You had to see it coming that “Community” was going to get picked up by someone else after having a cult following for so long on NBC. While most people probably thought it would be another network (primarily cable), the chances of that might have been slim after all when you consider cable has been catering mostly to dramas. With Yahoo! Screen recently going forward as an alternative to Netflix and Amazon Instant Video, Yahoo seemed to make it clear they were going to be competing more with Amazon in the realm of creating original comedy shows. It was a smart move to acquire “Community” considering creating dramas to go neck-to-neck with Netflix would have been the worst strategic decision for any new streaming service.
Some of those comedy shows will be coming from such writers as Paul Feig to show you the kind of comedy Yahoo wants. And “Community” seems to fit right in with that overall sensibility where the comedy is off-kilter, yet still hilariously approachable. The reason going with comedy was such a brilliant move on Yahoo’s part is because Amazon Instant Video is still vulnerable to competition. While they have a few excellent shows there, the real standout is in the comedies, primarily “Alpha House.”
The above show has the same kind of subtle comedy “Community” has, though perhaps not quite as surreal. One reason is because it’s based on a real-life situation of a number of prominent senators and representatives sharing the same house together in D.C. “Community” couldn’t be further away from reality, even if the idea of showing the insides of a community college has some elements of truth.
Overall, you can say that Yahoo’s deal to bring “Community” to Yahoo! Screen is essentially a “Community” vs. “Alpha House” situation. Unless you consider “House of Cards” or “Orange is the New Black” to be black comedy, most people still consider them to lean more toward the drama side than anywhere near the comedy in the “Community” mold. The only question now is which one ultimately wins and whether a cult following for a comedy can ultimately bring the masses based on strong media buzz?
Will Netflix Step in with a Hit Comedy?
While new episodes of “Arrested Development” show that Netflix is capable of cult-like comedy, they have yet to have a hit with a straight-ahead original comedy series there. One comedy there from last year called “Bad Samaritans” didn’t receive nearly the attention as their other shows have and only lasted one season. Comedies like Ricky Gervais’s “Derek” have become somewhat popular, despite not being an original and merely being a borrowed British import.
Netflix can’t be counted out for original comedy shows, though, because they have a couple of new ones in development that won’t be out until 2015 at the earliest. Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin are going to be in an original comedy there called “Grace and Frankie” that could be a huge hit, especially in attracting an older demo to Netflix. You also have the adaptation of “Wet Hot American Summer” scheduled for an indefinite time that could give “Community” a run for its money on cult status.
Once Netflix finds that one comedy hit, they’ll finally be in the business of getting back at Yahoo! Screen, which could steal some thunder if they aren’t careful. The public is always looking for comedy online and will gravitate to the places with the best writing and buzz. “Community” has always done offbeat things when on NBC that generated buzz within its loyal fan circles. So far, “Alpha House” hasn’t quite achieved the same buzz other than being noted by small amounts of people how sharp the satire is (coming from Garry Trudeau).
We all know now online streaming sites do dramas well. Now it’s time to hone in on the battle of the comedies to see how comedy shows can survive when they’re slowly languishing on network TV. Considering all of the upcoming streaming comedies are ensemble efforts, the weight of succeeding at least won’t fall all on one person.