By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com May 10, 2012 at 8:25PM
Upfronts, wherein the networks reveal their programming for the TV season to come, take place next week, and, as such, it's the time of year when invested fans start to bite their nails about their favorite low-rated shows: with many new pilots being ordered to series, the scheduling slots seem to grow fewer and fewer. And no fans have been more nervous than those of NBC's low-rated, but critically-acclaimed Thursday night comedy block.
"The Office," as the biggest sitcom on the network, was ensured of renewal, despite having had a weak season in the aftermath of Steve Carell leaving the show, but the other Thursday night mainstays -- beloved pop-culture genre-bender "Community," inconceivably brilliant ensemble comedy "Parks and Recreation" and Tina Fey's veteran "30 Rock" have been less certain: the shows receive glowing reviews, but rarely figure above 2.0 in the Nielsens, and NBC have been ordering a host of new comedies in the hope of picking up their down-turn.
But on most fronts, good news arrived this evening. Most importantly for the show's fervent fanbase (this writer firmly among them), The Hollywood Reporter, among others, report that "Community" has been ordered for a thirteen-episode fourth series. The show had been yanked from the schedule at the end of last year, only to come back strong on its return in March, but ratings had dipped to more usual levels subsequently. But the show does have a reliable fanbase, and does well in its demographic, and on DVR, and with only one additional season needed to get it to the magic 80-episode number, which leads to millions of potential syndication dollars, NBC have picked it up for another year.
While 'six seasons and a movie' (a joke from a second series episode that's become a rallying call for fans) remains a ways off, this does mean that the four-year college path can be seen through, and while fans might be disappointed at a reduced series order, this doesn't necessarily mean that there won't be a fifth season down the line. What's more unclear at this point is whether Chevy Chase, who's publically feuded with the show's creator Dan Harmon, will be back, or who'll replace departing co-showrunners Neil Goldman and Garrett Donovan. But still, many comedy fans will be breathing a lot easier tonight.
Also getting pick-ups tonight from the Peacock are well-regarded family drama "Parenthood," which stars Peter Krause, Lauren Graham, Dax Shepard and Mae Whitman, and "30 Rock." In the latter case, announcements, from HitFix, among others, indicate that the seventh season (like "Community," reduced to thirteen episodes to make way for new comedy blood) will be the last for the show, but better to go out while still on relative form than drag it out too long. The big question mark right now is "Parks & Recreation," but the word is that a similar 13-episode pick up is set to be announced shortly.
And solid news of another much-loved comedy that's not ending any time soon came as well, with confirmation that while Courtney Cox vehicle "Cougar Town" won't be airing on ABC past the end of its current third season, it's moving to TBS, in a deal that ensures not only a season 4 for the show, but also a season 5. It's a good day to be fan of quality TV comedy.