It's become a tradition with Community; the happy is paired with the sad. Last season, fans were gifted with the shocking return of series creator and seasons 1-3 showrunner Dan Harmon before they found out that Donald Glover would leave the show after a handful of episodes. Without Glover's Troy Barnes, the show soldiered on with the help of new and returning cast additions like Jonathan Banks and John Oliver, but the loss was felt on the screen with the absence of the comedic force that was the Troy and Abed team-up.
This season, which might qualify as an actual miracle, exists because Yahoo Screen came in at the 11th hour to save the cancelled sitcom and check off half of the #SixSeasonsAndAMovie rallying cry. Now, however, the show will have to continue without Yvette Nicole Brown and her character, Shirley.
To a casual observer, this might seem like less of a hit than when Glover and Chevy Chase left the show. Brown is perceived as more of a supporting player and she hasn't always been the comedic driving force that Glover was and she didn't garner as much attention (for better or worse) as Chase did. However, this might actually be the biggest loss of them all.
To put in purely architectural terms, Shirley has been a load bearing wall. Shirley is the conscience of the group and the most grounded character. She's also the only character with a life and responsibilities away from Greendale. To lose that means that Dan Harmon is going to have to do a better job of establishing a tether to the real world for the other characters.
Unfortunately, it's an actual real world concern that will keep Brown from coming back to Community (and its 16 hour workdays) this season as she cares for her ailing father and takes on a less time consuming role on CBS' multi-camera Odd Couple reboot, which is set for mid-season.
As for how Shirley's absence will be addressed, we don't know and won't know that for quite some time, but Brown has some thoughts on the matter:
"I am totally open to whatever Dan decides, [...] I'm glad it won't be hard for them to explain where she is. She has three kids, a degree and a business. There are a lot of ways to explain her [departure]."
To replace Shirley on the show and to help Harmon spread the workload around now that he's without Brown and also Jonathan Banks (as well as Glover and Chase) will be two new characters that TV Guide describes as:
A woman who's brought in as a consultant to help shape up the school. The other is a retired salesman who comes to Greendale to reinvent himself.
Right now, those are just a few strung together words and not the DNA of someone's new favorite character. We won't really know what to think about these roles until they are cast and we get to see them on our screens interacting with Jeff, Abed, Britta and Annie, but it should certainly be interesting to see Harmon create a new group dynamic with parts old and new.
But while interesting is great, funny and good are another thing - and I can't think of any sitcom that has been hit with the loss of almost half of its original cast, so we're kind of in uncharted territory here... though, with this show, I suppose that's usually the case.
Community season 6 will air on Yahoo Screen at some point in the near future. No premiere date has been set, but stay tuned to Screen Rant for more info.
Source: TV Guide