Community fans, whose persecution complex rivals Bristol Palin's on Dancing With the Stars, on Tuesday accused NBC of messing with them for sport after learning that the network had canceled plans to return their beloved show to the lineup Oct. 19.
They, in fact, should be thanking NBC.
The relationship between Community and NBC has been star-crossed for ages. Last November, Community fans did not stop to read the fine print when NBC announced that it was benching the show to make room on Thursdays to return 30 Rock. The fans began to rant and rave, mistakenly believing the show had been canceled.
On the bright side, that meant they were happily surprised when NBC announced in early May that the show was getting a fourth-season pickup -- until they discovered that only 13 episodes had been ordered.
The firing of Dan Harmon did nothing to improve their mood.
It got worse when NBC unveiled its prime-time lineup to advertisers in May. The network had moved Community from its plum Thursday night to Friday -- the second worst night of the week for a broadcast TV series, behind Saturday.
After that, NBC announced that Community would not return until Oct. 19.
Then, NBC announced late Monday that it had scrubbed that plan and would bench the show again.
For the first time in a decade, NBC -- the "perennially mired in fourth place" network -- unexpectedly found itself in first place among advertiser-preferred 18-to-49-year-old viewers after the season's first two weeks.
NBC's first-place status is owing in large measure to its decision to move The Voice to the fall, on Monday and Tuesday nights. The network recently gave full-season orders to its Monday freshman drama, Revolution, and its two new Tuesday comedies, Go On and The New Normal -- all of which benefited from their Voice lead-in crowds.
But NBC's new Wednesday comedies, Animal Practice and Guys With Kids, are struggling. Ditto its returning Thursday comedies.
Meanwhile, looking at the Friday landscape, NBC suits probably decided that Community and Whitney were going to get killed in the ratings.
"Without having to launch these comedies on Friday at this time, we can keep our promotion focused on earlier in the week -- plus we will have both comedies in our back pocket if we need to make any schedule changes on those nights," NBC said.