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Wednesday, 26 of February of 2020

Community – “Course Listing Unavailable”

“Greendale has warped me like a Barbie doll in a microwave.”

Community Title CardIt’s to Community‘s credit that the death of Starburns wasn’t just a joke to cap off the Law & Order homage but would rather be something that carries over and has an impact on the show’s characters into the next episode. While the theme/concept episodes have largely been free of consequence this season (‘largely’ being the keyword there), I like that the consequences carry over a bit into other episodes.

But “Course Listing Unavailable” fumbles things rather badly in its attempt at, I think, doing some sort of satire about feelings of disenfranchisement and the corruption of power. The episode never arrives at a cohesive whole about those points, both  in terms of commentary or humor, leaving the episode feeling very incomplete.

And an ‘incomplete’ is the consequence of Starburns’s death, as Kane resigns due to Starburns’s death. His resignation leads to the class receiving an Incomplete, and everyone will have to make up the credit later, likely over the summer. I somewhat balk at this since over the course of two seasons, the instructor of the main class in Community has always gone off the rails a bit only to be replaced with another instructor. And given that it’s so late in the term, how hard would it be to have someone proxy the exam and call it a day?

A quick aside about the lack of a budget to pay anyone to do it would have solved this problem, and hell, the Dean could’ve done it himself. But the episode doesn’t supply a reason so it can get to the fulfillment of Chang’s army. Chang’s role on the show has had its ups and downs (I think we can all agree he was best as a teacher), and while I thought that his role as a security guard would be a pleasant one, as soon as that nice security guard left, the show never knew what to do with the character.

So it comes to pass that Chang decides to use his police force to set up a bit of a police state at Greendale. While I enjoyed his literally colorful list of demands, the show doesn’t make it compelling beyond that. Everyone riots during the wake due to feelings of being exploited or ruined by a lousy system at the college (largely driven by the study group and having to take a summer class), and I feel like the show was attempting to acknowledge the Occupy movement on college campuses, particularly the UC Davis incident, but does so without anything really pointed to say.

Community doesn’t typically engage in this sort of thing, and so perhaps their skills in doing so aren’t as well-honed as they should be. But when they managed to do something nicely subtle with corporate personhood, it had me hoping that their attempt at an Occupy Greendale situation would work in their particular brand of absurdity. And while rioting over having to take a summer class is fairly absurd, there’s no through line or humor or strong sense of how this connects back to real world events to make the situation land.

There’s stuff to like, particularly the closing scene as they debate timelines. I do like that they acknowledge that while Greendale may not be the best place, it at least brought them together, and that’s really what matters. It’s a nice moment for the show, and probably the best part of the episode (apart from Troy insisting to the attractive nurse that he never cries and thus must’ve been pepper sprayed, which killed me). But it feels a tad disconnected from the rest of the episode, leaving the entire thing a mishmash of ideas and concepts.

FINAL THOUGHTS

  • “How one armed was he?” Great, great moment.
  • “Name any other stages.” “What are you, my final?!” Heeee.
  • Garrett singing “Ava Maria” was probably the second funniest thing in the episode, after Troy’s tearful lying.
  • “Look. Tiny riot gear.”
  • The Dean impostor was pretty cool, though I wish we had gotten a better look at the guy.
  • “Whatever, I’m the worst.”  “You’re not the worst. You’re the best.” ohmygodyall.

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