Community: Return of the Clip Show

Community S03E19: "Curriculum Unavailable"

How's this for an opening number: Community got renewed yesterday! Hooray, yay, yippee. But Community didn't use the good news as an excuse to take the night off, airing its final episode before next week's 90-minute triple-dose finale blowout. Last night's "Curriculum Unavailable" continued the saga of the study group's expulsion from Greendale Community College, and it was crazy town banana pants. Fortunately, anything to do with bananas, towns, craziness, and pants is pretty damned funny.

It was impossible to watch "Curriculum Unavailable" without having bizarre cutaway memories to one of my favorite Community episodes, "Paradigms of Human Memory"—the Season 2 clip-show-that-wasn't-a-clip-show bonanza that also aired three episodes before a season finale. Whereas that rode a wave of novelty toward hilarity, "Curriculum Unavailable" had an air of "let's do a clip show again," making it inferior to its spiritual predecessor.

"Paradigms" itself was a parody of the clip show format, done in the Community style we all know and love. Chang discovered a treasure trove of junk in the vents that'd been collected by Annie's Boobs, sparking memories of events that happened while Greendale was off-camera and eventually turning the group into a bickering mess before adorably bringing everything back home to friendship. "Curriculum Unavailable" was more tied to the ongoing Rise of Chang storyline, but the gags, while still mostly fantastic, came off as more forced. They just didn't have the organic feeling of "Paradigms." Plus, the study group wasn't running around the backlot of Universal Studios taking advantage of its bizarre sets. Instead, the clips were mostly confined to the Greendale campus. And it's impossible not to compare the two episodes... the show asked for it.

But enough comparing! Be here now! "Curriculum Unavailable" did have moments of brilliance. The whole "you're all crazy!" scenario with the gang in the Greendale Asylum was fantastic, and a great way of adding a new layer to Community's famous callback jokes. And meta got redefined when the episode actually referred to "Paradigms of Human Memory" (and the trampoline episode, and the paintball episodes, and Annie kissing Abed, and the Christmas episode) nearly collapsing the universe on itself. Baritone Garrett saying, "I want to see what happens when I steal one of their pens" nearly split my pants. It's not enough for Community to get a laugh out of callbacks to old episodes anymore, and in this way the show found a way to do it that felt fresh.

"Curriculum Unavailable" was a parade of great gags, but should we be worried about Community repeating itself? What if there's another paintball episode? What if there's another clip show? Each successive iteration will probably be overshadowed by the original. Abed knows sequels are rarely better than first chapters, and this applies to Community as well.

Last night's episode fed into the continuation of the whole Chang Rises storyline, which I'm trying not to dislike. And the study group has to somehow rescue the Dean from being dean-napped. These are very unusual storylines for a sitcom and they're being told in a very unusual way, but Community is anything but a usual comedy.



Study Group Notes

– John Hodgman, the PC guy and a The Daily Show guy, was a natural fit for Community and perfect for the part.

– Nice way to address the whole "how long can these people stay in community college" question.

– Why was Britta the only one hungover? And what happened to that? Did she get out-drank by Annie? For shame, Britta!

– "Uhhhh guys, while we were remembering Chang is crazy the fake doctor sneaked away."

– How delicious does a casserole of Bagel Bites with a Hot Pocket reduction and Doritos glaze sound?

– Minor gripes: The Britta psych major joke on its own has run its course. Please update! Also, I'm also not a big fan of Abed's banshee wailing anymore.

– I just found out that I have something in common with Abed! We both like to sneak into Allison Brie's room and film her while she's sleeping!

– Multiple paintball episodes, multiple clip shows. Do you approve of this pattern of repeating ideas? I don't think that I do.



Clips of Clips


Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom

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GREAT EPISODE! Why not repeat something that is great, btw Empire was better than New Hope
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I liked the bit when Annie was pretending to do a Troy & Abed show and she had teddy bears instead on some chairs, and then Troy & Abed show up and ask her "what all those cameras were doing there" It just blew my mind! And then of course the bit about the pen was just sheer genius!
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Agreed all around, except worries of "another paintball episode", this episode clearly made point of killing the idea. I enjoyed this episode a lot not for the clips but for the actual plot, and for John Hodgman kicking so much comedic ass. Plus, it had Kubiak Abraham Benrubi for no reason!



Troy's casserole sounded sickening, you put that many chemically foods together and all you'll taste is salt then preservatives.



I don't love the idea of repeating high-concept gags, it takes away the "high concept" aspect and generally cannot live up. That said, Community does clearly have a lot of ideas to express somehow, so I'd take this as a repeating concept over paintball. Or Chang.
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I found it hilarious - each short clip was a fab gem... the line "I wanna see what happens when I take a pen away" was too funny but of course this ep would lost most of its appeal if you have not watched Community before...



Oh and I LOVE the Dean - best character these days....
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What's happening? Last couple of episodes I watched were funny, weird, interesting and simply friggin awesome!

But then I go here, read the review and get bummed out.



Community is simply amazing, and maybe Tim just doesn't know what he wants anymore.

I laughed so hard when Garret said "I wanna see what happens when I take a pen away"

:)
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I don't really care that this was a "repeat" of "Paradigms of Human Memory," because it was hilarious, and that's what counts. Community continues to be creative, smart, and absolutely hysterical, even in its weaker episodes. This was not one of those, in my opinion. I laughed more in this episode than I have in a while.



Loved the asylum scene, loved all the Greendale classes (Ladders!), loved Chang trying to predict crimes. I think this was a great episode, and one I would definitely re-watch.
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I think the best (and most meta) part of this episode was the reference to the third (noir) paintball episode that was never to be. It took the repeating of the clip episode to a whole new level when Abed tells a dying Dean that repeating an episode structure "just feels forced".
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LAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAME!
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i loved this episode. the whole take on psychological thriller films was awesome. ok so I'm not a huge fan of how they are doing the chang rise to power, as it is getting too ridiculous to have any credibility. This episode however was great.

I did think of the past clip show but it was so different, and as long as they are funny and execute them well its all good.
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I really don't understand the whole repeating crap. Community is just an amazing, hilarious, and QUALITY show. It's got ton of creativity, and anyone who says they are repeating is full of BS. Other shows like The Big Bang Theory, and any other procedural has been repeating the same crap for their whole effin' series. That's why I'm thankful for such awesome shows like Community, Happy Endings, and Fringe.
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I love the asylum scenes.



And I don't mind them doing more clip shows, as long as they use it to make good jokes, and they did.



#Anniesboobswereamazingagain
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I thought community did a great job (as usual) in this episode. Yes, they've done the fake clip show before but they still did it in a way that felt fresh. It's hard to see them doing it again.

Also in regards to the paintball part, in the episode they even said "no more paintball" so I doubt we'll see it again. Can't wait for the 90min finale.
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Agree.

Just one thing: its not a fake clip show. That's the best part, Community both in the Paradigms episode and this one showed what the group has been upto while they are not on camera :) Those things showed in clips were real.
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The best way I can describe this episode is a mixed bag. I thought it started poorly but it steadily improved. Symptomatic of Season 3 it hammered home this Season's 'character traits' to death (Inspector Spacetime, Britta's Psych major) and had an unfocussed absurdist plot, which I've felt hasn't been as successful as the more disciplined stories in Season 2. In the last couple of episodes Community has been NUTS, throwing a torrent of crazy ideas and gags at us, with predictably uneven results. Some are funny and some are just head-scratching.

As for the whole clip show redux thing. While this episode certainly brings Paradigms to mind, they were completely different. Paradigms itself cannot be repeated like Paintball episodes because the brilliance of that episode was the realisation that the clips were unseen material. It took a while for me to figure it out. While that episode spliced new scenes around previous episodes and added new stories, this episode used unseen clips to make points to the fake psychiatrist. I almost wish they'd used real clips instead. Using fake clips is like the writers saying - hey the characters are crazy but we don't trust that you'll believe us so we'll spell it out in heavy-handed details. I'm not sure that it would have worked, but an actual clip show would have been a very Community way of playing with our post-Paradigm expectations. But my little grumbles started evaporating when the show hit it's stride. The clips about Greendale 'classes' were all hilarious, especially ladders.

And doing the mental institution story was good and mostly successful but isn't that a big enough story to fill an entire episode, not just a three minute marathon.

I guess what I'm saying is that I wasn't totally won over by this episode, it was a bit hit and miss with it's gags and I generally prefer tighter plotting, but it also had moments that were brilliant and very very funny.

Other random thoughts:

- I loved the purgatory joke.

- Garrett's improved voice was incredibly funny, but using him as the Minority Report with his normal voice a few minutes later detracted from it.

- Car Keys? Yes!
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I TOTALLY want to go to a school that offers Baby Talk, Advanced Breath Holding, and "Can I fry that?" as courses. Of course, I would probably be kicked out of the last one as I'm pretty sure I'd be the smartass that asks "How about fries?"
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I thought they did a great job coming at the clip show in a different way. That said, three would be too much. I hope the short film noir we saw of the paintball battle will be our only glimpse. Garrett's voice and his remark about the pen prompted my biggest laugh.
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There is no end to the brilliance of this show. Way too smart for t.v! #sixseasonsandamovie
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There was way too much goodness in that episode. Too much :)
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I laughed a lot during this episode. Sure it was another clip show, but it felt fresh enough that it wasn't until I read this review that I realized they had done this before! There were so many brilliant moments and I can't wait to see what happens next week. Also, new epic hashtag!!!! #sixseasonsandamovie #streetsahead #crazytownbananapants
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I loved the way the shrink used questions from Community critics to challenge the group's grip on reality: Community College is only two years, you guys were originally a Spanish study group but nobody speaks Spanish, etc.
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I liked. Yes it was a repeat of the prior clip show, but as with the paintball repeats, I still really liked it. The jokes for most of the clips were fantastic and the show managed to take the mickey out of it being a tv show universe. They were all crazy, the dean in a cute way, the pen joke meant I had to rewatch a couple of minutes which I managed to laugh over, and the idea of an asylum was genius. I don't think there will be another paintball episode, they pretty much said as much and the memory of the Chicago-like one I think was the 'it happened and you missed it' joke, like most of the clips in both clip episodes
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Only thing that disappointed me in this episode was the Chicago joke during the paintball scene. At first I was all excited thinking they were talking about the band Chicago. Then I realised it was the musical and got totally bummed out :(
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Repeating is not recycling. Whatever idea Harmon et al. follow, it turns out genious. We had the same ideas played out over multiple episodes a couple times now but every time it has its own signature and becomes something special and unique. At this point they can do whatever they want and I'm in.



Sidenote: I totally bought the fact, that they were all crazy and imagined everything. And I LOVED it (Deanception much? And it made total sense!!) but I knew they would find an awesome way back into the procedural story anyway. THAT'S how much I trust the writers. They can come up with anything and it will work.
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This episode was fantastic. This is what Community does so well. Yes it was another clip show. But the way they went about it with the whole you all are sharing a collective delusion was great. I almost wish they hadn't done the episode though. At least not at this point and time. I would have loved to see this episode as their very last one. That would have been the best ending to the series I think they could have done. You all never went to Greendale, you were in an institution. That would have been awesome. But they did it now and it was fantastic.



i don't think it is going to get old, because the second paintball was better than the first and this episode was equal to the first clip show. And just the fact that they aren't clip shows as the rest of the sitcom world does them makes it better than the rest. They addressed a lot of problems people have with the show. And they emphasized a lot of critiques on the show. I liked that.



The Britta Psych major joke has run its course. I however like the Abed banshee wail. It makes me laugh always.



Everything was just great about this episode. And it really is insulting to only give them 13 episodes for next season.



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This episode was hilarious the whole bit about the gang imagining Greendale and their adventures was too funny for words to even express. If Community feels like repeating something who cares its Community!
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So many shows have done the "entire series may be a crazy person's hallucination" episode, and I seem to be the only one who's noticed how cliche that is by now. I was proud of Community for being the first to spoof it.
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I'd like to raise 2 points:



1)Gary's voice is super awesome in this episode

2)For some unkown reason, Annie screaming to Troy & Abed just turned me on somehow.
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Didn't Abed address the whole repeetition problem at one point, ,making someone promise to never do another paintball episode?



FTR, that whole Matrix / Lost asylum sequence was amazing. And for a second, they had me convinced. I loved how such a complicated intricate theory was destroyed by simple evidence like a bag and phone pictures.
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The asylum bits were awesome! And Dean Pelton as a woman, dying in Abed's arms! haha
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Troy and Abed in the Morning! .. Nights LOL!!! Next week's 90mins season finale's gonna be awesome!!!
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When the so called Psychiatrist says about Greendale not existing and then there's thunder,, what the heck jibberish is Troy saying? Sorry, just don't get some of these pop culture references, haha. "papa meer" blah blah something. :P
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He said "*gasp*....I parked by a meter. Any of y'all park by a meter?...Wait, WHAT?" And that was my favorite line of an episode of great lines.
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Thanks big time. Just seemed really slurred.
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I think it's working. This season, I'm having issues with Community mainly due to the effect that it's so...external. And particularily, the evil Chang storyline is sort of going against that whole bridging-the-gap-between-reality-and-fiction thing. It's a bit too big right now, so I'm putting a lot of stock in how they wrap this one up. (We've had hints that Evil Jeff made an appearance behind the scenes last week, so I'm half wondering if what we're seeing now is Evil Chang - a la the Darkest Timeline - and Evil Dean. JUST A THOUGHT. Not a theory. Okay, maybe a theory. Theoretically speaking, in accordance to Community's there-are-no-rules rulebook, it's possible.)

But like I said way back at the start of that paragraph, it's still working, especially this week, in comparison to last week, because yes, it was a sequel-of-sorts, but it was also REALLY REALLY funny. And the call-back jokes were great. I had low hopes for the first five minutes or so, but my God, did it pick up. I really enjoyed this episode, perhaps more than any other episode this seasons. It was a whole lotta for-the-big-fans, meta fun. It's like they were saying 'Thanks for sticking with us through this slightly different Season, here's something for old times sake'. I loved it. It was like they were coddling us, and I'd be offended, but I love being coddled. Sue me. It's nice. Especially when you got Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Danny Pudi, Donald Glover, Alison Brie, Yvette Nicole Brown, and Chevy Chase doing the coddling. Guaranteed Good Times.

(I'm not suggesting that this was some cheap-ploy episode, by the wayside, just that it FELT that way, and it was nice. Really superawesometerrific nice, nice, not just nice, nice.)
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Strong night of TV last night, one of my favorite ever episodes of community (might even have preferred it to the original, but it's incredibly close), I want to take all the weird classes, Baby talk, Can I fry that, Advanced Breath Holding & Ladders, Loved it =), then there was the very strong episode of awake, one of the season's best Big Bang Theory's, an interesting Person of Interest, and Parks & Rec was great, as always, best night of tv of the last couple of years?
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The part that bothers me about people comparing Community to itself is that they're more likely to be "disappointed" by episodes. What you need to think about is the fact that a "sub-par" episode of Community is still better than pretty much everything else on TV.
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I'm OK with Community repeating itself. Stylistically, the show has changed quite a bit between season 2 and 3, and I felt this was another type of fake clip show.



I actually think I laughed more at this than Paradigms, the clips where way more absurd. (Welcome... to Ladders. *everyone claps*) and I thought it felt more straight forward.
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Ladders was my favorite class as well. I lost it when they all clapped haha
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I like going back on old ideas. Comedy gains from repetition when done well. Has that trope been used before? Yes. But so has wacky insane stuff. "30 Rock" won best comedy its first 3 years capitalizing off that. And "Arrested Development" did it before that. If anything "Community" is copying those two with its shenanigans and insane happenings. Does that make it bad? Not even a little. AD had all kinds of gags running start to finish. The George Michael-Maeby storyline, the chicken sounds, Ahnyong, the list goes on. So also does this show, and I am fine with that, and it is still funny. I DO approve.



Also, why didn't my college have a course in ladders? I think every college needs one.
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I would have to think that as a writer that an episode like this would be a wonderful release. Even on a show as odd as community I would assume you have to at least go through the motions of making your jokes fit into the story itself. In an episode like this you can live out all the funny ideas that you had during the season that would not have fit into the confines of an episode. I really don't mind the concept of " the clip show that isn't" being repeated as long it is done well.
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I do think that the writers should be cautious while going back to old ideas like this one. Only go back to them if they either can do something radically different from the first time (as in the different themes in the paintball episodes), or simply come up with material good enough to warrent doing another episode in that style. At the beginning of the episode, I was a bit worried that it would feel like they were simply trying to recapture the magic of the first clipshow episode, but as the episode went on, I quickly put such thoughts out of my mind. Yes, I would say that Paradigms of Human Memory was better (largely due to the fact that it was more original), but the material they came up with in this episode was great. There were so many funny moments throughout. I especially loved all the meta humor in this episode, with the scenes in the mental hospital (BTW, it's kind of funny how both clipshow episodes show them in mental hospitals at some point). So, even if it wasn't quite as good as the original, it was still a great episode, and one of the highlights of the season.
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it may not be the best, but it's definetely up there.
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Repetition is not a bad thing when it's done well. The focus on the weird Greendale classes, the whole Greendale-is-not-real thing and the poking fun at themselves (why they're at community college for so long, that doing another paintball episode would feel forced, etc.) made this episode fresh enough compared to 'Paradigms'. Like almost all Season 3 episodes (especially since the hiatus) this episode was top notch.



Great to hear it's renewed. Thought we'd have to wait until next week for confirmation.



Six season and a movie.
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actually, the whole they're crazy thing would totally make sense
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When an episode is this hilarious, I don't care if it's a repeating pattern. "Curriculum Unavailable" was a Godfather 2 quality sequel.



"Troy and Abed in the morning ... *sibilant tone* NIGHTS!"



"Troy & Abed (& Annie) in the morning!"
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Doesn't that fact that they fabricated a clip of another different paintball game possibly indicate that there won't be more of it? Because 50's (or whatever decade that was) gangster paintball was too good to waste on a little clip!
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50's?

Gangsters (and gangster movies) thrived during Prohibition.
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