After such a strong return, Community’s ratings experienced a probably inevitable correction last night, dropping by about 20 percent from around 5 million viewers to around 3.9 million, with a 1.7 ratings share among adults 18 to 49. And now, the obligatory negative interpretation that, to put it in terms of last night’s episode, is like having one’s swelling ego deflated by losing a “Most Handsome Young Man” trophy: The loss suggests some viewers who were goaded into giving it a chance last week didn’t feel like coming back—and the show is now poised to take an even larger hit when The Big Bang Theory returns next week, then amble enraged and shirtless down the freeway.
But now that we’ve dispensed with that unpleasantry, here’s a more upbeat, positive interpretation, to be read in an Alison Brie-esque sing-song voice: These are slightly higher numbers than the show was pulling in the fall, and in fact, Community was the overall ratings winner on NBC’s Thursday night, outscoring both 30 Rock and Up All Night (to say nothing of the increasingly spiraling Awake). Combining that small yet significant audience bump with that small yet significant victory, as well as Comedy Central’s recent move to put Community into syndication—and of course, all of those animated GIFs you’ve been making—we’d say it all bodes well for the show’s chances for a fourth season, were we into making bold prognostications like that, which we’re not, really. But the point is, it’s still doing better than it used to, which is reassuring. We will all take what we can get at this point.