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‘And a Movie’: The story of ‘Community’

“Six seasons and a movie.” For one fandom, this was more than a quote. It was a goal — an aspiration for the show that they loved. This is the story of the show “Community” and how its fans were just so dedicated to harassing NBC employees that the show managed to get saved from cancellation. 

“Community” debuted its first season on NBC in 2009 as part of their “Must See TV” comedy line. It centered on an oddball group of students at a community college, including a disbarred lawyer, former football star, a recovering addict and others. The show ran with the network for five years, receiving critical acclaim and a strong following, though actual viewing numbers remained lower than other comedies. Cancellation was always a risk, and the show danced dangerously close to the line. After NBC canceled the show after its fifth year, the show was picked up for its sixth, and final, season by Yahoo! Screen. 

During the show’s third season, NBC made an announcement that it was being removed from the mid-season lineup. Fans heard this news, and made the decision to protest outside of NBC’s New York headquarters. Their protests involved numerous references to the show, including (but not limited to): fake goatees, dressing as Christmas trees and chanting lines from the series. Fortunately for fans, the show was not canceled … yet. While season 3 would continue, season 4 was not announced, and the writers knew this. That is why the season 3 finale ended with a white screen with one phrase on it: “#sixseasonsandamovie,” a phrase adopted by fans in support of the show. The origins of the line are quite mundane: a character, known for their obsession with movies and television, made the statement about NBC’s (critically panned) drama “The Cape.” Despite the simplicity of the joke, fans latched onto the phrase.

While the show didn’t end with season 3, it was not without loss. Showrunner and writer Dan Harmon left season 4 due to creative differences with NBC. This season, featuring mostly new writers, is not fondly remembered by fans due to the perception that the characters changed for the worse. When Harmon returned for season 5, the show addressed these complaints, describing a year-long gas leak influencing the students. Season 5 was praised as a return to form, even with the departure of actor Chevy Chase after a verbal altercation on set. This was not the only departure the show faced this season, as fan-favorite Donald Glover left to further his career outside of the show, pursuing music under his alias Childish Gambino. As previously mentioned, season 6 was streamed on Yahoo! Screen, with the intention of it being the last season, honoring fan requests. This was in 2015. For seven years, fans had no information regarding the possibility of a film, just teases and mentions in interviews.  

On the morning of Sept. 30, 2022, NBC’s streaming service Peacock tweeted out an image simply saying “…and a movie.” The movie was officially announced, completing the prophecy born out of a throw-away line that fans just became overly attached to. While most of the cast has been announced to return, Donald Glover and Yvette Nicole Brown have not. However, in a charity reunion livestream, both actors said they would be open to a return for a hypothetical film. The movie has only been ordered, so there is plenty of time for them to announce involvement before production begins. 

The “Community” movie is the product of fan demand and cult following, similar to other projects such as the Snyder Cut of the “Justice League” movie, or fan support of a Ryan Reynold’s “Deadpool” film after test footage leaked online. The show, inadvertently at first, promised fans six seasons and a movie. Now, they’re ready to deliver.

Contact Andy at aottone@nd.edu.

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