Community ends, but perhaps it doesn't . . . #sixseasonsandamovie

Community ends, but perhaps it doesn't #sixseasonsandamovie

Yahoo hints the cult sitcom will have some kind of afterlife, geekdom rejoices while we look at what made it great

Community, the NBC-and-then-Yahoo sitcom which has just finished its sixth season, seems set to be not entirely over. In the wake of what's been generally regarded as a highly satisfying season finale, a Yahoo spokesperson has said 'With the season six finale of ‘Community’ airing today, we’re continually excited by how much fans are engaging with the series. Now that all episodes are available for binge viewing, stay tuned for how we keep Community delighting its fans.' This, it's been suggested, is a strong hint that the show's fans' rallying hashtag, #sixseasonsandamovie, may come true after all.

Community has survived the hostility of original network NBC; the departure of its most famous actor (Chevy Chase) in season four; the firing of creator Dan Harmon (he was rehired after it became clear that the show wasn't nearly as good without him) and cancellation itself – Yahoo picked it up after NBC finally dropped it. Why does a sitcom about a group of misfits attending an obscure Colorado Community college inspire such devotion in its fans?

The answer has to do with Community's notorious degree of self-awareness. Over the course of six seasons, it's parodied the war movie, the zombie movie, the gangster movie, the space-disaster movie, the inspiring-teacher movie and the spaghetti western; it's targeted individual shows such as Glee, The West Wing and CSI, and it's played with stop-motion animation and turned its characters into Muppets. This was all very cool, except that at its best, the show used these games with form to deliver funny, true and affecting character comedy.

The characters are a classic bunch of oddballs and Community, as its title suggests, is at heart a show about how they relate to each other, which is seldom as simple as sitcom convention dictates. To point this up, pop-culture-obsessed film student Abed Nadir habitually behaves as though he's a character in a sitcom. When somebody points this out to him, he comments that talking as if he's a character in a TV show is his 'gimmick', and that he'll 'lay low for an episode' – which he proceeds to do. The other characters deal with Abed by treating him as if he has some kind of Asperger-like disorder, which is in turn taken seriously in 'Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas', an episode which used stop-motion animation to delve inside Abed's mind and reveal that he was distressed because of his fears about his parents' divorce.

The formal games and parodies all serve to illustrate the complexities of the characters. The war movie spoof dramatised their aggression; the gangster movie spoof showed how willing they were to betray each other if it meant that they could get free chicken in the cafeteria. No cliché was allowed to stand: the character of Britta Perry was introduced in the pilot as a conventional, smart, attractive woman for the male lead to be attracted to, but when her actress protested that she didn't get enough funny stuff to do, Britta was reworked into a much funnier, more fallible, even buffoonish character.

If Community does make it to the big screen, the show will somehow have to face the fact that it went from unloved underdog status to triumph. But Dan Harmon has repeatedly demonstrated that, as long as a firm grip was kept on the characters, Community could suffer any amount of metamorphosis. Here's a look at what made the characters in Community the beating heart of the show:

Jeff Winger (Joel McHale)

Thinks he is: A hotshot lawyer who is cool, laid-back and attractive to women
Is actually: A mediocre, control-freak lawyer, attractive to women but increasingly worried about encroaching middle age
Signature sitcom trait: Tends to make Inspiring Speeches which sum up the point of what has been learned, or needs to be learned, in any given episode; parodied in Season 2's Paradigms of Human Memory, a parody of a clip show, in which his speech is an incoherent but nevertheless inspiring montage of snippets from speeches in episodes we've never seen.
Sample line: 'Shirley, don't sue a stripper.' 'Why not?' 'Because she's a stripper. Life sued her and she lost.'

Britta Perry (Gillian Jacobs)

Thinks she is: A crusader for human rights and political freedom and a strong, independent young woman
Is actually: A not-very-bright psychology student who lives on handouts from her parents
Signature sitcom trait: Claiming to be a proud vegetarian while owning 'an infinite supply of leather jackets'. In the show, the verb 'to Britta' means to make a mess of something.
Sample line: 'How long does peyote last? Just … asking for a friend.'

Pierce Hawthorne (Chevy Chase)

Thinks he is: A wise, cool older man with an outlook on life tempered by hard experience
Is actually: A rich jerk with some extremely dubious prejudices and a desperate need for acceptance
Signature sitcom trait: Shatteringly inappropriate comments.
Sample line: 'Vengeance? I was never one to hold grudges, Jeffrey. My father held grudges. I'll always hate him for that.'

Abed Nadir (Danny Pudi)

Thinks he is: A character in a sitcom
Is actually: A character in a sitcom
Signature sitcom trait: Being aware of the conventions of sitcoms, Abed is too self-conscious to have any of these.
Sample line: 'Conflicts like this will ultimately bring us together as an unlikely family.'

Annie Edison (Alison Brie)

Thinks she is: A perky, cheerful, sensible, prudent young woman
Is actually: A perky, cheerful, tightly-wound, neurotic overachiever formerly addicted to prescription drugs
Signature sitcom trait: Frightening when in a bad mood. Mutual attraction with Jeff.
Sample line: 'I am not hiding my own pen, you paranoid weirdo! Everybody stay within each other's eyelines please, one of you is a monster.'

Shirley Bennett (Yvette Nicole Brown)

Thinks she is: A good Christian mother and wife, and a mother figure to the others
Is actually: Highly judgmental (doesn't like atheists); hypocritical (cheats on her husband); sarcastic; recovering alcoholic and former childhood bully
Signature sitcom trait: Doesn't at all like being taken for a Sassy Black Woman.
Sample line: 'What is it about being a single white slacker that makes you people so jaded?'

Troy Barnes (Donald Glover)

Thinks he is: As the youngest and initially most immature character, what Troy thinks he is varies from episode to episode
Is actually: A huge nerd, immensely gifted at air conditioning repair
Signature sitcom trait: Best friends and partner-in-insanity with Abed.
Sample line: 'Hey, you don't get to talk to me like that! You are not Shirley! … And Shirley's not my mom!'

Dean Pelton (Jim Rash)

Thinks he is: The ebullient, capable dean of the college
Is actually: Barking mad
Signature sitcom trait: Omnisexual, but with a thing for both Jeff and Dalmatians.
Sample line: 'I make gayness look like Mormonism.'

Community is available to watch on Yahoo Screen and (for a fee) on YouTube.

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