Community’s Impending Cancellation: An Objective Analysis

It had already been a bad evening for me.  I was stressed about a mountain of work I had to do and my lingering caffeine overdose had put me on edge.  I had to wade knee-deep through countless Facebook “repost if you know someone who is in heaven” statuses in a futile attempt to find something worth reading, and so I had no other choice than to find respite in the form of last Thursday’s episode of Community.  It was an epic parody of Heart of Darkness, the documentary about the director’s descent into insanity while making the infamous Vietnam-era movie Apocalypse Now.  As always, I was left satisfied after watching this smart and engaging comedy.  So after it was over, as I’m known to do, I waded into the reviews to see if others thought it was as brilliant as I did.  And that’s when I found it.  Like a hoarder finding his dead cat Mittens beneath a stack of old newspapers, I was horrified to see a story about NBC shelving Community midseason.  I was stunned.  How could this be?  How could a show this great be moved to the Huntsville Unit like a death row inmate in Texas?  It wasn’t an outright cancellation, but it was clear the judge had handed down the sentence.  And this is my appeal.

And the jury was made up of blithering idiots.

I was enraged.  I’m not just an overzealous fan here, though I fall into that category unabashedly.  No, I saw this as systematic and endemic in our society at large.  There is an overarching problem that America faces.  While some people may fear our future is akin to that in 1984, the rat cages already on the assembly line, the truth couldn’t be more starkly different.  Instead, we’ve devolved into Aldous Huxley’s A Brave New World and we didn’t even know it.     The majority of Americans are so content with the trash they’re fed on television, so comfortable with what they’re told they’ll enjoy, that they fear change and innovation and have a near toxic aversion to any hint of creativity.  It’s because of this that not only Community will be cancelled, but tons of other great shows die in their childhoods while abominations like According to Jim grow into adulthood long after they should have died under the weight of their own flaws.

Nietzsche was a religious man until he saw this...

Lets start with a quaint story from way back in 2006.  An underrated show you may have heard of, Arrested Development, was cancelled due to low ratings.  Now, I can’t blame Fox for this, and I don’t.  See, Fox and all the other stations are businesses, and their goal is to make money.  That makes sense to me.  Their shows have to draw in as many viewers as possible so they can charge advertisers more money.  So a show like Arrested Development, as close to perfection as it was, simply didn’t make sense from a business perspective.  So I don’t blame Fox.  But I do blame our society.  Because Fox knew that if they cancelled Arrested Development, they would have to replace it with something that would make them more money.  And being a big business, they have people who conduct studies and polls to find out what people want.  And just as they were told people didn’t want Arrested Development, they were told something else would do far better.  And so they replaced it with, and I kid you not, Skating with Celebrities.  

And our collective souls died a little that day

Americans don’t want something smart, something challenging, something that is funny in its subtlety.  They want, and I shudder to say it, Skating with Celebrities.  And though that show didn’t end up being successful either, it doesn’t take much to see that to this day shows like Arrested Development continue to be cancelled while shows like Dancing with the Stars continue to be made.  For every good show out there, there are tenfold shows about celebrities doing something stupid, and Americans eat that shit up.  When I go to Google news to read about developments in the world, you know, actually important stuff, I still see news about Kim Kardashian’s divorce.  This involuntarily induced bulimia aside, I realize just how comfortably stupid our society has become.  Because who cares about the overthrow of Gadaffi and what his government’s replacement could mean to the region and to the overall stability of the world as a whole when you have a fake wedding ending in a fake divorce between two fake people.  Who cares about a show like Louie, where heaven forbid you might have to think about what you’re seeing, when the abortion that is Mike and Molly so conveniently tells you when you need to be laughing with the helpful aid of a laugh track?

Oh, on second thought that IS hilarious!

I could write an entire article on laugh tracks and how they work solely on peer pressure.  The condescending use of this device tells us we should laugh because others think its funny.  But I have to stay on point, for I’ve strayed far enough as it is.  Even shows like King of the Hill, who some might like and some may not, was still a smart show in its execution and well made.  But it too suffered cancellation so that Seth McFarland could have his third show on Fox, The Cleveland Show.  I’m no master of economics, but this stunning lack of diversification can’t be a good investment on Fox’s part.  But people eat it up because “Omg Family Guy lolol!!!!1!!!1”.  But the cancellation of a scripted comedy show in exchange for another is something I can stomach far more than the cancellation of a show in exchange for a reality show.  Just this year alone these shows debuted:  The X Factor, The Voice, America’s Best Dance Crew, and Live to Dance.  I once dated a girl who cried during each episode of Biggest Loser, and she wasn’t even fat!  People will watch Nancy Grace convict innocent people on air, screaming about every white girl that goes missing until she bursts an artery in her head, and when her show goes off, they jump over to watch her pop a nipple out while she’s dancing.

Watch me dance, you pricks!

The problem is that ratings are measured by Nielsen boxes, and they only measure those shows that are watched live (though some do measure DVRs, if the show is watched within 3 days).  To an extent this makes sense considering that watching a show live is the only way to guarantee that the audience suffers through the commercials.  But relying on this method leaves out countless viewers.  Hulu viewership is shockingly not counted, nor is watching the show on the network’s own website, with its own commercials you cannot skip through.  Relying on an outdated method of viewership to calculate ratings is grossly misleading, leaving only those non-adopters of new technology to be counted as the viewers.  And because the internet is quickly overtaking physical television as the main source of scripted home entertainment, relying on this skewed understanding of who actually watches these shows leaves a specific demographic deciding what we, as a whole, watch.  And that demographic is old people, and stupid people.  The people who watch shows live exclusively, and shun television through the internet, are the ones who are deciding what is cancelled and what stays on the air.  And while that is not the sole group of people who watch television live, their absence from all other types of viewership serves to skew and unbalance all measurements of ratings to the extent that people who are out of touch are the ones who decide what is renewed and what is cancelled.

Everyone really does love that Raymond. He's such a nice boy.

And so here we are, a world where another great show like Community, one of the most innovative and creative shows on television, has been shelved half way through its third season.  It’s difficult not to assume it is up against the same fate Arrested Development and countless other shows have faced (Better Off Ted, Futurama, Freaks and Geeks, to name a few).  And it is because of a combination of factors, mostly that the majority of Americans prefer predictable, rehashed garbage that is comfortable and not at all challenging.  And those people are the ones that are disproportionately counted when it comes to ratings.  So when Community is cancelled while that travesty of a “show” Whitney gets renewed, you can be sad and dejected all you want, but don’t be surprised.  We have suffered a fate that Huxley predicted, and that was so well discussed in Amusing Ourselves to Death.  Though Arrested Development may be coming back now with a long overdue movie, true justice wouldn’t allow for this to happen at all.  In a perfect world, Arrested Development and Community would still be going strong, and the unwashed masses would be out there clamoring for their Mike & Molly movie, in 3D.  If this tide is to turn, we need to take another look at how we gauge the actual numbers of people watching shows out there, especially in the face of new technology.  And if that doesn’t fix it, I don’t know what to do.  America may be just too stupid to cure.  And even if I don’t have any answers, by God I love to complain.

I’ll leave you with this:


5 Responses to “Community’s Impending Cancellation: An Objective Analysis”

  1. I am not a big tv watcher myself, but that is primarily because I don’t like most of the shows they run. I agree that the networks seem to be catering to mindless antics or contests, rather than putting on quality dramas or sitcoms. Sorry your show is being cancelled. I have one show I tivo every week, so maybe that will be on the chopping block soon, too- since I’m not watching it live.

  2. What I love about Community is that it is never afraid to experiment. There is never a set formula with the show and it always tries new and interesting ways to tell its story. Examples I can think of is the Abed’s Christmas in claymation, Modern Warfare episodes, and the alternate timeline episode. The show doesnt bind itself to any set of rules, and is successful at being novel and entertaining. What I would be scared of the most if Community gets cancelled is what it would communicate to other new, original shows that stray from the cookie cutterred sitcoms and reality shows.

    Most of the quality shows on TV are found on Cable stations such as AMC, FX, and Comedy Central. Network comedy shows are struggling in quality, and shows such as Community and the like might be better suited for cable where smart, thoughtful comedy is appreciated.

  3. Sorry everyone, but Two and a Half Men just isn’t a good show anymore. Time for something to replace it!

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