about it in disappointment for a week or so, then moved on to wait impatiently for mid-March. Instead, by keeping it secret, NBC got several weeks of active protest, and a solid three months of Twitter hashtags and Facebook profile pictures with evil goatees. Now, NBC gets articles like this one, touting the return of Community as headline worthy material, and selling their other premieres in the process.
I think the "indefinite" hiatus was one of the most brilliant marketing ploys by any broadcast network in recent years to save the life of a struggling series. It certainly was the most brilliant marketing ploy by NBC, and they definitely need it, with shows like Whitney and Are You There, Chelsea? clogging up their lineup. I know it got me even more excited for the March 15th return than I would have been otherwise, and that's saying quite a lot.
So kudos NBC, you did something right.