To be honest, it's been kind of an emotional roller coaster trying to keep up with you these past few years. It hasn't always been this way - things started off so well. For three whole years, you were the scrappy underdog, the first show since Arrested Development that was beloved enough by critics and a small but passionate fan base to keep you alive, despite being a ratings disaster.
Unlike Arrested Development, though, you had the benefit of harnessing the power of the internet, where your fan base joined together in mutual admiration and proved to the networks that Nielsen ratings are not the only metric to judging the success of a show.
Those were the good ol' days - the days when you were an edgy, unique and hilarious sitcom unlike any other, and one that really struck a nerve with fans for one big reason: It was a show by pop culture geeks, about pop culture geeks, for pop culture geeks.
Unlike The Big Bang Theory or other sub-par shows that have tried to shamelessly capitalize on the recent rise in popularity of our beloved geek culture, you were the only show who really understood us; our interests, passions, and sense of humor. We all knew it was too good to last, and after three glorious seasons, the unthinkable happened: against all odds you were renewed for one more season, but without Dan Harmon, your fearless leader, at the helm.
We didn't quite know how to feel - Dan Harmon was the embodiment of your voice, humor and style, and we weren't exactly going to sit idly by while the Man took away his baby. Dan Harmon was one of us, and you were OUR show. And yet, we kept watching.
To their credit, the new show runners did their utmost to keep your spirit alive, and were mostly successful. Your fourth season was more hit-and-miss than previous ones, but your unique sense of humor and style persevered, and you even gave us a little more emotional pathos than we were ever used to. Once again, we thought this was your swan song, but you proved to us once again that miracles can happen, and you were renewed for one more season, with Dan Harmon returning to steer the ship for one final journey.
But things were never quite the same after that. Season 5 was good but you started to feel like a shadow of your previous self. You were still clever, funny and charming as ever, but something just felt... different. Almost as though you weren't really fully committed to our relationship anymore. Major character departures didn't help matters much, and we were fully ready to accept that this, finally, was going to be the end. We said our prayers, said our last goodbyes, and saluted you as NBC launched you down the River of Cancellation.
Which brings us to today. Like an automotive repairman who replaced your windshield wipers even though you only asked him to change your oil, Yahoo swooped in, uninvited and unannounced, and pulled you out of purgatory, gracing us with one final, sixth season - as you yourself predicted way back in Season 3.
We were all pretty skeptical - this season, for all intents and purposes, should never have existed. It felt as though Yahoo was maybe playing with some dubious voodoo magic that we didn't quite trust - but lo and behold, last month you were fully risen from the dead, and new episodes started appearing online.
I'm not really sure if it's the additional major character departures (narrowing the original remaining core cast members down to 4), the longer episodes, or just the years that have gone by and the emotional turmoil that you put is through, but I don't think things will ever be the same between us. You've become the coolest kid in high school who has stayed behind to repeat the 12th grade one too many times.
To give credit where credit is due, you are still funny. You made me laugh big time all throughout your latest episode with your combination of quippy one-liners and broad physical humor. You are still self aware enough to make fun of your own limitations, including your new cast members, added in explicitly to replace those that have departed. You have expanded the roles of minor characters from previous seasons to great success, such as the Dean and Señor Chang, to fill in the gaps left by the likes of Troy, Pierce and Shirley.
And yet... the magic from our early years still feels gone. You haven't quite jumped the shark, but you've become a little too... conventional for our tastes. Gone are the huge, game-changing episodes that made us question the nature of television continuity and the very fabric of reality. Gone is the brilliant self-awareness, such as the bottle episode from Season 3 in which your characters reminisced about past events... that had never been seen before in any previous episodes. Gone are your elaborate and immensely clever genre de-constructions.
What's left is a group of very talented cast members, a few more clever jokes, and a feeling that, perhaps, this really should be our final goodbye. Well, until you come back as a movie, too.