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Hello, Communies! So, another new episode last night! I liked it! I particularly enjoyed the ending, both for the specific callbacks to "Remedial Chaos Theory" and for the [CENSORED FOR EDITORIALIZING ABOUT SHIPS]. It was weirdly exciting to see the return of the Dean's assistant, who I don't think has been seen since "Comparative Religion" way back in season one, and I thought Garrett's performance of "Ave Maria" was … well, it was really something! And there was nothing in it that will require any major changes to my Community Big Bang fic, which is definitely a plus! But who cares what I think? Let's get rounding-up!

  • Ryan Schwartz was "absolutely blown away by [last night's] episode." The introduction of Chang's long-expected takeover of the school was handled better than he expected, and he was glad to see how well the death of Starburns was handled, especially in terms of it having real (if probably soon-to-be-reversed) consequences for the study group. He has a message for those who were not as fond of the episode as he: "I ask that you remain open-minded about the final four episodes of season three and the path this show is heading down in the process. If you wind up liking that path, you'll probably enjoy this episode a hellova lot more when you're marathoning through your season three box set later this summer."
     
  • Luke Gelineau of TV Equals liked the episode. "It may not have had as many laughs as past weeks, but we’ve really come to care about these characters after three seasons and it’s got to put a smile on your face seeing them all gather together around Troy and Abed’s apartment table to all enjoy some pizza." That said, he hopes that there are more laughs to be found in the four episodes remaining in the season though; he's not opposed to the occasional dramatic beat, but not at the expense of jokes.
     
  • An Nicholson of CliqueClack thinks the show has felt off since its return from hiatus, and is still waiting for the "light through the darkness" that Dan Harmon said would appear after Starburns's death. Nevertheless, she says, "no matter how dark things become, I still live for Community‘s endings, where the gang consistently comes together." And there were several other things she liked enough to mention: the callback to "RCT;" the open with Abed, Annie, and Troy watching the video will; Britta's burning puppy visualization exercise; and all the star iconography seen at the wake.
     
  • Matt Dougherty of The Filtered Lens—hey, wait a sec, what happened to Andrew Lumby? Maybe he, like Professor Kane, was so traumatized by the death of Starburns that he resigned. Anyway, Matt gave the episode a numeric rating of 8 out of 10. He thought it was very funny, particularly the video will and the way Chang unfolded his plan to take over the school. He concludes, "This plot has a lot of potential and with only four episodes left, we should get an awesome end to this season of Community."
     
  • Todd VanDerWerff of the A.V. Club gave the episode a letter grade of B-minus, which according to his grading rubric means he thought it was "a very fun episode with a handful of significant flaws." The flaws in question were the heavy emphasis on the "Chang takes over the campus storyline," which he's never been a fan of; the last act, which he says in the comments was "basically a full episode unto itself, done in seven minutes [which] really hurt it;" and the degree to which the episode as a whole serves to advance future episodes. On this last point, he says, "I haven’t been entirely sure about Community’s experiments in serialization this season, but I’ve been playing wait-and-see. This is the first episode that makes me think such elements were probably did more harm than they were worth," though he makes the same point as Ryan Schwartz: "If the show sticks the landing, then future viewings of this season on DVD will put much less weight on this episode, allowing it to stand alongside the season’s other half hours as more or less equal."
     
  • Alan Sepinwall of HitFix also is not a big fan of the ongoing Chang storyline; he thinks Chang's security guard persona is not particularly entertaining, and that his plot to take over the school with an army of children and a Dean lookalike doesn't seem to fit the show, even given its "elastic reality." And he criticized the way the writers justified forcing the group to take summer school, arguing that since the show has dealt with faculty members leaving twice before, they should have followed the same rules as in previous seasons: by bringing in a replacement. But he liked the third act much more than the Werff. "The aftermath scene at Troy, Abed and Annie's apartment was fantastic: almost like a bonus scene from "Remedial Chaos Theory" … sad at first but then turning happy when Troy and then Abed convince the others that their friendship ultimately matters more than their enrollment at that ridiculous college."
     
  • Jennifer Marie of A Still and Quiet Conscience observes that for all their mocking of her inability to help them do it, Britta was correct that the group needed to process their grief (an aside: her intellectual intelligence notwithstanding, Britta is by far the most emotionally intelligent member of the group), and points out that the episode is careful to show all the group members progressing through the Kubler-Ross stages of grief: denial (that Starburns's death meant anything); anger (at having to repeat Biology in the summer and at Greendale in general); bargaining (with the board, as they realize that they're about to lose the comfort of being protected from reality by staying within Greendale's walls); depression (at the apartment); and acceptance (that as long as they still have one another, things can't be that bad). Say, that Kubler-Ross model's not really so different than Harmon's famed storytelling embryos, is it?
     
  • Alyssa Rosenberg of ThinkProgress continues to be disappointed that Community isn't a Current TV documentary about the American security state. "When it takes on cultural forms, the show usually has more to say about the forms themselves than the ideas that animate and give life to them.… there is an interesting story to be told about small men who amass great power in secret, like the ones who actually implemented some of the things Chang wants Dean Pelton to give him power to do." But she didn't call it fundamentally immoral, like she did the last episode of Glee, so at least it has that going for it, which is nice.
     
  • The anonymous Head Geek at Geek Furious gave the episode a rating of 87 out of 100. "I enjoyed seeing the study group band together in mutual outrage and then find the joy, in an otherwise dark situation, in simply having each other." He—and he is a he, his Blogger profile says so—said the ending was both genuinely sweet and felt earned and believable. He also reiterates that this has been Community's best season to date.
     
  • Jill Mader of Couchtime with Jill isn't a big Chang fan, but she liked last night's episode anyway. "There were a lot of moments that made me laugh, I loved the callbacks to the various timelines, and I’m excited to see what’s in store for our Greendale Seven." She has no doubt subsequent episodes will be hilarious.
     
  • Andrea Towers of The Voice of TV gave the episode a letter grade of B. She thinks it may have suffered by following "Basic Lupine Urology," which she identifies as part of a trend she's noticed since the show came back from hiatus: "it seems that in the past few months, we’ve had a number of 'lighter' episodes that haven’t been as strong mostly because they’ve been intermediaries between more epic outings." She finds herself torn on the subject of how Ken Jeong is being used: she loves Chang as a character, but doesn't know if he's being utilized as well as he could be. Like others, she's "lukewarm" on the "Changlorious Basterds" storyline this season, but she's reserving judgment until the storyline has played out.
     
  • Dimitri Dorlis if 411mania.com—taking over, it seems, from Ron Martin, who previously reviewed Community for that site—thought it was a weird episode. "After the string of really great episodes, this one was just...there." There were a lot of jokes he liked, and he was impressed that the writers could build an episode around an idea as abstract as the stages of grief—he seems to suggest that he read Jennifer Marie's analysis before writing his review—but ultimately the episode left him wanting more. He also expresses some reservations about what he calls Britta's negative growth since the first season.
     
  • Xander Marham thought "Course Listing Unavailable" was "the weakest episode of the season so far." His main complaint was that it spent so much time and energy setting the stage for the next few episodes that it ended up feeling insubstantial. Moreover, the plot developments didn't feel organic to him, particularly Professor Kane's sudden decision to resign and the speed with the study group got on board with Jeff's anger toward the school, and he didn't think the episode was very funny. He echoes Alyssa Rosenberg's complaint that the episode didn't have more to say about the outrageous behavior of Chang's security forces, and moreover feels that the impact of seeing those abuses were blunted by the study group being "entirely to blame" for the riot. He didn't like the episode's title.
     
  • Leigh Raines of TV Fanatic gave the episode a rating of four stars out of five. Chang got on her nerves somewhat, and she finds the youth of the Changlorious Basterds "creepy." But she liked how crazy and silly the Dean was, and the way his various attempts to calm the situation at Starburns's wake kept backfiring on him.
     
  • Matthew Guerruckey of Drunk Monkeys makes an interesting observation about how Starburns's wake was uniquely suited to the character: "All the man ever wanted was a little acknowledgment, and yet he was overshadowed by his ever-escalating affectations. So it’s appropriate that his memorial is overshadowed by a riot." Unlike some other reviewers, he likes how Chang has been handled this season: "He veered too often into camp for my taste in Season Two, but this is a Chang that hums with insanity under the surface." But he had thought the episode wasn't quite able to decide what it wanted to convey, and he felt that the goofy callbacks to "RCT" felt a bit empty in comparison to the "craziness and daring" of that episode. He gave it a letter grade of B.
     
  • Laura Aguirre of ScreenCrave liked Jeff and Britta's banter, which she calls a staple of the show. She also appreciated the reference to the Chicago Seven, a group of radicals who got in trouble for conspiring to incite a riot at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago (which, not unlike the Greendale riot, had as much to do with the disproportionate and over-the-top response by the police as with anything the demonstrators did). But speaking of disproportionate and over-the-top, she didn't think anything having to do with Chang made much sense. "Why would Dean Pelton give him complete control over the riot? … Chang’s inconsistent love/hate relationship for the study group is wearing thin. What’s his deal? Weren’t they on good terms?" Overall, she gave it a rating of 8.5 out of 10.
     
  • Robert Canning of IGN TV called the episode "a nice transition episode," wrapping up the surprise ending of last week's episode while laying the groundwork for the final showdown with Chang. "Because of this, the half hour felt just a tad uneven … but Community is a smart enough series to get this done in logical and funny ways." Nevertheless, he felt it could have flowed more smoothly than it did.
     
  • Character grader Kelley Locke of Character Grades graded the characters in the following manner. Dean Pelton earned a B-plus; Troy, B-plus; Jeff, C-plus; Shirley, B; Chang, D. Chang's low grade is due to the fact that she thinks he's been portrayed as too insane to be able to schmooze the board as effectively as he was shown to. Also: "What’s with these heavy handed endings? And why do they always take place in the pink light of Troy and Abed’s apartment? And eye contact, again? Ugh."
     
  • Brent Koepp of Dan Harmon Sucks gave the episode a B. "If I had to criticize anything in tonight’s episode, it would be Chang’s army. It’s not that I didn’t like the plot, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as the group’s grieving and expulsion process." It's not that he doesn't like Chang, though; he just feels like the character's being shoehorned into the show to justify keeping him as a regular. Comedically, he thought the episode was very funny, and he loved how the episode came back to "RCT."
     
  • Allison Walton of FilmThrasher was worried going into the episode. She had reservations about it making light of a character's death, and indeed, she feels those reservations were justified, citing the scene of Pierce rummaging through Starburns's ashes for his missing comb. "See, this is what I didn't want. That action, no matter what line you say to accompany it, is not funny. It's just gross." She was also concerned by reports of it being a Chang-heavy episode—"The best Community episodes are Chang-free ones"—but she didn't think he was as irritating as he normally is. (I don't know about you, but I'm getting the sense that this reviewer doesn't care for Chang.) And she thought the episode could've been funnier. But she did like the Dean's dress, and she thought the ending was aww-worthy. She gave the episode 7.5 star-covered urns out of 10.
     
  • Britt Hayes of ScreenCrush thought Jim Rash almost stole the entire episode. "Rash’s portrayal of the Dean as a slightly effeminate, hammy, costume-loving goon has always been fantastic, and while the small dose approach usually works perfectly fine, it’s always good to see Rash with more to do."
     
  • Jerome Wetzel of examiner.com considers Chang a weird character, but feels "the plot of 'Course Listing Unavailable' plays perfectly to his strengths. Chang gets to be crazy and actually cause serious trouble, rather than just being an annoyance." As far as the show as a whole is concerned, he says, "There is no series like Community on television. It's a brilliant piece of writing, with an awesome cast. The stories take wonderful chances and go in unexpected directions.… Community deserves the chance to keep doing what it's doing, and the television landscape would certainly be worse off without it."
     
  • Shannon of the Two Cents loves the Dean. "I love any episode that has an abundance of Dean Pelton. He is probably my favorite character on this show." She also enjoyed the Starburns video that served as the tag, calling it "pretty flippin' awesome."
     
  • R. Dank of Processed Media though the episode's reach exceeded its grasp. "Cramming the funeral for Starburns, the Greendale 7 trial, and Chang’s master plan left little room for the episode to do much in the final act, but skip ahead to the part where everyone smiles and feels better." R. is pretty harsh toward the group's behavior at the wake—"I understand that these characters aren’t supposed to be lovable all the time, but the entire group turning his funeral into their soapbox was a real selfish move, even for them"—and criticizes the ending from that perspective, calling the group's happiness "completely unearned" and suggesting the scene would have been better if it had included some "reflection on how their narcissism is costing them their futures." And he's almost as fed up with meaningful looks as Kelley Locke, but she finds any sort of meaningful look makes he want to vomit, R. is primarily concerned with the looks betwixt Troy and Britta. Overall, R. gave it a letter grade of B-minus.
     
  • Mark D Curran of the TV Geek Army said that on first viewing, the episode "seemed a jumbled mess." But that's why he always watches Community episodes twice before reviewing them, because its "depth and richness is never immediate at first glance." His final judgment: "Awesome episode."
     
  • Matthew Newlin of the California Literary Review called the episode "quite clever," albeit rather somber. He thought it quite brilliant to bring the darkest timeline from "RCT" after so many months.
     
  • Chris Soprych left Will Pfeifer and Melissa Westphal on their own to record this week's Community podcast from the Rockford Register Star. Neither Will nor Melissa cared overmuch for the episode; both thought there was too much Chang—"like a zasty Asian spice, a pinch of Chang is all you need"—and that the episode took a precipitous dive once the riot started. Chris (commenting via email) disagreed somewhat; he liked the riot (yay, a riot!) but thought it "slowed down to a crawl" after that. Also, Melissa was upset that Starburns did not leave his collection of Styx albums to her. Don't be throw off by the strangely under-tempo recording of the show's theme song that kicks off the podcast; the rest of it sounds normal.
     
  • We'll wrap up with Brian Collins of Badass Digest, who wasn't sure he'd enjoy "Course Listing Unavailable," as he was never a huge fan of Starburns and wasn't sure an episode glorifying an uninteresting character would be worth the time, especially this late in the season. But even though he found it somewhat disjointed, he still thought it was very funny. As to the first point, he says, "as a stand-alone it definitely doesn't feel as complete as the average episode… kind of like the 6th 'Dark Tower' book," despite it having enough material for two episodes squeezed into one. But ultimately he didn't think that was a problem, because of two things: one, it's "a goddamned hilarious episode from start to finish, with every single character (even Chang) getting a big laugh;" and two, the closing scene, which he called "a wonderful and surprisingly moving bit." (Though he does point out that much of what made that scene significant, particularly the reappearance of the pizza guy, would have been completely opaque to anyone who hadn't seen RCT. Which, yeah, good point.)

Over on the Twitter, "Edison out!" trended during the episode's initial airing in the Eastern and Central time zones, and earlier in the day Trendmaster Neil caused #StarburnsWake and #NewCommunityNBC8PM to trend. (Thanks to @dramakim for the screenshot.) Ratingswise, the episode was flat, earning the same 1.4 in the fast overnights as it got last week.

Comments

dsbs
May. 6th, 2012 12:51 am (UTC)
I LOVE your Beatles analogy, just throwing that in there.
sith_wench
May. 6th, 2012 01:53 am (UTC)
Well thank you:)

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