For most of the country, “back-to-school” season was in August. But for the devoted legion of fans who have dedicated ourselves to a certain fictional Colorado community college that's always strayed from the norm, classes are just beginning. Confounding expectations by narrowly escaping death, Community kicks off its sixth season March 17 on Yahoo.
This exciting news at least warrants a dance party set to some of Dave’s tunes (real Dave Matthews Band fans just call him Dave) because it almost didn't happen. After Community lingered for years on the chopping block, NBC finally axed the sitcom at the end of its fifth season. Sony Pictures Television tried taking it to Hulu, but the deal fell apart right around the time the cast’s contracts were set to expire. Thankfully, Yahoo Screens, the web portal’s streaming service, swooped in at the last minute and rescued the Greendale Human Beings from the abyss.
Yahoo’s last-minute save has brought us on the cusp of reaching the fabled “six seasons-and-a-movie”—a second-season punch line mocking NBC’s The Cape that morphed into an optimistic rallying cry for fans of the show that was constantly on the verge of being cancelled. However, did anyone ever actually expect Community to reach a sixth season?
In a way, the fact that Community “ended” in its fifth season, just shy of this promise of an awesome world where Community was just as deserving of a movie as Entourage, felt very “Community.” In the show, the world outside of Greendale Community College, i.e. the real world, was never as fulfilling as it could be and always let the study group down. On the other hand, narrowly escaping death has been Community’s M.O. since its genesis. And let’s be honest, who’s complaining about another season of Community?
The fifth season was a much-welcomed return to form following the disappointing and Dan Harmon-less fourth season. As it moved through its now standard meta-antics (another bottle episode!) and high-concept episodes (David Fincher parody! G.I. Joe episode!), the show found time for more poignant moments such as acknowledging Pierce’s (Chevy Chase) death and saying farewell to Donald Glover, who played Troy, Abed’s partner-in-geek.
At the beginning of the season, Jeff Winger (Joel McHale) and company, having failed to make it in the real world after graduating, returned to Greendale Community College to find it in even worse condition than when they had left it. Their beloved study room was closed and turned into a file room for both sentimental and asbestos reasons!
“Don’t turn your back on it,” a hologram recording of Pierce says to Jeff in “Repilot,” the fifth season premiere. “You’re in a special place. A crappy place, sure, but only because it gives crappy people a chance to sort themselves out.”
Realizing that the school needed them as much it they needed it, the group formed the Save Greendale Committee. However, the Save Greendale Committee ends up being too successful. It turned a college where Ass Crack Bandit crime sprees and campus-wide paintball matches were the norm into a halfway decent school. Unfortunately, this meant that Greendale now had some monetary value. In the season finale, the school board decided to sell it to Subway. With the survival of the school on the line, the gang went on one last mission to return Greendale to its former crappy glory. (The finale was also concerned with endings and the anxiety they create, because meta). And they succeeded! Of all of Community’s season finales doubling as series finales, this one felt like the least final. However, it ends with the study group seated around the study room table basking in their recent success.
Yahoo! Screens picked up Community for a 13-episode season, with new episodes airing every Tuesday. When the show returns, fans can expect “a tiny bit more Britishness to the comedy,” and fewer high-concept episodes, revealed Dan Harmon and executive producer Chris McKenna at the Winter TCA. Here comes the bad news, though: The study group will be short one more member. In September, Yvette Nicole Brown, who played Shirley, told TV Guide that she wasn’t returning for the sixth season.
“My dad needs daily care and he needs me,” Brown said. “The idea of being away 16 hours a day for five months, I couldn’t do it. It was a difficult decision for me to make, but I had to choose my dad.” Shirley’s absence will be addressed in the season premiere.
This season, Community added Paget Brewster (Criminal Minds) and Enlisted’s Keith David as series regulars. Brewster, who guest-starred in the fifth season as the head of Greendale’s IT department, will be portraying a different character, Francesca “Frankie” Dart, a college consultant. David will play a retired scientist looking to “reinvent himself” at Greendale. Martin Mull and Lesley Ann Warren have been cast as Britta’s parents, so this should be fun. As far as we know, Donald Glover isn’t set to make an appearance; however, Harmon indicated that he was open to the possibility of Glover returning.
What about Community’s future past this season? Well, Harmon says he’s not writing this season as if it’s the last one. “Only when people stop watching would I ever stop wanting to make the product,” Harmon said at the TCAs.
So, Human Beings, we got our sixth season. Time for the movie.