‘Community’ Review: “Curriculum Unavailable”
'Community' fans can rest easy -- yesterday brought news of renewal for a fourth, albeit truncated, season for the show. This week finds our Greendale study group visiting a psychiatrist played by the delightful John Hodgman.
When campus security finds Abed -- dressed as Inspector Spacetime, natch -- rummaging through a dumpster, he's sent off to therapy. Of course he can't go alone, so the endeavor becomes a group activity, and what starts off as reminiscing about how crazy Abed acts quickly develops into the group examining their own behaviors as a whole. For instance, Abed telling Shirley she's a terrible person for thinking Brett Ratner is a master of cinema (I'm with Abed on this one), Jeff's anal retentive behavior regarding a jacket, and Shirley giving away her son's toys when they eat the cookies she bakes for her study group.
Hodgman is perfectly cast as a quiet, intellectual psychiatrist type with that just-right pitch of condescension. He baits the group by insinuating that they have a problem and are obsessed with their community college, but none of them can understand how this is a problem.
This is 'Community''s second faux-clip show that pays homage to sitcom filler episodes where characters reminisce about their birthdays or their break-ups -- sort of a sitcom mix tape. 'Community' largely succeeds at the idea of recycling itself -- paintball and blanket forts, everything can and will be done again in a sitcom, but the self-awareness of this show and its ability to recognize why those tropes are used and how we digest them is what makes 'Community' something special.
And instead of playing best-of clips from the show, they create tiny moments from episodes that never were. When the gang starts to realize that maybe there's something weird about Greendale and it might not be them, things get exceedingly wackier. There are classes on baby talk, holding your breath, and an entire class devoted to what you can and cannot fry -- the latter of which features a hilarious moment where a student asks, "Fries?" and the teacher switches perfectly to deadpan seriousness and swiftly responds with, "Get out." But it's not just the classes -- Shirley found a book in the library with a chunk cut out of it, and when Pierce used the bathroom one time he was celebrated for the 10,000th flush. Sure, these people are kind of weird, but have you seen this school? Not to mention Dean Pelton and all his kooky outfits.
Speaking of the dean, he makes an appearance in one of the best clips -- a bit from a Noir-style paintball episode that I would absolutely hobble someone to see in its entirety. For all the callbacks this season, is it selfish to want more paintball?
The psychiatrist asserts that the entire group needs help, and not just because they're sort of weird, but because Greendale isn't really a community college -- it's an asylum. It's a reveal of epic 'Lost' proportions, and one that provides one of the best gags of the entire season, and even hearkens all the way back to season one with some of its jokes. We see the study group as patients in an asylum where things like paintball and Pierce being an important heir are all made-up inside their heads. That pen that went missing in the season two episode "Cooperative Calligraphy" was merely the doctors (one played by Garrett with a startlingly funny deep voice) conducting an experiment on the group.
But of course our friends come to their senses and realize this can't be true -- after all, Abed has hundreds of pictures of the campus on his phone and Annie has a Greendale Community College backpack. The psychiatrist is busted as someone hired by Chang to keep the group distracted from the fake Dean he's inserted at the school. And though Chang's stuff hasn't been as funny this season, his fake clip compilation was spot-on. Chang using Garrett as a pre-cog and trying to create his own 'Minority Report,' and Chang snorting crushed up Doritos and pulling a 'Pulp Fiction' with, "Oooh! I said hot damn!" were great -- and hilarious! -- ways to use Ken Jeong, whose character only seems to function now in smaller doses.
It's fantastic to see 'Community' get picked up for another season, even if it's only for a 13 episode order, but as Todd VanDerWerff notes over at the AV Club, this and 'Parks and Recreation' (which is also rumored to be picked up for a truncated season) might be held for mid-season. NBC just purchased several new sitcoms, and based on the success or failure of those sitcoms, NBC could request additional episodes as it's done in the past with shows like 'Chuck.'
"If this were comic-con, I'd take a bullet for that kid."
"Crazy town banana pants."
"My hunger is fireman suspenders."