With executive producers Dan Harmon and Chris McKenna back at the helm, critics and fans agreed that Community regained its mojo this past season. Considering the major arc for star Joel McHale, big guest turns by stars like Jonathan Banks and John Oliver, and an emotional farewell to star Donald Glover, it's reasonable to expect the show to be an Emmy contender in several key comedy categories, including Outstanding Writing.
There's just one pesky problem. NBC canceled Community last month, just before announcing its new fall schedule.
Instead of the show heading into Emmy season celebrating another year — which would have made the first half of Community's "six seasons and a movie" prophecy a reality — its fate remains uncertain. Talk of a revival, perhaps on a digital platform like Hulu or Crackle, is still just talk, although insiders confirm that Hulu is kicking the tires on the show, and Sony Pictures TV executives have promised to explore other options. And, as TV Guide Magazine first reported in March, Justin Lin (Fast & Furious), who has directed several episodes of the show, is considered a frontrunner to helm an eventual Community movie.
NBC is still including Community in its Emmy campaign plans, including an ad in Emmy magazine. And now that voters realize this may be their last chance to reward Community, perhaps the show will indeed eke out some nominations. The same goes for legendary stars Michael J. Fox and Robin Williams, whose sitcoms (The Michael J. Fox Show and The Crazy Ones) didn't last past their first seasons.
It's a lot easier to win an Emmy if your show ended on its own terms: The Sopranos won Outstanding Drama Series in 2007, and Everybody Loves Raymond picked up Outstanding Comedy Series in 2005, after both of those shows had wrapped. This year, incumbent drama winner Breaking Bad, which aired its final episode last fall, is looking to do the same thing.
Given the stench of being canceled, it's quite a bit tougher for axed shows to get their Emmy due. Yet there's plenty of precedent for terminated shows securing nominations and even wins. Arrested Development, another quirky comedy with a rabid fan base like Community, received nods for Outstanding Comedy Series, Writing and Supporting Actor (Will Arnett) in 2006 after Fox dropped it. In 1993, Fox's canceled sketch comedy The Ben Stiller Show pulled off a surprise win in the Outstanding Writing for a Variety or Music Series category.
Other shows that landed Emmy nominations after their untimely deaths include Freaks and Geeks, Sports Night, My So-Called Life, Twin Peaks and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (for which John Goodman won in the Guest Actor category).
Most recently, in 2009, Kristin Chenoweth took home the Outstanding Supporting Actress statuette after the cancellation of ABC's short-lived Pushing Daisies. "I'm unemployed now," she quipped in her acceptance speech, "so I'd like to be on Mad Men."
Pushing Daisies creator Bryan Fuller, now executive producer of Hannibal, remembers feeling a bit vindicated by Chenoweth's victory. "It's a very validating and melancholy thing because it's celebrating something that is no longer here," he says. "In a sense it was a wonderful obituary."
Fuller says he viewed the win as a victory for everyone who worked on the show. "Having Kristin get recognized for all of her hard work felt like everyone on the show at every level was getting recognized for their work because it was such a family experience," he says.
Fuller says at the time he was the only person who thought Chenoweth might have a shot. "I had my proud family goggles on," he says. "I remember even someone from the studio telling us, 'She doesn't have a chance in hell of winning.' And I was like, 'They're wrong, because she's amazing and she glows.'"
The win also gave Fuller a bit of a push to pursue other avenues for the show. "It was absolutely a good wave of energy to ride," he says. "We did look into the possibility of a Pushing Daisies movie or a Kickstarter campaign much later."
Fuller says he talks to Pushing Daisies executive producer Barry Sonnenfeld frequently about a revival, and even still hears from the show's stars. "I just ran into Chi McBride two days ago and he was quoting dialogue from the show as if it were yesterday," Fuller says. "He says, 'What do you have to do to get me back on screen with Kristin Chenoweth?'"
Fuller continues to meet with Warner Bros. (which owns the show) about Pushing Daisies and is eager to develop it into a Broadway musical. He's meeting with composers and lyricists and scouting out a partnership in order to move forward.
"I've never written a Broadway musical before, nor have I written a musical before. I'm excited personally at the opportunity to really expand the world of Pushing Daisies by also confining it to a stage, which is such an inspiring way to look at telling a story," Fuller says. "I wonder how many actresses have won an Emmy and a Tony for playing the same role. I would love Kristin Chenoweth to be the first."