The big television event is here! Except not on television. At last, the fabled meta-sitcom Community returned tonight with the first two all-new episodes of its sixth season, but not on NBC anymore. Instead, in what I hope was a self-aware feat of ironic self-handicapping, the show has relocated to Yahoo! Screen, which spent the past ninety minutes of my life acting like RealPlayer used to in the ’90s, except larger and hopefully with a little less spyware. Yahoo!’s entry into the internet streaming competition didn’t fare well in the test sessions I’d performed prior to tonight, but I wanted to persevere anyway for the sake of the show that’s produced four of the funniest seasons of TV ever.
I took performance notes during the experience for posterity and as an outlet for my disappointment. With the streaming results, I mean, not with the actual show.
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Started episode 1 in Firefox. Twenty seconds of jittering. Closed the browser, restarted. Put up with jerky video quality for about six minutes before I couldn’t take it any more. I shouldn’t be surprised, because in recent times Firefox has turned into an embarrassing resource hog that makes Explorer look good.
Switched to Internet Explorer. At the nine-minute mark, froze for buffering issues. Stuttered in place for a few minutes. Meanwhile, my internet connection was just fine.
Switched to Google Chrome. The best, smoothest picture quality of all five browsers, and somehow it knew exactly where I’d left off in the episode. At minute 16 came a commercial break in the middle of a scene. The third and fourth ads had no sound. Then the browser forgot it wasn’t done with episode 1 and skipped straight to episode 2. I used the “Back” button to get back to the main menu, reloaded the episode, manually skipped to minute 16. Three seconds in, went to commercial break again. Third and fourth ads had no sound, but then it went back to the correct episode, but a minute earlier. While typing this I missed Nathan Fillion’s entire scene, but I’m afraid to back up.
At minute 19, froze for buffering. Backed it up a few seconds, let it resume. Then I realized the next few scenes were all “Yay alcohol!” which is not my thing and usually costs a movie or TV show at least two full letter grades with me.
Next commercial break at minute 22 (between scenes this time), second and third ads had no sound.
Minute 26: froze for buffering, then it skipped ahead to episode 2 again. Pounded on the Back button some more, reloaded the episode. It restarted at minute 24. At minute 25½ it froze again. Tried backing it up a few seconds. Instant commercial break ensued. During the third ad the sound from the show’s next scene began prematurely. When the ad ended, the show’s picture resumed and caught up, and I finally got to see the last scene, its fake credits, and the real end credits.
Took me 45 minutes to watch a 27-minute episode.
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Switched to Opera; tried to start episode 2. Nothing happened. No video, no sound, no player controls, just a foreboding darkness.
Switched to Safari, successfully started episode 2. Frequent but brief moments of halting. First commercial break, first ad has no sound, but the second and third are fine, except I have an adverse reaction because the third one is for Subway. Show resumes without sound for several seconds. Gave up after twenty seconds of show drag out to a minute of real time.
Switched back to Chrome. Episode 2 restarted not where I left off on Safari, but where it left off the last time it time-jumped on Chrome. Super-jerky. Skipped ahead to minute 3. Still super-jerky. Paused for a minute to see if that would give it a head-start on loading, like we used to have to do for videos in the ancient times of 56K or DSL. Un-paused it; it stayed paused anyway and wouldn’t move.
Switched back to Firefox just for kicks. It started from the beginning of the episode, but I skipped ahead to just after the opening credits. Adblock Plus excised all the ads nicely. Minute 14, a minute’s worth of stop-starts. Minute 15, I freak out a little because Martin Mull now looks like a domesticated George Carlin. Minute 19: halting halting halting. In general, motions aren’t as smooth as they should be, as smooth as they were on Chrome. But I got through the episode in just under 40 minutes.
Our high-speed internet is not the issue. Our PC almost never has these problems with YouTube or QuickTime, and never-ever with iTunes. Sometimes YouTube will lag if I watch on my phone, but I refuse to watch anything more than eight minutes long on my phone anyway. Using a Chromecast and our TV, both Netflix streaming and YouTube videos work spectacularly in HD.
Is Comcast specifically, vindictively throttling Yahoo! Screen and nothing else we use? Or, more likely, does Yahoo! Screen just suck of its own accord?
As for the show itself: the surviving cast members still rule, the two newcomers (Criminal Minds‘ Paget Brewster, and Keith David from The Cape!) seem fine so far, and the jokes in and of themselves are great as usual, but comedic rhythm and viewer patience suffer when you’re thrown out of the show every 4-6 minutes for reasons other than ads. But if there’s more Keith David in store, or more episodes of The Butcher and the Baker, we’ll see how I’m feeling next week.
Right now, kind of bummed and feeling like I just hung out with the opposite of Batman.
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UPDATED 12/11/2015: Adding this short note since this page seems to keep drawing traffic. Nine months later, there’s still no official word whatsoever on an official DVD release. The Amazon UK link in the comments leads to a placeholder page that’s based on wishful assumptions, not on any corporate release schedule. Updates as they occur, should they ever.
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UPDATED AGAIN 1/4/2016: The Hollywood Reporter has announced Yahoo!’s decision to scupper Yahoo! Screen after losing over $42 million on it in 2015. Sadly, rather than announce immediate Community DVD plans as a result, we’re told only that season six will be moved over to the “Yahoo! TV” section of their site. I have no idea if Yahoo! TV is better or worse than Yahoo! Screen and have zero interest in finding out because Yahoo! is one of the worst sites about putting spoilers in their TV and movie headlines. Midlife Crisis Crossover will continue to monitor for updates on this endlessly disappointing DVD-denial situation.
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UPDATED YET AGAIN 2/2/2016: Amazon US has added a season-6 set listing with a theoretical March 8th release date, and is even accepting pre-orders at a price so high that I’m convinced it’s more of an estimate on their part than anything set by the manufacturer. The listing is curiously bare-bones, filled mostly with predictable dry specs, and mentioning nothing about the extras or a Blu-ray option. Presumably the cover photo is a genuine Sony image and not fan art. Fingers crossed that this is real and not cobbled together from wish-list guesswork.
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UPDATED ONE LAST TIME 3/23/2016: I’m excited and shocked to report Community Season Six really is on DVD and, as evidenced by this photo, just landed in my mailbox today. It’ll be weeks before I have time to get to it, but someday I will, and hopefully I’ll super-like it all over again. Take THAT, stupid obsolete Yahoo! Screen.