Community is close to wrapping its sixth season on Yahoo Screen, the streaming service that resurrected the program after NBC finally axed it in 2014. Season 6 has been generally well-received by critics and fans alike, and has seen a return to form for series creator Dan Harmon. This is largely due to Yahoo allowing Harmon the creative control he's always craved, having cited overzealous execs as being an obstacle for Community in the past.
Still, throughout all the turmoil of its run, Community hasn't come out completely unscathed. There have been casualties. When the show returned for season 5 it did so without Chevy Chase's curmudgeonly Pierce Hawthorne, though he did agree to appear for a small cameo to send off the character. Then, only a few episodes into season 5, Community said goodbye to another fan favorite, Troy Barnes (Donald Glover). The constant changes to the core cast has definitely left its mark on the series, but each season Community fills in the ranks with good replacements: Jonathan Banks, Paget Brewster and Keith David.
When the show returned for season 6 there was yet another longtime cast member missing: Yvette Nicole Brown's Shirley Bennett. However, unlike Chase (who left Community in a huff) and Glover (who wanted to focus on other avenues of his career), Brown had to leave the series due to a family member's illness. Since then, Brown has mentioned her interest in returning as a recurring character, and even played a bit part in the season 6 premiere, where she and Steve Weber appeared in a fake promo for a new NBC drama, The Butcher and The Baker.
That bit part didn't offer much in the way of an explanation for whether or not Shirley would return to Greendale, but a list of guest actors for the upcoming season 6 finale (via Reddit) includes Brown's name. The episode, titled "Emotional Consequences of Broadcast Television", will feature Abed asking his friends to imagine they're pitching a television series and what they would do in its seventh season. Obviously, the episode is shooting to be a metatextual exploration about what Community itself will be doing in season 7, but this sort of meta-commentary is right up Abed's alley - and the show's, for that matter.
The future of Community has been discussed at great lengths amongst fans, especially where it concerns reaching the proposed goal of 'six seasons and a movie'. With the sixth season well underway, the question of whether or not a movie is next will certainly come up again. But now that the program has found a good home on Yahoo Screen, is a movie really the next logical step?
The season 6 finale looks like it'll address just that, and perhaps it will also enlighten audiences about what's next for Shirley. Either way, having Brown back on the program - even if for only another bit part - is surely nice.
Community season six is available for streaming every Tuesday on Yahoo Screen.