By now, Community's completely stopped trying to be accessible to newcomers, because anyone who hasn't seen the show before would have found "Curriculum Unavailable" impervious. I've seen every episode, and there were bits that had me scratching my head in confusion. Then again, given this episode's theme of mass psychosis, that was probably half the intention. There was a good idea sitting at the heart of this episode, too: what if Greendale Community College is a figment of the study group's collective imagination, because they're actually all asylum patients?
This twist appeared fairly late in the episode and the mystery answered soon after (it's not and they're not), so there was a lot of filler in the shape of various character's memories of their times at Greendale and interactions with the Dean (Jim Rash). These skits were very amusing to watch, reminding me of the similarly choppy style employed in "Paradigms Of Human Memory" (last season's brilliant "clip show" episode). I much preferred that older episode, however. There was something rather messy about things here, with a poorly integrated storyline involving Chang (Ken Jeong) having taken over Greendale in a coup d'état. As a whole, season 3 just hasn't been that successful with continuing storylines. Things tend to happen very quickly without much warning, or else get introduced and drift for a very long time (see: the utter waste of John Goodman this year).
For the most part I enjoyed watching "Curriculum Unavailable", mainly for the sketches demonstrating the craziness of attending Greendale (classes called "Can I Fry It?", celebrations for a toilet's 10,000th flush, etc). And there was the usual amusement in spotting various references and in-jokes; from psychological horror twist-endings seen in Identity or Shutter Island, to reenactments of some classic Community moments with the characters as mental patients (the secret trampoline, the paintball escapades, etc.) Guest-star John Hodgman was also entertaining as the psychologist with the greasy moustache.
What did you make of this episode? Another clever piece of comedy, or a slightly tiresome grab-bag of tropes and ideas? And perhaps more importantly, how does everyone feel about the excellent news that NBC have renewed Community for a fourth season of 13 episodes? Less episodes is probably good news for this show, because it'll mean less filler and no breaks in transmission. Plus, is this a sign NBC are willing to bankroll shorter runs from hereon in, meaning it'll be easier for Community to reach its sixth season target? How's that movie looking now, too?
written by Adam Countee / directed by Adam Davidson / 10 May 2012 / NBC