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'Community' stars hope fans show up for their return

March 15, 2012 | 11:13 am

Community makes its return
The human beings of Greendale Community College have returned from their winter break.

“Community” is back in its Thursday time slot and the stars of the series know it’s a little unhip to watch things in real time (commercials are so 2009), but they’d really, really like it if you would.

“It’s great to be back and I just pray our fans show up with us tonight,” said Yvette Nicole Brown, who plays Shirley "Foosball queen" Bennett.

The show, which centers on a group of misfit students who form a study group at a quirky community college, has struggled to bring in big numbers for NBC. With its core audience more keen on DVR viewing to speed through commercials or watching things online, viewership hovers at a low 4 million viewers, according to the Nielsen measurement system so heavily relied on by networks.

Jim Rash, who plays Dean Pelton (the college administrator with a disturbing affinity for Dalmatian costumes), wishes networks would keep up with the times, but until they do, he suggests fans compromise. 

“The message to everyone — to networks, I think — is that we have to reinvent ourselves,” said Rash, who hasn’t let his Oscar win (he won in the screenwriting category for “The Descendants”) go to his bald head. “In a perfect world, fans would do what I did when I would have to watch 'Seinfeld' and I couldn’t get my VCR to record it. I would have to sit there and wait and watch it live. Guys, pretend we’re ‘Seinfeld’!”

When the network benched the series in December to make room for the return of “30 Rock,” fans took it as a sign that it was headed to cancellation-ville. And they responded, starting Internet campaigns and getting hashtag crazy on Twitter.

But Gillian Jacobs is confident “Community’s” disciples won’t pull a Britta on the show now.

“I think because there is lower awareness of our show than other shows, our fans feel a sense of ownership of it,” said Jacobs, who plays self-righteous Britta Perry. “It’s their show. And they feel protective of it. And I think that’s why they felt so strongly to us being pulled. They feel like it’s in their hands to save our show. And I think they’ve see in the past like with 'Arrested Development' and ‘Firefly' — they’ve seen what can happen to a show that gets roughly our numbers and they don’t want that to happen again. “

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— Yvonne Villarreal

twitter.com/villarrealy

Photo: A scene from an episode of "Community." Credit: NBC

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