Why a Community resurrection is extraordinarily unlikely—though not impossible
The cast of Community (NBC)
The cast of Community (NBC)

Why a Community resurrection is extraordinarily unlikely—though not impossible

Sometimes, it’s okay to let things go

All through this long weekend after NBC so cruelly cut down Community, the cry has gone out over social media to anyone who will listen: Somebody needs to resurrect Community! And while I can share those sentiments—in that it would be cool for the show to get one last season to wrap things up on its own terms—I’m fairly certain it won’t happen. Here are some of the reasons why.

Community was just too successful: Think of the shows that have been resurrected after cancellation in recent years, shows like Cougar Town and Breaking In and Unforgettable. Or think, even, of how the most serious efforts by studios to save their shows this year are coming from Warner Bros. trying to resurrect Suburgatory and 20th Century Fox trying to find a new home for Friends With Better Lives. All of these shows had one major thing in common: They were in their first three seasons of life. Community is not. If it gets another season, it will be the show’s sixth. It already has syndication deals in place, and seasons beyond season six would get more and more expensive, prohibitively so for a network or streaming service that probably can’t afford what NBC was paying for the show. Plus, Sony doesn’t stand to make that much more money with an additional 13 episodes in the syndication package. The primary reason for the show to be brought back isn’t money. It’s for some fledgling cable network or streaming service to make a name for itself. And that’s unlikely because…

Community’s syndication and streaming deals are already in place: While it’s theoretically possible for, say, Netflix to resurrect the show, it’s not going to happen for one simple reason: Hulu owns the rights to stream the first five seasons of the show, and it’s almost certainly not giving those rights up. Similarly, Comedy Central owns the cable rerun rights to the show for the foreseeable future. Both of these deals would expire well after the actors’ contracts are up over the summer. Sony would need to either sell the show to one of the two places that have contractual rights to the old broadcasts, or it would need to find a new partner that wouldn’t mind that the rerun rights would revert to Hulu and Comedy Central after a certain period of time (likely one TV season). While it makes a certain amount of sense for fans to barrage Netflix, since the service resurrected Arrested Development and The Killing, both of those shows were not already locked into the sorts of deals Community is. All of which brings us to…

Hulu is unlikely to have the money to resurrect the program: This is the great unknown of the whole situation, because nobody’s quite sure just how much spare cash Hulu has to spend on program development. For the most part, Hulu spends that money on programming far cheaper than Community would be (even a Community on a reduced budget) and on foreign acquisitions. Yes, the site is coming off an enormously successful year, but producing a season of television costs a lot of money. Netflix has that money. Amazon has that money. Does Hulu? If it really wants Community, we’ll find out. But if it doesn’t, it’s difficult to imagine one of the other streaming services (even Amazon, which is desperate to make a splash) ponying up when those same episodes would turn up on one of their chief competitors just months later. But what about cable? I’m glad you asked.

While a cable resurrection is slightly more likely in a financial sense, it’s hard to imagine the partner that would sign on with Sony: The list of cable networks that might want to pick up a show like this is very, very short. Comedy Central is probably where Sony will have to go first to discuss more episodes, because of its preexisting deals, but Comedy Central hasn’t seen much success in showing reruns of the program, if the way they’ve bounced all over the schedule is any indication. So from there we arrive at the few networks trying to break into comedy development that could conceivably throw around the cash to make this happen. And those are pretty much two: USA and IFC. USA might have the money, and it must be a little sore about not picking up Happy Endings last year, given how fantastically its original comedies are tanking in the ratings. But does it really need a sixth season of a show that its corporate partner passed on? Probably not. In terms of IFC, it’s hard to imagine the financials working, even for a shortened season of, say, 10 episodes. The network is young and hungry, but young and hungry often equals having less cash to throw around. (Ironically, the best network partner for this sort of thing would probably be NBC, which could, conceivably, realize its bench needed one more player on it for midseason. This will not happen.) Although maybe…

Could a cable network partner with Hulu to split the license fee? Sure. Again, it’s theoretically possible. Is it likely? Not really. But if Community comes back, this is the scenario under which I would imagine it happening: Hulu agrees to foot most of the bill and gets to air the episodes first, but then a cable partner gets to air the episodes’ “broadcast debut” a few days later. Again, it’s not likely, but it’s the sort of thing that could maybe happen if everybody wanted to make it happen. But, ultimately…

Does Dan Harmon want to make more CommunityAlong with the question of just how much money Hulu has, this is the biggest question standing in the way of the show getting more episodes. Deadline reports that Harmon isn’t so into the idea of more episodes of the show, what with Rick And Morty’s existence and all, but it’s also not like Deadline possesses a device that can read Dan Harmon’s mind, since it pretty much just listened to Harmontown. Plus, Harmon himself said last night that he was more open to a resurrection than he had been on Friday. But will he be when the chips are down? Who knows! Fans of Sports Night and Arrested Development often don’t know that deals to produce a third and fourth season of both shows were on the table from HBO and Showtime, respectively, before both Aaron Sorkin and Mitch Hurwitz bowed out, choosing to focus on other projects instead. Both deals died. Nobody will want to resurrect Community for what will likely be just one more season without Dan Harmon, not even with his blessing this time. It’s Community with Harmon, or it’s nothing. Plus…

But what about Kickstarter? This seems unlikely, for the simple reason that the legal headaches for a major corporation to put something on Kickstarter would need to be completely worked through, and that would take more time than the actors’ contracts are likely to allow.

So another season of Community is unlikely. But that’s okay, for one simple reason.

The show had a tremendous run: Community made it to five seasons and ran 97 episodes, far more than the vast majority of TV shows ever have. It had, by any stretch of the imagination, a terrific run, particularly when one considers how close it came to cancellation so many times. Is it really worth potentially sullying that reputation for a handful of additional episodes, particularly when it could be fun to see all involved stretch their wings? Will I watch more episodes of Community if they come along? Undoubtedly. And I’ll likely enjoy them, too. But everything—even TV shows—has to end, and Community is at a point where its legacy is secure. Why mess with that?

One should never say never when it comes to Sony, which has been responsible for many of the most unlikely renewals and resurrections in the TV world these last many years. After all, this is the studio that got Til Death to over 80 episodes after Fox pulled it from the schedule a handful of episodes into season two. Could Sony get more Community on the air? Sure. But why should it have to? Community was a great show, one of the best of its era. But new shows—sometimes from the same people—will rise up to take its place. They always do. If it proves to be time to let it go for once and for all, don’t let that be a sad thing. Let that be, instead, a celebration of all that the show was so good at—including telling stories about letting things come to a peaceful, natural end.

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