It has scarcely been the best week on Community's set. On November 14, NBC announced its January schedule, and the acclaimed cult comedy about the eccentric members of a community-college study group whose outsize, genre-bending adventures frequently boggle the mind was missing in action.
It's expected to return and finish out its season later in 2012, but gallows humor has set in: When the cast shot a scene in the show's study room, a message on the chalkboard read, "The TV thingy didn't work out."
The next Friday, however, halfway through their third season, the cast gathered for a photo shoot, where they learned that their Little Show That Could and Still Might had been named, via online voting, TV Guide Magazine's second annual Fan Favorites winner, earning the magazine's cover.
Fists were pumped. Yelps were yelped. Alison Brie, who plays the semi-innocent Annie, improvised a rap ("We got a trophy, yo!"). Chevy Chase (aka the clueless, wealthy reprobate Pierce) was impressed the trophy actually had a nice inscription on it.
"Because we don't get nominated for awards, this is our fans' outlet," says Gillian Jacobs, who plays rebel-with-too-many-causes Britta. "They may not see us win Emmys or SAG Awards, but they do have the power in this, and you see a lot of people care. It's gratifying to have a dedicated army."
Some cast members, like Joel McHale (who stars as the snarkily charismatic Jeff) and Yvette Nicole Brown (passive-aggressively religious Shirley), implored fans to vote for the show on their Twitter feeds. "We just got benched, which is not a great feeling, and to find out the same week we're the fans' favorite? That's amazing," Brown exults. "I would say it's bittersweet, but it's not — it's just sweet."
It was news to Chase that this competition even existed. "I'm impressed there is such an award and that we got it, and if I'm not on the cover, I'll be deeply upset," he deadpans. (Not to worry, Chevy — you're on one of our three collectible covers.)
Jim Rash, who plays the school's überquirky Dean Pelton, jokes, "I think we won because we all secretly voted." Adds Danny Pudi (pop-culture conduit Abed), "That's how we all broke our laptops, the multiple voting."
Perhaps no cast member was more touched by the victory than Ken Jeong, who plays the deeply weird Chang. "This is something we don't take for granted," Jeong says. "I used to be a physician, and the only reason I gave that up is because I wanted to follow what I love to do. This proves to me that if you do the best you can, good things can happen."
McHale — who responded to the win with a hearty "Holy crap!" — believes the show's fan base doesn't adhere to the usual notions of TV viewers. "Our fans don't watch TV the way others do," he says. "I did a stand-up show at the University of Arizona and there were 30 kids who ran the event. I said, 'How many of you watch Community?' and they all raised their hands, which was great. I asked, 'How many watch it Thursdays at 8pm?' Zero hands. I asked, 'How many of you have TVs?' Four hands. I asked, 'How many of you watch on computers?' All hands went up. That may be an excuse, but our audience skews young. But with something like this, they vote. That's how rabid they are, so that's great."
For more with the cast of Community, pick up this week's issue of TV Guide Magazine, on newsstands Thursday, December 1!