But what makes Community unique is the game it plays with the viewer, inviting him or her to dissect every frame of the carefully choreographed tributes to cultural touchstones from The Godfather to The Right Stuff; to recognize them all is to feel not just triumphant but also worthy.
This densely packed savant approach is self-limiting when it comes to drawing an audience, and none of its three seasons has ever averaged more than 5 million viewers. However, the cult’s loyalty has kept the show viable with NBC, which up until this season was looking to keep anything alive with a pulse.
Fans even made their loyalty a rallying cry, in an appropriately meta way goosed by Harmon. In an episode near the end of season two, Abed refused to believe NBC’s The Cape wouldn’t go on forever: “Six seasons and a movie!” he proclaimed. Loyalists knew Abed was really standing up for Community’s honor and adopted the phrase as a call to arms. Earlier in the same episode, Winger demanded Abed “stop taking everything we do and shoving it up its own ass.” Community’s ardent admirers (who nervously await the indefinitely delayed fourth season) remain very happy exploring said posterior regions.
and still, NBC doesn’t get it