‘Community’ Review: “Course Listing Unavailable”
Following the passing of beloved weirdo Starburns last week, this week’s ‘Community‘ deals with the fallout, which is just about as silly as you’d imagine after the absurd death of a minor character.
Seems that Starburns taped a video will of sorts, leaving nothing to anyone and asking Abed to take some makeshift green screen footage on the tape and create a touching memorial video the likes of which only Abed can accomplish.
Britta, having finally chosen to major in psychology, decides to try out some therapy methods on the group, including acting as a Starburns substitute (fake star-shaped sideburns and all) and leading the group in positive vision exercises. As expected, she’s sort of a terrible therapist, and as Jeff notes in a token meta moment, he recalls her coming off as much smarter when the pair first met in the series premiere.
Jim Rash almost steals the entire episode this week as the Dean refuses to allow Chang to engage in extreme security measures, which backfires when Starburns’ memorial service gets out of hand. After informing the study group that their biology professor has resigned and they’ll all have to make up the credit over the summer, Jeff, Annie, and Shirley succeed in inciting a riot, which leads to the Dean having to cow to Chang and ask for help.
There’s plenty of Jim Rash in this episode, from his hilarious take on “Come On Eileen” while cleaning his hands and stapling, to choosing a crazy outfit from his closet before he can speak to the study group. 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.
Later, after Chang and his teenage minions have pepper-sprayed the students, the Dean decides to lay the blame at his feet so no one gets expelled. Jeff and the study group go to the school board meeting to point the finger at Chang and excuse their behavior, but a smarmy Chang shows up with a gift basket and charms the school board into expelling the entire group. We’re also reminded for the second week in a row that Jeff is — or was — a lawyer, and it’s nice to see that Dan Harmon and Co. want to reassure the audience that they haven’t forgotten where this show started.
The group, upset from their expulsion, convene at Troy and Abed’s place for consolation pizza, and Abed calls back to that incredible “Remedial Chaos Theory” episode as he wonders if this is the dark timeline — if maybe they chose the wrong timeline and all they need to do is roll the dice again to course correct. The moment toys with ideas of soft resets, where sitcoms will often ret-con plots or subplots to suit ongoing arcs or new developments. Conflicts are erased and habits of characters are replaced to make room for a fresh start. ‘Community’ could easily hit the soft reset, erasing everything that’s happened in half a season — all the (admittedly small) problems its had, some of the ideas that didn’t gel quite as well as hoped — in favor of trying things differently.
The group realizes that things might not always be great, but it’s the choices that they’ve made together that have taken them to where they are now, just like it’s the choices Dan Harmon and his writers have made — good or bad, publicly or in their writers’ room — that have gotten them to where they are now, safely pulled back from the brink of cancellation. If you erase the bad things, you erase the good, too.
This week’s tag features the epic Starburns music video memorial from Abed, fully utilizing that rad makeshift green screen by putting Starburns in the ocean, flying through the sky in a jetback, and kicking all kinds of ass. A fittingly weird farewell to a weird dude.
”Is it always about the Holocaust with you people?”
“I’ll tell you how the sausage gets made. It’s a lot of ground meat and it gets stuffed inside a casing that looks like a cross between a dude’s dong and a poop.”
Leonard, looting Subway: “I’m going to take everything but onions and olives.”
“But that doesn’t change the fact that we’re all Ted Danson at Whoopi Goldberg’s roast.”