Cancellation doesn’t have the same finality it once did when it comes to television shows. “Community” is the latest example of how the ever expanding world of TV viewing is giving second and third lives to programs.
The second life for “Community” comes via the online programming service Yahoo and will begin to unfold Tuesday, when the sixth season of the comedy launches. It will feature many of the familiar faces from the comedy set on a community college campus — Joel McHale, Jim Rash, Gillian Jacobs and Ken Jeong — plus new cast members Paget Brewster and Keith David.
There will be two episodes released Tuesday, and then a new episode will be available each week after that.
It took some last-minute negotiations to make this sixth season happen. The deal with Yahoo was made just hours before contracts with the actors and writers were to expire.
“There were a lot of last-minute phone calls, including Kathy Savitt from Yahoo calling me and having a 40-minute conversation with me where she turned me 180 degrees by explaining Yahoo’s perspective on the whole thing and how they were going to do business,” says Dan Harmon, “Community” executive producer.
The near-death experience of the show put the cast through an emotional turmoil. Jeong jokes that he didn’t know what he was going to do because “Community” was the only TV show he knew how to do.
Jacobs had already mourned the show, thinking the network cancellation was the worst thing that could happen.
“We’d finally been canceled by NBC, which we had cheated death so many times. And I think that for myself, I really had mourned the show. I cried when we got canceled,” Jacobs said. “But we are a phoenix, so we have experienced the resurrection now.
“I think I’ve said this before. It sort of felt like we were an online show for a while, so it’s kind of good that we’re now actually online. Feels right.”
The majority of the cast will remain on the show. The job for the executive producers will be to fit the new characters into the group as seamlessly as possible.
“I wanted to be careful not to bring two new characters into a show and have one of them have an eye patch and always every third word he says rhymes or something that you would feel the plasticity of these new characters,” Harmon says.
“The tough thing is you’ve got 13 episodes. You’re very late in the game. How do you, without forcing it on the audience, make these characters feel like classic ‘Community’ characters? You can’t create a classic out of the box. The answer was you put characters with a lot of potential in a petri dish with these guys and let them grow, let the actors grow them.”
Brewster’s character is a problem-solver who doesn’t like things that don’t make sense. She doesn’t abide nonsense. David’s character is a computer programmer who sacrificed a lot of his personal life for the sake of his career, and now he’s starting over.
The mix of old and new is working so far.
Jacobs says the remarkable thing is how much she still enjoys working with the original cast and how much the additions are fitting in.
How long the viewers will get to enjoy the changes is still up in the air. “Community” fans have already attended one funeral for the series. At this point, the deal with Yahoo is only for a sixth season.
The creators aren’t looking at this season as another finale.
Harmon says, “The important answer first is that I’m definitely not writing it as if it’s the end. That’s not happening. This show has lived by the sword of a very intimate relationship with fans and needs to die only by that sword. So only when people stop watching would I ever stop wanting to make the product.”