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Monday, September 22, 2014

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More than 'Community'

NBC

By Chloe Gilke, Daily Arts Writer
Published July 9, 2014

Here’s a little story about unbreakable underdogs and the hope of a hashtag.

A few weeks ago, NBC cancelled the low-rated fan favorite “Community” after five seasons. After a tumultuous final year featuring Chevy Chase’s departure, the reinstatement of genius/showrunner Dan Harmon and Troy’s heartfelt goodbye, NBC axed the last holdout of its famed “Comedy Thursday.” Fans outcried. Harmon went into damage control, posting a manifesto to his Tumblr page, urging fans to “sit back and relax,” wait for an obscure cable channel to renew it (or, you know, for the show to disappear forever and fade back into Abed’s dreamatorium). A television without “Community” seemed the very definition of the mythical Darkest Timeline. Sure, I was pretty bummed to hear the news. But, to me and countless others, it seemed more than just an unfortunate cancellation.

Here’s a little story about a girl with an armful of textbooks and an relentless imagination.

She always sat through the last 15 minutes of “Community” because her very favorite show,“The Office,” was on afterward. She liked to to have a 15 minute buffer. Every Thursday, she’d have her eyes glued to a Chemistry study guide and her watch, and kept Jeff Winger speeches muted in the background while she finished her titrations. Except, one day, when she’d already made her way through that immovable schedule, she treated herself to a full episode. Her unexpected laughter pierced the careful silence, a one-person laugh track scoring a little suburban living room.

She fell in love. She parsed out the first 25 episodes through the first few weeks of spring, her senior year of high school. Aside from making her laugh non-stop, this diverse and unbreakable group of friends reminded her of her own. Troy and Abed, especially, struck a chord. The loyal best friend, too sweet for their own good, able to break the cold exterior of a stoic and composed TV nerd? As our heroine winced through handshakes and socialization and lived to discuss “Arrested Development” with anyone who’d listen, she related with Abed more than any TV character she’d ever seen. She introduced her best friend to the show, and delighted to hear that her friend shared her enthusiasm. As March and April ticked past, the two girls built pillow forts, ate buttered noodles (Abed’s favorite snack, of course) and played and replayed the season DVDs she’d added to her collection. Paintball, dances, hijinks with teachers.

After a whirlwind summer, her best friend moved halfway across the country and our heroine shifted to an adjacent Midwestern state. Here, she was one of twenty or forty thousand (with a number this big, it hardly matters how small a fish you are). She was no longer the funniest or the smartest in her class, and her peers saw through her lack of confidence and social anxiety, straight to the core that was filled with love for Tarantino films and bad sci-fi, but maybe not much else. Her hallmates went to football games as she went through the motions of her freshman year, living off the promise of the occasional Skype call to her Troy in New England. Her friend texted long stories about sunset hikes and elaborate pranks with her collection of new friends. On a rainy Friday night, our heroine alone in her sleepy dorm room, would put on Advanced Dungeons and Dragons and laugh enough for the both of them.

Fast forward one year. Something about season 5 of “Community” seemed different. During the hiatus, our heroine had gained a tentative new gang of friends, and she found herself looking more critically at the new episodes. Pierce’s death left her unfazed, Troy sailed away to better possibilities and she didn’t shed a tear. She couldn’t blame it on an empty seat in the writer’s room anymore. “Community” always brought the hope of #SixSeasonsAndAMovie, maybe some connections more substantive than the whisper of the warmth of high school friendship. But she didn’t need a sitcom to legitimize her life anymore. “Community” was just a TV show.

We’re nearing the ending of our little story. Our pop culture junkie heroine has discovered more to her life than a copied handshake, borrowed catchphrases and scratched DVDs. Her beloved sitcom is cancelled, but she’s okay with that. Until, all of a sudden, her Twitter feed bursts to life with retweets: “COMMUNITY BACK FOR A SIXTH SEASON ON YAHOO SCREEN!” Her finger hovers above the “favorite” button. She scrolls past and goes downstairs to make some buttered noodles, Abed only briefly passing her thoughts.

I’m sure season 6 of “Community” will make some fans very happy. I’m sure I’ll break down and tune in, probably laugh a little and I’ll might get that warm feeling in my belly, the closest TV can get to replicating the joy of sharing sparkling juice in a blanket fort. In the grand scheme of things, the cancellation of one television series isn’t enough to throw us into the Darkest Timeline. It’s just television. Except when it’s not. Except when 15 extra minutes make all the difference, and fictional stories spill their brightness and laughs into actual, real stories. Except when hope makes all the difference (#SixSeasonsAndAMovie).


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