While presenting at the Television Critics Association, NBC entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt spoke frankly about the network’s less-than-stellar ratings and admitted that 2011 was not the best year for the peacock. Discussing the 2012 schedule, Greenblatt confirmed that while it is currently not listed, the return of Community is imminent, but stopped short of providing any firm date.

Given the uproar surrounding the unceremonious (albeit temporary) shelving of Community, any information of its return would likely have provided the beleaguered network with a modicum of goodwill from the show’s small, but ultimately devoted fanbase. Unfortunately, it seems NBC is still trying to figure out just where it will fit amongst the throng of new programs on the network’s docket. “We have a really tight schedule with comedies, so it’s really going to be a matter of looking at what happens with the six comedies we’ve got at midseason,” Greenblatt said.

At this point, it would be safe to assume Community won’t be returning to its original timeslot. So if it will no longer lead off the Thursday night comedy line-up, when will the students of Greendale Community College actually return to class? Greenblatt would only say, “in the spring,” which is far from firm, and certainly does not bode well for its renewal. “Fourth season? I don’t know. Those are really hard questions to answer at this point.” 

Greenblatt did point out the show does have an impressively devoted viewership, but the failed attempts to make that audience grow are a point of real concern that may end up being the deciding factor when the fate of Community is finally addressed.

The cast of 'Community' responds to the question of the show's future.

Sadly, the fact of the matter is that after a pretty dismal year – or as Greenblatt put it, “We had a really bad fall, worse than I’d hoped for but about as I expected” – NBC is looking to the future, and underperforming programs – celebrated or not – likely aren’t going to make the cut. As an example of this, Greenblatt discussed the cancellation of The Playboy Club and Prime Suspect, whose failure he says “was probably the biggest disappointment.” But, like Community, Prime Suspect was simply unable to bring in the numbers needed to hoist NBC up from the bottom of the heap.

Perhaps showing his frustration in adjusting to network television, Greenblatt, who came from pay-cable network Showtime, noted that Prime Suspect’s numbers – though not good enough to keep it afloat on NBC for a full season – would have been sufficient to garner a renewal after its third episode, and the program likely would have lasted several seasons on a cable channel like Showtime.

While that’s little comfort to those who tuned in regularly for Prime Suspect or Community, fans of the latter can at least look forward to the remaining 12 episodes of the third season to air at some point in 2012. Beyond that, however, it seems likely that school will be out at Greendale Community College.

Stay tuned for more news regarding Community and its anticipated return this spring.

Source: Deadline, The Hollywood Reporter