Last night was a good night for Community fans. Not only was Season 3, Episode 19: "Curriculum Unavailable" one of the strongest of the season, but the cult-hit comedy — which has always struggled to find a big audience — was officially renewed for a fourth season. Great happiness all around!
However, fan enthusiasm was dampened by this caveat: So far, NBC has only ordered 13 new episodes, which matches the 13 final episodes 30 Rock has been offered. There are rumors that Parks & Recreations, which has not been officially renewed, will also be offered an abbreviated season.
This shortened season for Community, and the rumored one for Parks & Rec, leaves many fans worried that those shows will go out along with 30 Rock. It doesn't help that NBC has already picked up four new comedies; if those take off, some fans speculate, it could mean doom for our under-loved faves.
And, yes, worst case-scenario, it's possible that NBC will finally get its act together, hit ratings gold — or even ratings silver — with some of these new sitcoms, and decide to ditch Community and Parks entirely in favor of better-rated freshmen shows. But, honestly, based on NBC's recent track record, we're not convinced they'll manage to create enough new hits to make completely revamping their lineup a viable option — especially when you factor in Community and Parks & Recs' critical success, which is useful for NBC's "high quality comedy" brand.
A more likely (and still not very pleasant) possibility is that NBC will hold off one or both as midseason replacements. That would allow them to test the concept of a revamped comedy night, and then bring in these old standbys to replace whichever of their new shows don't make the cut. But midseason replacement, while annoying, doesn't mean final season, and we could still be looking at renewal for one or both shows this time next year.
More optimistically, it's possible they'll start the season with all our old favorites as well as some newbies — perhaps in different time slots? Seriously, they need to think about moving away from the over-crowded Thursday night — and if the new shows don't perform as expected (or Community performs better than it has been), they could order more episodes. Just because the show's only been given 13 episodes now doesn't mean NBC can't change its mind. Though given the number of new shows it has picked up, it might be considering moving to shorter seasons in general, which also wouldn't be the end of the world.
At this point, it's too early to know exactly what will happen. We should also keep in mind that Community and Parks & Rec are in slightly different positions. Parks gets better ratings and recently got some Emmy love, which seems to put it in a better position than Community going forward. Heck, it's possible it will get a full season order right off the bat.
The point is, take a deep breath. There's no reason to assume this is the end. Go back to celebrating at least one more year at Greendale Community College.
Rebecca Martin is an editor at Wetpaint Entertainment. Follow her on Twitter @BeccaMartin47.