In its seemingly endless campaign to get fans of Community to hate it, NBC pulled the show from its original premiére date of Oct. 19 Monday, with just 11 days to go before its initial airing. According to the Twitter feed of Andy Bobrow, a producer on the show, Sony, the studio that produces the series, was readying screeners for critics when the word came down and was only just able to stop them from being sent out in time. The network also pulled Whitney, but that’s almost certainly going to spur less weeping on the Internet.
The funny thing about this is that many TV journalists—including this one—assumed something like this might happen from the moment NBC announced it was going to force Whitney and Community to share an hour, much less one that led into Grimm. That felt like a schizophrenic schedule, even for NBC, and it seemed particularly odd that both comedies were being held until mid-October, when virtually every other major network series would have debuted (minus only The CW’s Nikita—also debuting Oct. 19—and ABC’s comedy duo of Last Man Standing and Malibu Country, debuting Nov. 2). Usually, networks don’t push premiéres that late unless they’re holding those episodes back for some reason.
In this case, the reason to wait was clear: NBC was debuting a ton of stuff, and some of it was bound to fail. Longtime followers of the network would be forgiven for thinking that all of it was bound to fail, but the network seems to be doing fairly well on Sundays, Mondays, and Tuesdays, largely thanks to football and The Voice, though Revolution’s amazing ratings have mostly held up, particularly once DVRs are factored into things. The “failures” of NBC, then, are the other three nights it programs, where Wednesdays can’t catch a break, Thursdays are utterly falling apart, and Fridays continue to be better than some networks but still very low-rated. Considering that Animal Practice, for one, looks to be a dead show walking, it may make sense for the network to cancel it and stick Whitney into its timeslot, pairing it with the also-abysmally-rated-but-not-quite-Animal-Practice-abysmally-rated Guys With Kids to see if it can build a multi-camera comedy hour. That the two shows would fit together better than either did with Community or Animal Practice goes without saying.
Now, assuming this turns out to be true (and there’s no guarantee it will), that still leaves Community without a home. In which case, the most likely arrival of the show would be—and don’t kill me for saying this—January, when it could replace either the ending 30 Rock or the flailing Up All Night on Thursdays. Community isn’t likely to improve much on these shows, but even a consistent 1.5 in the key demo—which Community might be capable of—would be good enough to stanch the bleeding, and the show’s fanbase is nothing if not loyal. (Holding the series until midseason would also allow the network greater distance from the firing of Dan Harmon, which left such a pall over the show’s renewal last spring.) 30 Rock is the lower-rated of the two comedies, so we’ll take a wild guess and say that it runs virtually straight through with only breaks for Thanksgiving and Christmas, ending its run somewhere in late January and prepping Community for a winter return, in which its second episode will be a Halloween episode, because that’s just the kind of luck this show has. (NBC also has a host of midseason comedies it could schedule there, but it seems to be treating Thursdays as a sort of critically acclaimed comedy quarantine zone, so it seems unlikely to besmirch the new Anne Heche, Josh Gad, or Dane Cook shows with that particular stench.)
Again, none of this is based on actual knowledge. It’s based on trying to read the ratings tea leaves and guess just how NBC might want to protect the modest gains it’s made this fall, while also knowing that it’s likely to cancel at least Animal Practice, if not that and Guys With Kids. None of this is guaranteed to happen; it’s just a somewhat-informed guess. After all, this is NBC, and this is Community. For all we know, the 13 episodes currently on order won’t air until the year 2017, and they’ll only be visible by watching the surface of the moon from a particular pair of latitude and longitude coordinates. Or NBC will just ship them off to Saturdays, and everybody who made those 100,000 comments will weep and gnash their teeth.
In conclusion: This is not necessarily bad news for Community. It is actually worse news for other shows. Wait to see what NBC cancels. That will give you your best guess of when and where Community pops up. If it’s just Animal Practice, then you might have to wait. If it’s both that series and Guys With Kids, start making your Community: Wednesdays at 8:30! T-shirt now. And if the show somehow wanders its way back onto Thursdays, we will all laugh about it when we are watching these episodes on the moon in seven years.