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Posted at 06:23 PM ET, 10/09/2012

NBC delays ‘Community,’ ‘Whitney’ return to stay No. 1 in ratings


The cast of “Community” will be back...sometime. (Mitchell Haaseth - NBC)

“Community” fans, whose persecution complex rivals Bristol Palin’s on “Dancing With the Stars,” on Tuesday accused NBC of messing with them for sport — after learning that the network canceled plans to return their beloved show to the lineup Oct. 19.

They, in fact, should be thanking NBC.

The relationship between “Community” and NBC has been star-crossed for ages. Last November, “Community” fans did not stop to read the fine print when NBC announced that it was benching the show to make room on Thursdays to return “30 Rock.” The fans began to rant and rave, mistakenly believing the show had been canceled.

On the bright side, that meant they were happily surprised when NBC announced in early May that the show was getting a fourth-season pickup. Until they discovered only 13 episodes had been ordered.

The firing of show-runner Dan Harmon did nothing to improve their mood.

It got worse when NBC unveiled its prime-time lineup to advertisers in May. The network had moved “Community” from its plum Thursday night to Fridays – the second worst night of the week for a broadcast TV series, behind only Saturdays.

After that, NBC announced that “Community” would not return until Oct. 19.

Then late Monday, NBC announced that it had scrubbed that plan and would bench the show — again.

For the first time in a decade, NBC — the “perennially mired in fourth place” network — unexpectedly found itself in first place among advertiser-preferred 18- to 49-year-old viewers after the season’s first two weeks. So NBC began to take a long, cold look at how to eke out the biggest ratings in every time slot.

NBC’s first-place status is owing in large measure to its decision to move “The Voice” to the fall, on Monday and Tuesday nights. The network recently gave full-season orders to its Monday freshman drama, “Revolution,” and its two new Tuesday comedies, “Go On” and “The New Normal” — all of which benefited from their “Voice” lead-in crowds.

But NBC’s new Wednesday comedies, “Animal Practice” and “Guys With Kids,” are struggling. Ditto its returning Thursdays comedies.

Meanwhile, looking at the Friday landscape, NBC suits probably decided that “Community” and “Whitney” were gonna get killed in the ratings. But if NBC hung on to the two comedies, the network might be able to use them somewhere else — Wednesdays or Thursdays, for instance.

In NBC’s defense, the announcement in May that “Whitney” and “Community” would move to Fridays in the fall wasn’t so dumb. Pitching two younger-skewing comedy series parked at 8 p.m. Fridays probably sounded a lot more attractive to advertisers than, “Hey, how about buying ad time in our ‘Grimm’ rerun Fridays at 8?”

But in fairness to “Community” fans, NBC suits also were thinking that if they held back “Community” and “Whitney” for a while, they could use their precious on-air promo time instead to keep plugging “Revolution,” “Go On,” and “The New Normal” – and maybe persuade a few more people to watch Crystal the Monkey, and babies in bjorns, on Wednesday nights.

NBC actually confessed as much in its e-mail to reporters announcing its change of plans:

“Without having to launch these comedies on Friday at this time, we can keep our promotion focused on earlier in the week — plus we will have both comedies in our back pocket if we need to make any schedule changes on those nights,” NBC said.

So, “Community”-ists — take heart! Could we now maybe see “Community” back on Thursday nights? You betcha!

And not that it matters to you, but “Whitney” might get lucky and wind up paired with “Up All Night” on Wednesdays. Stranger things have happened.

So, you see, “Community” fans, you’ve got nothing to worry about. Oh, except, of course, that Sony sacked beloved “Community” creator Dan Harmon and moved in these two interlopers, Moses Port and David Guarascio, who Sony had under contract. Their most recent pilot — “El Jefe” at Fox — didn’t get greenlit to series, so they got asked to take over your favorite show.

 NBC’s scheduling change of plans was far more problematic for the slew of Reporters Who Cover Television who’d been given one-on-one time with the new “Community” showrunners, leading up to the show’s Oct. 19 return, who had just published online their version of Guarascio telling them that because Harmon had already “tunneled through the mountain,” it was easy for them to keep producing episodes the way Harmon would’ve made them.

This mountain tunneling leitmotif was introduced, no doubt, in hopes “Community” fans who’d mocked them with that fake Twitter account would  knock it off and check out the show’s season debut with an open mind.

Whenever it happens.

By  |  06:23 PM ET, 10/09/2012

 
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