Last night's episode of Community was a mismatched hodgepodge of funeral services, riots, callbacks to a darker timeline, Dean impersonators, martial law, concerns over the health of Troy's pen pal, stick-on Starburns sideburns, punitive school boards, and Garret singing "Ave Maria." The episode's title, "Course Listing Unavailable," was an apt name for an episode that had about as much focus as Britta's cross-eyed cat, as random things just sorta happened throughout the half-hour. But you know what? It was still hilarious.
This was Community's latest attempt at serialized comedy, and the episode's goals were to bring Chang to power and get the gang expelled. Both of those objectives were accomplished. But the show plowed through a bizarre cornfield to get there. After dealing with their grief by submitting to the help of unlicensed psycho-nut Britta, the gang found out Professor Kane had resigned, therefore nullifying their biology class and forcing them to attend summer school. The gang then showed up at Starburns' wake full of rage and incited a student riot, which led to their expulsion while Chang took over the school with an army of mini-police. Wait, what?
Why did Kane resign because of Starburns? Why would a class just end because a teacher resigns? Why will the study group be forced to go to summer school? Why did the gang use Starburns' service to incite mayhem? How can an episode like "Course Listing Unavailable" simply end with that cutesy music playing and everyone handing out flirty looks and a fluffy consensus of "as long as we all have each other"?
Whereas Starburns' remains should have been what was scattered last night, it was actually a bunch of Community leftovers that got sprinkled about. Chang's ascent to security dictator took its next step. Subway got involved. Shirley expressed her continued anger over not getting her sandwich shop. And the coup de gras of this coup de Greendale? The magnificent callback to "Remedial Chaos Theory," the darkest timeline, and that weird pizza delivery guy. It didn't totally work and felt a bit squeezed-in-there, but this episode was less about making things work than making things funny and providing treats for fans.
"Course Listing Unavailable" pushed Community from Point A to Point B with no regard for what was in between or care for the physics of common sense. But again... who cares!? It was hilarious! There was no time to realize that little of it made sense because Leonard was raiding the Subway sandwich bar (except for onions and olives). Or Pierce was digging into Starburns' ashes looking for his comb. Or Dean was finally starting to understand why Alex was known as "Starburns."
Community is known for its high concepts, parodies, and fourth-wall destruction, but it's also one of the most delightfully silly sitcoms out there. "Course Listing Unavailable" was as silly—and funny—as it gets. I loved this episode even though I realize how flawed it was. But I laughed my ass off and right now that's all I care about.
Study Group Notes
– The Starburns tribute video may be the coolest thing ever. I kind of want to die just so I can force my friends to make one for me.
– Jim Rash! Can I have your babies or something? He's so damn funny as Dean Pelton. Can we get him an Emmy to put on the mantle next to his Oscar?
– How long do you think the group will be kicked out of school? I'm kind of really digging this turn of events!
Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom