Community, the low-rated, Internet-beloved NBC sitcom, was not canceled yesterday. But it also wasn’t on NBC’s midseason schedule.
It’s been put on a long hiatus, with its return date uncertain. The likelihood for a season four – and for the character to finish up their Greendale Community College experience – looks pretty dim.
The Internet – defined as a writhing mass of nerd culture -- was angry. National political pundits, from the left, right, and middle were angry. I, as a huge fan of Community’s wit and ambition, was angry. But, while it’s always fine to get upset at awful fates of things you love, it doesn’t always make sense to blame the network – responsible for making money – for the tragedy.
What follows is a guide for TV fans to carry around in their pocket, for whenever they’ve seen their favorite shows canceled:
When it’s justified to get mad at a TV network for canceling a show
1) When it still has pretty decent ratings. If your show is winning the timeslot, if it’s pulling in average numbers, then the network canceling it may just be them getting greedy.
2) When the network’s been playing time-slot pinball with the show. Shows can’t be expected to build an audience if they’re tossed around like a badminton birdie or put into reruns without warning or aired ruthlessly out of order.
3) When a show has been cut too early in its run. If only a few episodes have aired – and the ratings are still sort of low – fans can certainly be peeved.
4) If unaired episodes are never released. That’s just lazy on the part of the network, and a slap in the face to show’s fans.
5) If it’s always aired in an awful timeslot. If a show’s airing on Friday’s or opposite the biggest ratings juggernauts on television, what chance does it have.
6) If it’s to make way for a likely bigger failure. If Community dies and Whitney lives, fans have a pretty good reason to hate both Whitney, and NBC.
7) When Jay Leno is somehow involved.
When it’s unjustified to get mad at a TV network for canceling your show
1) When a low-rated show has been given a miracle second, third or fourth season. Sorry Dollhouse fans – you got far more episodes than the numbers justified.
2) When the show is far past its prime. When The Simpsons someday gets cancelled, in other words, no complaining is allowed.
3) When the big storyline has resolved or the setting has changed. If the Community crew graduates from Community college, then cancellation makes sense. When Killing solves its big mystery, cancellation, makes even more sense.
4) When stars or writers are demanding too much money for the show’s ratings. Again, if the Simpsons gets canceled, if it will come down to this.
5) When the ratings are so dismal that no amount of creative-reasoning can justify keeping it on. Lone Star, last year, debuted horrifically and then nose-dove from there. To keep it on, would have been suicidal.
6) When writers have been given ample warning to wrap-up the story. For a drama, cancellation can be a blessing. With enough time to create a poetic ending that underscores the themes of the show – like Angel or The Shield were able to do – an ending can be the perfect coda for the show’s legacy.