It's always interesting when an Internet giant makes good on its intent to enter the original programming arena, as Yahoo did this week when it announced that it would produce a sixth season of the cancelled NBC sitcom “Community” to be seen on Yahoo Screen. Predictably, this move has prompted instant speculation about which dead broadcast show Yahoo might grab next. Scroll down for more about that.
When they talk about programming, Web giants often are not referring to the often inventive and unique kind of short-form videos that contributed to making them monster successes in the first place. Instead they are looking to get into the most traditional forms of broadcast television entertainment -- hour dramas and half-hour comedies -- albeit with fewer creative restrictions, as they remain a safe distance away from the FCC and old-school advertisers.
As many a broadcast and basic cable executive noted during their upfront presentations, if television is so yesterday, why do all the new kids want to get into the same game?
The news that Yahoo has committed to fresh episodes of the cult success “Community” -- the average audience of which these last few seasons on NBC was likely smaller than the crowd of shoppers that passes through the Mall of America in December -- signals that we now have another serious player in this expanding arena. It seems that broadcast’s weakest shows are finding new life as the Internet’s most delectable treats, or so Web programmers would like us believe.
Maybe “Community” couldn’t cut it during its last gasps on NBC, despite all of the promotion, marketing and publicity the network had to offer, not to mention unwavering support from niche-happy bloggers and critics. But its most fervent fans -- however many that may be -- will certainly pursue it to Yahoo, where it will be exposed to a potential audience many times greater than it ever reached on broadcast.
Of course, that isn’t necessarily a promise of success. Look what happened to the soap operas “All My Children” and “One Life to Live” when they moved to the Web. We still don’t know how the fourth season of “Arrested Development” fared on Netflix, because that service doesn’t share its audience research. While there was much attention given in the press to the show’s return, it didn’t come close to the fuss that was made over the show during its three years on Fox.
Who can say how “Community” will play in its new home? We could conclude that Yahoo’s intent with this move was not simply to salvage a show of seemingly limited appeal but to send a signal that it is now a serious player in the television business. It also brought instant attention to Yahoo Screen, a platform that I have never heard discussed or referenced, even among teens and twenty-somethings of my acquaintance who devour copious amounts of video and television entertainment from a number of Internet entities.
Indeed, I took my first-ever look at Screen only after hearing the announcement about “Community.” To be honest, I can’t remember the last time I looked at or accessed or even talked about Yahoo-- and to be real honest, it will take more than new episodes of a series I lost interest in three years ago to prompt me to look at Screen again.
It seems to me that producing dynamic and distinctive new content such as Netflix’s “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black” is the smarter way for Internet programming services to go, rather than to take on the reputation of becoming a home for broadcast’s castoffs. Certainly, those two shows have done much more for Netflix than did “Arrested Development.” Then again, anything is possible. Perhaps “Community” will be something bigger and better on Yahoo. If that’s the case, then all bets are off.
Meanwhile, The Wrap yesterday reported that fans of the egregiously mistreated and recently cancelled Fox gem “Enlisted” are banding together online to urge Yahoo to salvage it as well. Now that’s an idea I can get behind. “Enlisted” was one of the best new comedies of 2014 (the other being HBO’s “Silicon Valley”) and was the only show on television that celebrated the heroics and dedication of the men and women in our military, past and present. Its mix of heart, humor and history was second to none. I still can’t believe Fox condemned it to a slow death on Friday nights and ultimately burned off half of its only season in June. “Community” had its chance to improve and find an audience. “Enlisted” never did.