As you no doubt already know if you care in the slightest, the cancelled NBC sitcom Community has been picked up by, of all entities, Yahoo! Leading to the question of whether Yahoo! is generously propping up Community after its total failure in the marketplace, or vice-versa.
On the one hand, NBC’s decision to cancel the show came out of left field.; most TV critics seemed to think its renewal for a sixth season was a fait accompli. Unlike the third and fourth season finales, the fifth season finale didn’t even try to put a button on the show as a whole, to work as an ersatz series finale.
So of course Hulu seemed like a natural home for a sixth season, given that a) Hulu hosts the first five seasons already and b) Hulu has been having real trouble getting anyone to take its original streaming content seriously (forget Netflix, Hulu’s stumbling behind Amazon). But then that fell through, and we’ve all had time to come to terms with the idea that there was never going to be any more Community.
And now there is. Thirteen episodes, distributed weekly through some means we’ll just have to learn about when the time comes. Will it be good? Will it be bad? Will it be really uneven, funny in places, less funny in others? I’m guessing that last one.
I’d just like to see a little closure for the characters. That may sound odd, given how plot- and joke-driven Community is compared to something like How I Met Your Mother or the Office. But before the fifth season started, I spent some time rewatching the show, skipping episodes I didn’t care for and focusing on my favorite episodes of the show: “Debate 109,” “Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design,” “Geography of Global Conflict,” “Pillows and Blankets,” and I noticed that they all had a lot of Jeff/Annie interactions. Then the fifth season spent its second and third episodes focused on re-establishing the Jeff/Annie relationship dynamic. This was an especially odd choice given that Troy would be leaving the show after the fifth episode, and these were storylines that barely featured him.
I want to see the thirty-five-or-forty-year-old (depending on which episode you’re willing to ignore) burnout and the twenty-four-year-old coed hook up, is what I’m saying. I went looking for the fan community, and found out that the bit at the end of the fifth season finale, the part where Jeff is wearing a magic hat and he looks at people and then a door opens? You remember, or else you haven’t read this far down.
There’s a little sound clip that plays as he looks at each person in turn, what he’s remembering about them. The bit that plays with Annie, the last one he looks at, is “‘Milady?’ ‘Milord,'” an exchange between the two of them from waaaay back in the first season. Two of the other three clips were from season five episodes, and the other was a joke. But it turns out that “milady/milord” is a shibboleth for the online pro-Jeff/Annie community, such as it is. Plus when the magic hat makes the robot open the door (I’m not saying this was a very clever conceit) Jeff looks askance and focuses on the Dean instead of Annie, whom he had been looking at, and the Dean shoots him an oddly knowing glance. If you assume, as the majority of mainstream Community criticism did (and yeah fair bit of irony describing talking about Community as mainstream) that it was Jeff’s collective feelings for the Greendale population which got the door open, the business with the Dean makes no sense. If you conclude instead that it was Jeff’s oft-denied passion for Annie which got the door to open, then it’s a joke.
So the implication was that in a sixth season there’d be some motion or change on the Jeff/Annie relationship front. Particularly when you pair it with Annie’s brief speech just before this scene, and the cut to Jeff’s reaction in the middle of that. In the days after the fifth season finale I saw these things paired together in more animated GIFs on Tumblr than is healthy for anyone, alongside lengthy analyses and diatribes and arguments and even fanfiction, I’m not proud. It was a bleak time. My wife is a wonderful person and sympathetic to my investment in a relationship between a man whose name is spelled JEFFREYWI (plus some other letters) and a woman who is tiny and fierce and a neurotic overachiever, plus her name starts with a vowel. Even she eventually got tired of my harping on it, though.
Anyway. I’m about to shut up about this, but: over the course of the first three seasons, Jeff and Annie map surprisingly closely to the first two-thirds or so of a conventional romance novel plot structure. You have your beliefs-that-must-change, your internal and external conflicts, it’s all there. It stalls out at the tail end of season three, and season five seems to have been dedicated in part to getting their relationship back to that place.
(Best joke from the fourth season: the episode where Abed and Troy pretend to swap bodies, and the Dean pretends he’s swapped bodies with Jeff. Annie (and Shirley) go to the Dean with a problem, and the Dean responds the way Jeff usually does: he drops what he’s doing and makes solving Annie’s problem his number one priority. Also he flirts with Annie, in character as Jeff. None of that is the best joke from the fourth season. The best joke from the fourth season is that Annie can’t help herself from responding to the flirtation. Shirley calls her on it, and her response is a panicked “I have a problem!”)