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October 7, 2015

Save Greendale! An Open Letter to the Head of NBC Regarding 'Community's' Future

by Maureen Ryan, posted Nov 15th 2011 12:40PM
The news that 'Community' has been benched for an indeterminate amount of time came like a punch in the gut on Monday.

Wait, what? Why am I, of all people, lamenting this very dark timeline for the low-rated NBC comedy? I'm not known to be one of 'Community's' most vociferous advocates.

Because the best part of this job is tapping into people's passions, and when I wrote about how much I loved 'Remedial Chaos Theory,' a wildly inventive and fantastically fun October episode of the show, I got a ton of feedback from 'Community' fans who were excited to share lists of their favorite episodes of the show.

Maybe 'Community' hasn't been my cup of tea every single week, but I absolutely love how much people adore it, and in a perfect world, the TV landscape offers range of shows that a wide variety of people wholeheartedly love, whatever those show's occasional wobbles.

That's why we need a Save Greendale campaign, which should not only involve felt beards but also letters to NBC (and if you have further ideas on how to save the show, please share them below). Here's my open letter to Robert Greenblatt, the chairman of NBC Entertainment:

Dear Mr. Greenblatt,

I would have called you Bob, but that seems a little informal. Mr. Greenblatt sounds like someone's social studies teacher, but perhaps that's appropriate, given that I'm writing to you about 'Community.'

I don't want to waste your time, so I'll try to keep this short (keep in mind that "short," in the mind of a TV critic, usually means about 800 words, if not longer).

Your network is experiencing difficulties. Did that sound diplomatic enough? In any event, NBC has a lot of low-rated shows, and nothing has emerged as a breakout hit this fall. I'm sorry that's the case, given that the network's fall offerings were generally better than what we've seen the last few years, and it's especially impressive that you and the folks behind the low-rated but excellent 'Prime Suspect' (which looks like it's not going to go beyond its initial 13-episode order) were able to pull off a very credible reboot of that storied franchise.

So, despite your best efforts, the new stuff hasn't quite worked, and several older shows have declined in the ratings as well. But I'm not here to tell you things you already know. I'm here to remind you of something that's worth remembering at this dark time.

People love NBC. No, really!

Many critics, members of the media, members of the public and random extra-terrestrials very much enjoyed piling on NBC during the past decade of follies, missteps and exceedingly dubious programming.

But as critic Alan Sepinwall has often pointed out, the aughts turned out to be, all things considered, a very good era for the network. No, really!

Thanks to the state of NBC during those dark, pre-Greenblatt times, shows that never would have stuck around on any other network got long, healthy lives. 'Chuck' and 'Friday Night Lights,' both of which got five-season runs, are only the two most prominent beneficiaries of NBC's problems, and the fledgling 'Office,' '30 Rock' and 'Parks and Recreation' all got the time they needed to find themselves amid the general chaos. 'Parenthood,' a nicely understated ensemble drama that does not feature explosions or dead bodies, is a relative hit for NBC. We TV fans should say it more often, but we really appreciate the fact that NBC has often let solidly crafted shows stick around on the schedule.

The upshot of the past decade of nuttiness, weirdly enough, is that fans of quality television have a lot of affection for NBC and its offerings. And fans of quality television are a loyal bunch. As your network prepares to launch its mid-season offerings (including the very promising 'Smash') and otherwise tries to revive NBC's fortunes, could you just do those quality-TV fans a favor and reward them for sticking around during NBC's darkest timeline?

Would it really cost you much to put 'Community' back on the schedule at your earliest convenience? I don't think it would. Ratings matter, of course, but sometimes, goodwill and karma matter too. Think of how much you'd have as the head of the network that took good care of one of its most innovative and beloved offerings.

I all say this as someone who's had a somewhat contentious relationship with the show -- I've occasionally loved it, but I've also sometimes found 'Community' a bit arch for my tastes. Still, I know quality when I see it. 'Community' is very well made, it has a tremendous cast and its writers' room houses a deep well of creativity. Having it on the air buys you good will with the public, in the media and among critics, and can you afford to be cavalier with those things at this delicate juncture?

Maybe you can. That's entirely possible. Maybe you have bean counters standing over you and forcing you to write 'I will not air low-rated shows' 100 times on a blackboard.

But in your career, generally speaking, you haven't listened to those kinds of people, at least not exclusively.

The evidence is clear. You like weird characters, interesting premises and offbeat television. Come on, admit it. You do. You worked on 'The X-Files' way back in the day at Fox. 'Dexter,' 'Weeds,' 'Nurse Jackie' and 'United States of Tara' arrived on Showtime during your time there. I'm willing to let 'The Playboy Club' go as a weird misfire, but at least it wasn't another lawyer drama, and this year you also gave us 'Prime Suspect,' the thoughtful and inventive 'Awake' (which I hope you find a place for on the mid-season schedule) and the very frisky 'Smash.'

In short, you're not just another suit. You have gone out of your way to nurture shows that belong on the Island of Misfit Toys, and you've made successes of quite a few of them. Sticking with 'Community' cements NBC's reputation as the place where (mostly) excellent comedies still hold down the fort. That's not a reputation you want to throw away lightly, for yourself or for your network.

Don't take us into the darkest timeline, Mr. Greenblatt. Find a place for 'Community' on the NBC schedule. Give the Greendale students an extension. You can afford to, I think. And you can't afford not to.

Thanks for listening,

Mo Ryan

Snail mail can be sent to Greenblatt at care of NBC Universal, 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA 91608.

Some fans have taken to putting 'Remedial Chaos Theory' dark-timeline beards to show support for the show, on Twitter and Tumblr (and if anyone can invent a program to add beards to online avatars, I'd certainly take advantage of that).

UPDATE: A Twibbon campaign with Abed beards can be found here.

Additional fan ideas to help 'Community' are certainly welcomed below. Share with the class.

Follow @MoRyan on Twitter.

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The best way to save Community is to get it off NBC. The Big 3 networks are clearly run by clueless fools, and they will eventually destroy any decent show that accidentally gets on the air.

November 23 2011 at 11:45 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The best way to save Community is to get it off NBC. The Big 3 Networks are idiots and you can count on them destroying every decent show in one way or another.

November 23 2011 at 11:44 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

http://youtu.be/hzA33--Kz88 Community fans are hardcore!

November 23 2011 at 12:48 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

NBC, don't Britta this.

November 22 2011 at 3:07 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Kevin Nelson

I'm starting a groundswell campaign for #SaveCommunity. Much like the Remedial Chaos Theory concept, I propose sending dice to Greenblatt. I blogged about it at http://www.breakmentaldown.com/2011/11/take-roll-of-dice-to-savecommunity.html

November 20 2011 at 4:23 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Let's all band together and boycott the stupid new shows that NBC airing for their mid season shows that is preventing Community from airing. Shows like Whitney and whatever other stupid crap ass shows that do not hold a candle to Community should not be watched. Let's give those shows low ratings and keep the push to keep Community on the air so the NBC execs will come to their senses and put it back in it's right place. Oh and maybe put The Office at the 8PM time slot so it too gets raped by all the gay shows that people watch at that time slot. Community is one of the best shows but the people that tune in watch via online (Hulu), DVR, or some other method and not during the actual air time which drops ratings. Its frustrating, everyone I know loves Community and that cast is amazing. I hope they get another shot just like Parks and Rec did. We shall hope and see. Here's to Troy and Abed, 6 seasons and a movie PLEASE!!!!!

November 18 2011 at 11:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Save Community Please!!
http://www.aoltv.com/2011/11/15/community-save-greendale-letter-to-nbc/ #SAVEGREENDALE

November 18 2011 at 12:04 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Elissa Fragiskos

We are sending the NBC Chairman Evil Beards, Postcards, letters like this one, etc. Join the #SaveCommunity Campaign: www.facebook.com/savecommunitytv and www.savecommunity.ca

November 17 2011 at 6:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Let's target the advertisers of Community. Buy their products, then mention #savecommunity through comment cards, snail mail, social media. Also, who has a Neilsen box, or DVRs the show and watches within 3 days? This is what is counted as viewership. This is crazy and outdated. Universal owns NBC, and Universal posts Community on Hulu. THEY HAVE THOSE NUMBERS. Internet viewership should and MUST be counted. Hulu, you make us sit through ALL kinds of ads and make money off of us, right? You owe us one!

November 17 2011 at 1:26 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
The AOL Experien

We usually stick to CBS. Overall, they and TNT seem to have the best programming. Prime Suspect WAS one
of the few NBC shows that we watch. We've also followed NBC shows to TNT. Nurse Jackie, Dexter, etc, are why
network shows are losing viewers. Could be the new thing of rerunning shows 2 weeks after the were shown
originally, too! What idiots decided to do that?

November 16 2011 at 8:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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