Community, the critically loved but ratings-deficient show, was taken off NBC’s schedule after its Christmas episode with no return date in sight. It was unknown if the show would even come back, but it’s returning March 15 to finish out its season. Perhaps these next ten episodes will be the end, something cast members have speculated on in interviews. But to buzz up some interest, NBC has produced animated webisodes, and the first one has hit. Check it out:

Community has been fighting to stay on since it hit the air, as the show quickly picked up a cult following, but never triumphed in the ratings. At the same time, NBC saw its Thursday night comedy block start to fall apart as The Office lost steam, and many of their shows were more critically respected than successful. But the air has gone out of ratings all over network television, and in some ways that’s helped the struggling show. They can’t find much to replace it that does better, and having it on does keep the fans happy.

The cartoon is okay, though I’m more excited about the return of the real sitcom. It’s a nerve racking time as a fan, because there’s no way to know if it will survive, or if this is just getting its final shows aired so they can put out the DVD and call it a day. Often in situations like this you see cast members finding other gigs, but though Joel McHale and Alison Brie are both still doing double duty with other shows (he’s on The Soup, she’s on Mad Men), unlike the cast of the similarly struggling Cougar Town, no one’s signed up for a new pilot just yet. Perhaps there will be some renewed interested after Jim Rash won the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar and had the best moment of the night.

Part of this is networks going through a paradigm shift of epic proportions. Though there are still shows like American Idol that draw in 30 million viewers, but that’s anomalous and may eventually evaporate. The question then becomes fiscal viability, of how much it costs to produce a show versus how much it can return, and what a good demographic showing is worth. Eventually we will probably see a found footage television show. Believe it.

Are you stoked for the return of Community?