Early in Community’s sixth season, premiering Tuesday on Yahoo, protagonist Jeff Winger (Joel McHale)—who's evolved from a grumpy community college student into a grumpy professor over the course of the show—watches with horror as a new character gets sucked into the school through the force of sheer inertia, agreeing to take some classes because he had nothing better to do. Seeing himself in the student, Jeff asks the school's cheerful dean, “I’ll never get out of here, will I?”
It’s heartening that this once-canceled show has somehow found its way back to screens. But Community has always been a self-aware comedy, so even its characters are wondering what they're still doing at Greendale and by extension posing the question: Shouldn’t the show be dead by now? By traditional industry standards, the answer is yes. But Community loves nothing more than pushing back against traditional industry standards, an impulse that shows no sign of abating in this strange sixth season.
In its first five seasons, Community was the low-rated cult comedy of NBC’s low-rated cult comedy night—even compared with the meager viewership of its timeslot mates like 30 Rock, the show was no hit and battled cancellation rumors from the very beginning. Its first three years gave network audiences brilliant, challenging, and occasionally infuriating comedy, and inspired a fanbase that is devoted even by the high standards of the online era. For its fourth season, the creator and showrunner Dan Harmon was fired and the resulting output felt like fan-fiction—a well-intended but pale imitation.