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Why Do Networks Still Have Trouble With Shows Like 'Community'?

By Brendon McCullin, Hollywood Staff

When Community was finally canceled by NBC, it was really just the wrap-up of a death march that has been playing out in slow motion for years. Actually, it could be argued that the fact that Dan Harmon's quirky ensemble sitcom set at a community college managed to make it as long as it did on a network is a victory in and of itself.

Network television has always had difficulty knowing what to do with smart, off-beat comedies, whether it was Taxi in the late '70s, NewsRadio in the '90s, Arrested Development in the 2000s, or Happy Endings this decade. Shows that need time to build an audience as more people get in on the joke perplex executives that are looking at ratings and ad revenue that don't add up. The fact that Community had a stellar cast headlined by Joel McHale, featured some of the most original writing on television and regularly took chances by embracing its uniqueness (and, yes, stunts like making an animated episode or setting a storyline against the backdrop of a pillow fort war) gets lost in the shuffle of bottom line numbers.

The thing is that you would expect that networks would've learned their lessons by now… since their counterparts on the cable side have been trying to show them the way for a while now.