Community's 'Six Seasons And A Movie' Wasn't Dan Harmon's Idea

From the moment it went on the air, "Community" proved to be vastly different from other shows on TV, with a penchant for keen pop culture and genre knowledge. With episodes devoted to westerns, conspiracy thrillers, sci-fi, fantasy, and much, much more, "Community" was very different from its contemporaries like "30 Rock" and "Parks and Recreation."

Yet as innovative as the show was, it was constantly plagued by poor ratings, measured against juggernauts like "Bones," "CSI," and "The Office." Knowing whether or not "Community" was coming back for a new season was a struggle very year, a struggle that was encapsulated in the phrase "six seasons and a movie," which became a rallying cry for fans. But despite how key that phrase became for "Community," it wasn't even an idea creator Dan Harmon came up with.

Humble origins

The phrase traces its origins back to a different NBC drama, an ambitious but poorly executed superhero show titled "The Cape." As its title suggests, it is about a guy who fights crime using ... a cape. It wasn't very good and got canceled after one season, so "Community" made fun of its dumb premise.

In the season 2 episode "Paradigms of Human Memory " — a delightful spin on the "flashback episode that shows flashbacks to things that we never actually saw on the show" trope — we see Abed dressed up as the Cape from The Cape. This prompts Jeff to get annoyed at Abed and shout: "The show's gonna last three weeks!"

In response, Abed utters the words "Six seasons and a movie!" as he runs away, thus birthing a mantra. When season 2 ended without news of a renewal, a "Save Community" campaign started in order to convince NBC the show was worth keeping around, with the hashtag #sixseasonsandamovie prominently used throughout. During season 3, the phrase resurfaced when NBC took the show off its mid-season schedule without an explanation, leaving fans to believe the network had canceled the show. The hashtag would return over and over again as the show faced constant cancellation, and when "Community" finally ended its sixth season on the defunct platform Yahoo! Screen, it ended with the title card "#andamovie."

A rallying cry

Speaking to That Shelf, Dan Harmon confessed he actually didn't write the "six seasons and a movie" phrase. Worse yet, he says he "doesn't even know now who did." But Harmon recognizes that the phrase made sense as a joke given the context of "The Cape":

"Abed just blurts that out and it certainly sounds like how long that show he was talking about, 'The Cape,' should last. It just sounds like a rightful duration for that show. Then it's applied to 'Cougar Town' and other shows. It just sounds like the right amount of time!"

Indeed, there are plenty of great and celebrated shows that lasted exactly six seasons, like "Lost" and "Fresh Prince of Bel Air," while a few managed to fulfill the promise of "The Cape" and also get a movie after their sixth season, like "Sex and the City" and "The Sopranos." 

According to Harmon, the phrase resonates because six seasons is the right middle ground between a show that is canceled too early, and a show that goes on forever. "After the sixth season, that season 7 probably won't be the best season," Harmon explains, comparing "six seasons and a movie" to saying "seventy-eight years old and three kids" as a goal. "It's the American dream," he says.

"Community" is streaming on Netflix.