Dan Harmon Had His Doubts About Community's Move To Yahoo

As beloved as "Community" is today, it was a never a ratings hit while it was airing. The threat of cancellation was constantly hanging over its head throughout the first five seasons. The firing and rehiring of showrunner Dan Harmon, in addition to the loss of two major characters in season 5, didn't help things either. The show was finally cancelled by NBC after season 5, but was luckily picked up for a final season by Yahoo's new streaming platform, Yahoo! Screen.  

Despite all this, it was still the sitcom's final season, and Yahoo! Screen would soon be swallowed up by Hulu in 2016. There were a lot of signs pointing to the idea that "Community" wasn't in a good place as it went into its sixth season, and Dan Harmon was certainly aware of them. "Even after they offered us more money than NBC and Hulu combined, I'll admit I was still skeptical," Harmon said. Considering that the much larger Netflix and Hulu were dominating the streaming wars at the time, it was hard to have a lot of faith in Yahoo! Screen, especially since Yahoo itself was a far cry from its 2000s prominence. 

But luckily for "Community" fans, their sales pitch won Harmon over: "To their credit, they came into our meeting and said almost immediately, 'Look, we know what you're thinking right now, and you're right to think it.' ... They laid out their assets and just how many eyeballs come through Yahoo every day, and that was impressive."

Season 6's strange feel

Free from standard network constraints, "Community's" new platform meant that season 6 could have episodes that went on longer than the typical 22 minute runtimes that made up the first five seasons. It also apparently meant the characters could curse now, as the series finale's multiple surprise F-bombs made clear. Perhaps most notably, season 6 is "Community" at its darkest. I don't just mean tonally; the lighting is literally darker than all the other seasons.

Combine that with the fact that major study group member Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) was also gone from the show, and you had a season that seemed strangely sad, but in a way that felt intentional. Of the seven core characters of season 1, only four were left, and one of them (Britta) had been downgraded in importance. Not only that, but established characters like Buzz Hickey (Jonathan Banks) and Professor Duncan (John Oliver) were also nowhere to be found. It felt like the party had long since wound down and the show was stubbornly refusing to head home. 

This feeling turned out to be the basis of Jeff Winger's (Joel McHale) character arc. Season 6 finds him becoming more and more of an alcoholic, increasingly insecure about the fact that more people are inevitably going to leave him. The finale has hit him with the one-two punch of both Abed (Danny Pudi) and Annie (Alison Brie) leaving to do other things, leaving Jeff behind as the last remaining member of the study group. (Well, Britta's still around, but season 6 Britta is basically unrecognizable from season 1 Britta.) Ultimately, Jeff has to accept that his friends are going to move on with their lives, just as we have to accept that it's probably for the best that "Community" ends.

Finding humor in darkness

But in the meantime, there are still plenty of great moments from season 6 to make it a valuable, arguably essential period of the show. It features a third and final paintball episode, one that includes some of the best action choreography of any of them. It's also got the introduction of Frankie Dart (Paget Brewster), who is, as the character herself puts it, "a humble outsider who came in and nailed it."

It's also the show at its most unhinged, at its most willing to go to weird, dark places. One highlight is "Basic Email Security," the episode where the main characters all have their emails leaked, and the revelations within them threaten to tear the group apart. The argument that follows has some of the funniest moments of the series (Jeff calmly throwing a chair across the room), but also moments that feel a little too real. At one point Chang (Ken Jeong) tries to make fun of Frankie for the long emails she sends to her sister, "who you might notice never responds. Take a hint." To which Frankie responds with prestige drama quality acting, "She's dead! I pretend to write her emails as a journaling device, you wretched, invasive little gremlin." 

It's a moment that's both deeply funny and deeply sad, a tone that season 6 was obsessed with exploring. The finale ends with a gag where a family realizes they're just characters for a fake commercial, and this gives them an existential crisis that sends them into a deep, seemingly permanent depression. Perhaps it's simply because the show was aware of its own impending death, but season 6 was the show at its most morbid, and quite possibly at its most interesting. Thanks, Yahoo.