Dan Harmon has returned to his flagship production, NBC’s kooky meta-comedy, Community, but unfortunately the fans may not have followed suit. Oh god: are we living in the darkest timeline, after all? Last night’s season five premiere — which found Harmon back in the creative drivers’ seat after being fired prior to season four — featured two back-to-back episodes and averaged 3.4 million viewers between both episodes. And that’s not even the worst of it: the second half hour’s ratings actually declined overall. Ouch slash yikes.

It’s true that historically, Community hits its high notes, ratings-wise, with its premieres — leaving more than a little anxiety in the pockets of #sixseasonandamovie obsessives — but there is actually a positive spin to be had here. Namely, when you compare it with its NBC comedy bedfellows. Both Sean Saves The World and The Michael J. Fox Show pulled in smaller numbers than Joel McHale and Co., perhaps even wrangling season lows. At least everyone’s sinking on the good ship NBC? Ha…

While it’s not the reality we’d hoped for when we imagined the series’ return, there are still plenty of reasons to hold out hope — and better yet, convince your friends and other people to get on board. First and foremost it should be noted that DVR data (those +3, +5, and +7 day numbers) has yet to be tabulated and it’s no secret that Community watchers are generally not too into watching television live, because commercials are the worst. So! Their numbers are likely to rise once that data has been mined. And with the positive reviews for the return of the series’ original visionary and subsequent episodes, there are plenty of ways to strong-arm friends and foes alike to get familiar with the show.

And if that doesn’t work to convince folks to tune in, perhaps the series’ stars’ endearing pleas and attempts at getting viewers will convince them that this charming little kookaroo that could is worth their time. Otherwise, if we want to see Harmon’s master plan come to life, we may need to call in early on next Christmas’ miracle stockpile. But for now we hold out hope, America: hope that Community can make it through. Like a Starburns rising from the ashes.

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