Community won’t be on television, but it is returning. Yahoo announced that the sixth season of the community-college meta-comedy will debut on March 17, with the first two episodes of the new season arriving on Yahoo’s streaming platform Yahoo Screen. It’s a brave new world of post-television TV, but the new season’s release strategy is decidedly old-school: After the premiere, episodes will appear weekly every Tuesday.
Showrunner Dan Harmon clarified that the Community-on-Yahoo experience would not be subscriber-based. “You will go to the Yahoo app,” he said. “It is free, it will be advertising-supported.” The panel didn’t clarify precisely how commercials would be presented, but from what Harmon said, it sounds like the structure of Community is essentially unchanged. “Three-act stories are what work for me,” he said. Despite being free of broadcast-network standards, the show will not feature profanity or nudity, although Harmon did cop to “a tiny bit more British-ness to the comedy,” so cross your fingers that that’s code for a Cumberbatch cameo.
The panel was light on huge revelations, although Harmon—onstage with fellow producer Chris McKenna and stars Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, and Ken Jeong—did confirm that the premiere will address the departure of original series star Yvette Nicole Brown. It sounds like there’s an open-door policy for drop-ins from Brown and Donald Glover. Asked about the rumors of a return for Chevy Chase—despite his character’s death—Harmon demurred: “If you were to take a man and bring him back to life like that, I think you would want to keep that a secret.”
Although the show’s budget is slightly larger this season, Harmon and McKenna claimed the show would have considerably fewer high-concept episodes. “We haven’t gone down the rabbithole,” said McKenna. “I do remain hopeful of doing something a little extravagant,” added Harmon. “Something cool in the last couple of episodes.”
The big question underlying the TCA panel: Where does Community go from here? A short scene from an upcoming episode featured new cast member Paget Brewster and Keith David, and several questions focused on how the central cast has shifted the last few seasons; Harmon himself has stated that he initially wasn’t sure about continuing Community on Yahoo. “I’m definitely not writing [this season] as if it’s the end,” Harmon said.
“Only when people stop watching would I ever stop wanting to make the product,” he continued. “I have to continue writing the show as if it’s going to last for 20 seasons.” That might sound pie-in-the-sky, but Harmon seemed to be subtly groundworking a master plan for a decade of Community. “I do have a naive feeling that we’ve demonstrated that Greendale itself is an environment, is a character,” said Harmon. “One of the things that we’ve learned how to do is make sure the cast fluctuations don’t destroy the show immediately.”
So is Community, like, the American Degrassi? Check back in 14 years for TCA 2029.