Taking “Community” Online

The surreal sitcom about a community college begins a new semester – and new life – Tuesday on Yahoo!

Justin Lubin/NBC

Last year's final network TV episode of "Community" pushed the series to the brink of meta madness when pop culture obsessive Abed declared, "This is our show and it's not over."

His words came as he mused about a possible spinoff spurred by the surprise Jeff-and-Britta engagement amid a hostile takeover attempt of Greendale Community College by Subway, which took brand placement to new levels of self-mocking deliciousness, complete with a cameo by sandwich spokesman Jared.

But Abed's melodramatic statement, which all-but shattered the remnants of the fourth wall after five seasons of chipping away, proved part plan and part prophesy.

Greendale is still standing and so is "Community," which heads to Yahoo! Screen Tuesday in a bid to fulfill the show's quest (as spelled out on a whiteboard in Season 4) for "six seasons and a movie." Hey, no one ever said those seasons or that movie had to be on television or in theaters.

"Community" never drew huge ratings during its five-year run on NBC. But it built a devoted cult following through an off-kilter sensibility that appealed to anyone who, like Abed, ever sought refuge from reality in pop culture. 

Greendale provided a shelter for misfits with various woes (most prominently daddy issues), offering the characters – and viewers – a massive, fragile blanket fort to escape from life and a hidden trampoline to jump away anxiety. Problems could be worked out – or suppressed – through comic psychodramas wrought in Claymation, a G.I. Joe-like cartoon or an 8-bit video game. At Greendale, a zombie attack could be forgotten in time to get to History of Ice Cream class.

The show's digital rebirth seems a natural: The cult of "Community" grew online, and picked up devotees via Netflix, which gave "Arrested Development" new life in 2013. The return of "Arrested Development" took seven years – it's only been 11 months since "Community" last aired, offering a quicker, if not totally seamless transition.

The show, which lost Chevy Chase and Donald Glover last year, sadly will be without Yvette Nicole Brown this season. But Joel McHale still leads one of comedy's quirkiest ensemble casts with show creator Dan Harmon back at the helm.

The timeline for "Community," thankfully, isn't over for the cast or their followers. When Danny Pudi's Abed said, "This is our show and it's not over," he was both speaking to – and for – fans. Check out a preview as the surreal sitcom prepares to stream back into our consciousness.

Jere Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multimedia NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is also the author of "Raising a Beatle Baby: How John, Paul, George and Ringo Helped us Come Together as a Family." Follow him on Twitter.

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