It's been a strange couple of years for "Community," NBC's struggling comedy set on a Colorado college campus. In 2011, the network announced that NBC would pull "Community" from their midseason schedule to make room for "30 Rock," effectively pushing the airdate for the second half of Season 3 back by three months to March of 2012.
By the skin of its teeth, "Community" scored just enough viewers to get renewed for a fourth season. However, after filming on Season 4 began, the return date for the fourth season was pushed from October 2012 to March 2013. Airing now, Season 4 has just 13 episodes, compared to the 20+ of past seasons: This may be a signal that NBC plans to cancel the series. However, ratings for Season 4 aren't far off from Season 3's numbers.
Complicating matters, comedy legend Chevy Chase left the series before filming for Season 4 was completed. This may make NBC less likely to renew the series, since Chase was a big draw for many viewers. Since Chase has left for good, his character Pierce Hawthorne has been written out of the show in what is presumed to be a permanent fashion.
With Chase gone and the series already in the midst of a shortened season, it seems likely that NBC will pull the plug on the show. However, it should be noted that other TV shows have lost a major actor and gone on for many seasons afterward.
For example, "South Park" lost voice-actor Isaac Hayes after nine seasons. Hayes left the show after "South Park" mocked Scientology and numerous other religions. Hayes himself was a member of the Scientology movement. As a result, Chef (played by Hayes) had to be killed off. The episode where Chef died was well-received by fans, and the show is still going strong.
In another example of a show that survived after the loss of a big-name cast member, the original "Dallas" went on without Patrick Duffy for an entire season. Duffy was eventually persuaded to return to the series and reprise the role of Bobby Ewing. And of course, "Two and Half Men" has still managed to stay on the air, even after Charlie Sheen departed.
Still, despite all these precedents, the odds of a Chevy Chase-less "Community" getting renewed for a fifth season are low. After all, most college experiences only last four years. Complicating matters is the fact that some fans don't like the change in tone and humor that "Community" has developed in Season 4. This shift is mostly attributed to the loss of showrunner and show creator Dan Harmon.
One thing's for sure: "Community" fans won't have to wait much longer to learn whether the show will get renewed without Chevy Chase in the cast.
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