The Week in TV: Class Dismissed for Community?
This was the week in TV Land (at least, in this timeline):
• The TV gods giveth, and the TV gods taketh away. It's been an eventful week for fans of narrowly targeted, metatextual, self-referential sitcoms with cult followings. First up: NBC released its midseason schedule, and Community isn't on it. This is disappointing, but not surprising. The show's audience, loyal though it is, has always been small, and aside from a few peaks and valleys, the ratings have been dropping since the show premiered in fall 2009. As many people have said much better than I can, TV is a business about art, and you can't sell the art unless you can guarantee enough buyers. The more money a show costs to produce, the more viewers a network needs to earn more on ads and make their investment worthwhile. Community is a brilliant and daring show, but it's always struggled in the ratings. NBC's decision to remove the show from its midseason schedule -- despite reports that the entire season will eventually get to air -- has nothing to do with art or intellect and everything to do with the bluntness of the bottom line. Now, the show's absence from midseason doesn't mean it's done. Sony, the production company, can make even more money in the long run if the show makes it into its fourth season and collects enough episodes to syndicate. If Dan Harmon can find a way to cut his show's budget to the bone (expect a lot more bottle episodes), he can probably extend its life. Whatever happens, though, I think it's worth noting that after this season, we'll have 71 episodes of Community to look back on and treasure. Nothing lasts forever, not even the best things, and those 71 episodes are nothing to ignore.
• Also out at midseason: ABC's unfortunately named Cougar Town, which has had its season order cut from 22 to 15 and is currently slated to return in March. But at least that show's coming back. NBC's Prime Suspect, which started weak but has been finding its legs in recent weeks, is shutting down production after its 13th episode. As this Deadline story notes, the show is gone but technically not canceled yet. However, that's likely because it's a lot easier for NBC to just fulfill the original 13-episode order and let the show fade quietly into the background than to make a big fuss about ending it. Ah well. We'll always have Helen Mirren.
• Speaking of short runs and resurrections: Arrested Development (which lasted 53 episodes) is returning with new episodes on Netflix. Creator Mitchell Hurwitz said last month that he and the cast planned to reunite for a film and a truncated season of TV; now it looks like that TV season will arrive via streaming technology in 2013. It's important to note here that this is just the first of many announcements that will have to happen for this to actually work out, given the hectic schedules of some of the principals and the generally chaotic nature of trying to make major projects like this work in the first place. It's not even clear how this news will affect the planned feature. The real news here is that Netflix, despite some major PR screw-ups this year, isn't going anywhere, and is in fact more serious than ever about programming original content in addition to the streaming acquisitions they get from other partners.
• In other scheduling news: PBS has set premiere dates for the second season of Downton Abbey and the next batch of Sherlock episodes/mini-movies/extended bouts of wonderment. Downton Abbey is set to premiere January 8 and run for seven weeks, airing two episodes its first night and one each for the duration. This will actually keep the show in line with its original British broadcast, unlike the first time it hit American airwaves, when it was edited down from eight episodes to four. Meanwhile, Sherlock is set to debut May 6. The first three episodes, which aired in fall 2010, were a fantastic reinvention of the Sherlock Holmes universe and at least 20 times more entertaining than Guy Ritchie's films. They also ended on a stunning cliffhanger, and it'll be interesting to see where the story goes from there.
• Ricky Gervais's recent stints hosting the Golden Globe Awards -- the annual gala at which the Hollywood Foreign Press Association reminds the world of its ineptitude, finds a way to give Johnny Depp an award and slinks quietly into the night -- have been notorious for the way he mercilessly bites the hands that are feeding him. But it looks like Gervais is getting back behind the podium to host the Globes again, which is a total surprise given the way he's talked about the show every few weeks since the last one ended. It's a good bet that while some/most of the HFPA didn't like the way Gervais took the piss, they're more than willing to let it happen again if it means ratings and pop culture cachet. Look for Gervais's latest guerilla-style roast in the spring.
• Jason Segel, who is one of the two remaining bright spots on How I Met Your Mother, hosted SNL the other night and brought home one of the season's stronger episodes. Here's his monologue with the Muppets (and when you're done with that, check out Weekend Update):
• It's a light week ahead with the holiday, but be sure to check out A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Thursday on ABC. It's not quite the classic that the Christmas or Halloween specials turned out to be, but it's still better than any parade. Or you could just binge on classic TV Thanksgiving episodes. What's your favorite?