Hello, Communies! Sorry this is going up so late, but I had tickets to see Chicago at the Greendale Civic Center with George Wendt and Stephanie Powers. Actually, it was an all-Gershwin concert by the Madison Symphony, but hey, same general time period. Anyway, cool episode. Let's get to the reviews!
- Todd VanDerWerff of the A.V. Club gave the episode an A (his grading rubric), saying it was a rare instance of the show "going back to a well it's already visited" and exceeding the original, which is to say he thought "Curriculum Unavailable" was better than "Paradigms of Human Memory," the original fake clip show. What elevates this one, he says, is that it has a plot. "The story works so well here … because each clips package advances it. There’s a very simple structure here, but it feels like an actual plot, not like the weird meandering of 'Paradigms.'"
- Brody Gibson of Boomtron agrees in every particular. He "For me personally, ['Paradigms'] was the funniest episode of Community, but it lacked warmth to it. … It was a great episode, but 'Curriculum' did it one better. Not only was it still crazy funny, but also it had that warmth." He was so impressed with the Greendale Asylum sequence that he almost wishes it had been a full episode, though he knows it wouldn't work. "That’s what makes these fake clip shows work. We’re given just enough information to laugh, but if we saw anymore it would all fall apart."
- Jeremy Popkin of …ology says the episode "proves a truncated fourth season is an insult to one of television’s most inventive sitcoms." Though he thinks "Remedial Chaos Theory" remains the strongest episode of the season), he thinks this one was its strongest post-hiatus offering, calling it an episode that "clicks on every level, where the meta and the emotional and the funny all work in synch to reach sitcom nirvana."
- Ron Martin of 411mania.com loved the asylum clips so much that it warped his perception of the space-time continuum; he said the 60 seconds of the group in the asylum "might be the best five minutes of Community all season." He also liked the ridiculous Greendale classes we saw, the Chang montage, the brief glimpse of Abraham "the Kube!" Benrubi in the asylum sequence, and that "Abed's reactions to both Daylight Savings Time and Brett Ratner mirror [his] exactly." But he's disappointed there won't be a full paintball episode this year and didn't think the tag was up to the standard set by the rest of the episode, which may be why he gave the episode a rating of 9.0 out of 10
- Alan Sepinwall of HitFix points out that even by the standards of this dark season, the idea that Chang has been holding Dean Pelton hostage for two months is a "messed-up a place for a comedy (even one this strange) to go." He doesn't think this episode was as good as the last clip show, saying it both lacked both the audacity and the "elegant design" of "Paradigms." Nevertheless, he thought it was "a very successful half-hour of comedy." He though John Hodgman was a perfect fit for the episode, and he enjoyed seeing how events from past episodes would look if the participants were mental patients, especially the reenactment of the original clip show, which he said might have been "the most quintessentially Community moment ever."
- Brian Collins of Badass Digest wasn't sure if the episode was any good or not, because he found out Community had been renewed for a fourth season mere minutes before watching it, which he feels may have made him too giddy with happiness to be able to judge the episode objectively. But the appearances by Hodgman and Officer Cackowski, not to mention the extended joke at the expense of Brett Ratner, makes him "pretty confident that even when [his] excitement wears off [he'll] still look at this as a top five entry for this third season." That said, he suggests that it may not work tremendously well as a standalone story, what with the references to the group's expulsion and the Dean's kidnapping and such, and that while he doesn't mind, he "can see how this might be a bit of an issue for casual fans who prefer that the serialized elements are more like a background bonus (like the Subway plotline) as opposed to being the only reason for the episode to exist." Wait, Community has casual fans?
- Luke Gelineau of TV Equals also thought the renewal was good news, "especially if those 13 episodes will be just as wacky and hilarious as tonight’s!" He loved seeing the references to past episode in the asylum sequence: "It shows you how much the Community writers care for and respect their fans that they aren’t afraid of their crazy references going over anybody’s heads." His favorite moment was "Dean Pelton saying he wanted to take away one of their pens," which is interesting in that it was Garrett who wanted to do that.
- Leigh Raines of TV Fanatic really loved the episode, especially Annie's solo take on Troy, Abed, and Annie in the Morning, and the Dean "White Fanging a girl who was wearing the same outfit as Annie," which is a reference that's lost on me but will apparently will mean something to you New Girl fans out there. But she thought the wig party was lame, and said of Pierce's 10,000th flush celebration, "just ew." So she'd rather see him walk out of the stall WITHOUT flushing?
- An Nicholson of CliqueClack thought the episode's concept was clever but that it felt "like experimentation for experimentation’s sake," lacking the adorable weirdness that has typified previous seasons and the first half of this one. Having said that, she started to enjoy it more as the episode progressed, and she came up with a pretty long list of things she like, including the Dean's flapper outfit, Abed's narration of Pierce's oldness, and the mental image of the Dean cobbling together a sexy Patty Hearst costume. Which I liked too, but come to think of it, is that a reference someone Britta's age would come up with? Of course, as a psych major she's probably vaguely familiar with Stockholm Syndrome, so I guess it works.
- Steve Heisler of Vulture has recently been worried that the group was unwilling to acknowledge "the elephant in the study room: that Abed might need professional help." So he was happy to the group accompany Abed to a therapy session—"Elephant in the room: addressed." And he found the asylum sequence—"they turned the entire room into an elephant"—so compelling that "for a brief second" he almost believed that the series up to that point had been the collective delusion of seven lunatics.
- Bill Wyman of Slate's Browbeat blog called the episode "focused, driven, complex, and, not incidentally, funny enough to make this one of the all-time great Community episodes." He spends a lot of time talking about Community in general, observing that it is "a broadcast network sitcom in love with the idea of being a classic broadcast network sitcom, but which only exists because the broadcast networks as we knew them (truly dominant cultural forces watched by everyone) are no longer," and suggesting that "since Community is about broadcast television, and since Community has been facing cancellation, tonight’s show is, of course, about what happens when you contemplate your own demise. You go a little crazy." You should definitely read this one.
- Kelley Locke of Character Grades handed out top marks across the board this week. Troy, Jeff, and Britta all earned A's: Troy for his defense of Abed; Jeff for demonstrating his love of the group by fighting with the fake therapist and for saying, "Nobody in this room gets to define sick;" and Britta for sticking with her psychology student bit despite not being a student, and perhaps a little bit for actually saying the line Locke attributes to Jeff. The Dean got an A-plus, because she loves the Dean and was happy to see the group come around to her way of thinking. Her only disappointment: we didn't hear why Britta is at Greendale.
- Ryan Schwartz called the episode "another perfect episode of Community in what has turned out to be a rather perfect season." He was glad for the glimpse into the alternate reality in which the study group is a group of psychiatric patients, which he says is one of his favorite scenes the show's ever done.
- Britt Hayes of ScreenCrush thought Hodgman was both "delightful" and "perfectly cast as a quiet, intellectual psychiatrist type with that just-right pitch of condescension." Her favorite among the flashbacks were the "can I fry that?" class, the noir-style paintball flashback, and the "crazy Chang" montage.
- Xander Markham liked "Curriculum Unavailable" more than last week's episode, but he was not as fond of it as many other reviewers. He felt is suffered from the same flaw he saw in "Paradigms:" "Individual segments were very funny … but the lack of a strong story kept it from gelling as a satisfying whole." He has an interesting take on the episode's theme: "The episode stands as a rebuke to all those criticising the fans for being too obsessive in their love: it's that obsession, and refusal to accept it as just another fictional location, which is keeping Greendale standing. Outsiders may call them crazy, but the fans are fighting to save something they love and, as was revealed last night, succeeding."
- Brent Koepp of Dan Harmon Sucks gave the episode an A-plus, and called it "one of the best episodes of the series to date." He speaks at some length about the more highly serialized format the show has been using this season in general and in the last few episodes in particular. "What particularly stood out about this episode was how well it bridged 'Course Listing Unavailable' … It really tied everything together, and felt like some needed weight to the plot."
- Laura Aguirre of ScreenCrave liked the fake clip show format, particularly Abed's reaction to Daylight Savings Time and to Shirley's praise of Brett Ratner, the human chess game, and the entire Greendale Asylum sequence. She thought Britta's mimicking of Dr. Heidi was hilarious, but she's disappointed that the episode seemed to shut the door on the possibility of future paintball episodes. Overall, she said, "You have to know Community to appreciate (and understand) an episode like 'Curriculum Unavailable,'" but she does, so she gave it a rating of 9.5 out of 10.
- Toward the beginning of his review, Robert Canning of IGN TV said, "The fact that this [clip show] storytelling technique fell in the middle of a larger storyline hurt the episode a bit," and I have to admit I don't really understand what he means by that, and he never explains why its placement would have any impact on the effectiveness of the storytelling technique. Later, he adds, "the episode didn't fit very smoothly into the overall multi-episode story arc taking place," which leads into him saying that the study group doesn't appear to have reacted to their expulsion the way he would have expected them to, and that it "felt weird that they basically stumbled into learning that something bigger was going on in such an over-the-top way." Because…things happening in an over-the-top way on TV shows is unusual, I guess? I dunno. Anyway, awkwardly explained missteps notwithstanding, he was overall enjoyable and entertaining, and he gave it a rating of 8.5 out of 10.
- Let me take a moment here before I get to this next summary to bemoan the English language's lack of a non-gender-specific pronoun. *moan* OK, so, R. Dank of Processed Media thought last week's episode was a bit of a misstep, but R. Dank thought it regained its footing this week with an episode R. Dank thought was hilarious. In addition to the funny bits, R. Dank also appreciated "the important emotional piece the show’s been cultivating for awhile now, and that’s the role of Dean Pelton in the school.… If there’s anything this show is making clear this season, it’s that these people all need each other equally, and Greendale needs them as much as they need it." R. Dank gave the episode a letter grade of A-minus.
- Andrea Towers of The Voice of TV gave the episode an A. While she feels the third season has been somewhat uneven, she considers this "one of the stronger episodes that Community has delivered this season. She take a moment to reflect on why she finds the characters so lovable, concluding that it's "the inherently flawed nature of our Greendale Seven that makes them relatable and real." And she observes that this is the third consecutive episode to feature the Dean singing.
- Matthew Guerruckey of Drunk Monkeys gave the episode a letter grade of A-minus. "If this episode doesn’t feel quite as fresh as 'Paradigms', it’s only because part of the thrill of that episode was the rush of seeing something that had never been done before." He observes that the episode was directed by Adam Davidson, who directed many first season episodes, including "Comparative Religion," which Guerruckey identifies as "the episode that announced that Community already was--not one day would be--a great show." He suggests that his presence is part of what made "Curriculum Unavailable" "feel like a return to the tone of the first season, a welcome change that strips away the sentimentality of recent episodes."
- Alyssa Rosenberg of ThinkProgress liked that "it got at an important point that the show doesn’t always address head-on: what if landing at Greendale hasn’t been great for all of these characters?" And she's curious to see if and how the show will use what could be its last season to prepare the study group for their transition back to the real world after four years that have been "been neither educational nor salutary."
- Chris Soprych and Will Pfeifer were left to their own devices in this week's Rockford Register Star Community podcast, resulting in a long conversation between the two about Minority Report, a movie that among the two of them they've seen 15 to 20 times. Unsurprisingly, Melissa Westphal is absent this week.
- And we'll wrap up with Jennifer Marie of A Still and Quiet Conscience, who points out the stark contrast between Jeff's behavior toward Abed in the pilot, when "his anger toward Abed manifests itself by him spitting out that Abed has Asperger's," to his behavior in this episode, in which "he is doing his best to tip-toe around defining Abed as crazy or abnormal." She liked the scene of Jeff giving his jacket to Annie and then almost immediately taking it back, which she called "adorable and hilarious and completely in-character." Hey, I wonder if that was the blazer he wanted to look at in "Studies in Modern Movement"?
- Mark D Curran, TV Geek Army: "This week's conceptual follow-up to 'Paradigms of Human Memory' succeeds in producing new, side-splitting clips while moving the season towards its close."
- Shaunna Murphy, Hollywood.com: "Much like in South Park and Springfield, we've come to accept the ludicrous day-to-day goings on in Greendale as, well, normal.… Taking a look at some of the more ridiculous "never before seen" instances of inanity is what made this episode so damn fun."
- Galen Simmons, andPOP: "John Hodgman makes a very convincing fake psychiatrist."
- Ethan Alter, Television Without Pity: "Leaving the characters in straitjackets feels like the sort of thing creator Dan Harmon might do as a final 'F-you' to the network had the show been tossed in the proverbial cancellation trash can."
- Shannon, The Two Cents: "Best clip show I think I’ve seen in awhile. I mean, if you’re gonna sell out and do a clip show, this is how it’s done, don’t you think?"
- Pete Vonder Haar, Houston Press Art Attack blog: "I kind of enjoyed Britta's 'peyote' look. What can I say? Nina Blackwood was always my favorite VJ."
- Henry Hanks, CNN Marquee blog: Well, there's nothing worth quoting here. I include it for the sake of completeness.
- Jill Mader, Couchtime With Jill: "This is definitely some of the wackiest, darkest stuff Community has done, but it’s my jam.
- The Head Geek, Geek Furious: "This may not go down in history as one of the best COMMUNITY episodes, but it was thoroughly enjoyable and I look forward to next week's three-episode finale."
Ratingswise, the show once again held steady, earning a 1.4 rating/5 share in the 18-49 demographic. I for one am very curious to see what kind of numbers it will pull next week in the 9:00 and 9:30 slots. Unfortunately, we had no trending topics on the Twitter during the episode, thought Neil Goldman used his magic trending powers to get #HodgmanOnCommunityNBC to trend earlier in the day.
See you next week!
- Current Music:The Jamies - Summertime Summertime