Episode: Season 3, Episode 08 – Documentary Filmmaking: Redux
*SPOILERS – THIS ARTICLE MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS FOR THIS EPISODE AND PREVIOUS EPISODES OF COMMUNITY.*
The Dean has a budget to make Greendale’s most reasonable dreams come true and he emotionally blackmails the study group into starring in a new commercial for the community college... Except Abed, who decides to film a documentary about the making of the commercial – haven’t you seen Heart of Darkness? Way better than Apocalypse Now. Pierce is out too, arguing that he won’t leave his trailer until they cater the film; he proceeds to rent his own trailer as one was not provided. Jeff tries to overdo his role as the Dean so he won’t make the final cut but the Dean ends up loving it. With his other plan failing, Jeff suggests they shoot his scenes in front of the Luis Guzman statue. Because the Dean has no legal right to use Guzman’s image, the shots will be unusable. Jeff even calls Guzman’s lawyers to make sure they are aware of the commercial. At the end of the first day they are under budget and almost done when the Dean gets a phone call from Luis Guzman, who offers to be in the commercial but can’t be there for a couple of weeks.
The Dean throws out everything they shot and rewrites all their parts, except Jeff’s (because the only thing he wants for him is more screen time). By the second day they’ve somehow jumped to being +$6000 over budget and filming takes over Greendale, with classes shut down. The Dean has lost it and films scenes so many times Britta and Troy end up sobbing in the foetal position. Four days later, they’re +$9000 over budget and Greendale’s Board of Directors threaten to fire the Dean if they don’t like his advertisement. By the ninth day of shooting they’re +$14000 over budget and the Dean has had his seventh epiphany which gave Annie an epiphany that the Dean is a genius and she will die protecting his vision. If he isn’t a genius she can’t even bring herself to think about the time she’s wasted working on the production. A trailer arrives for Luis Guzman but Pierce thinks it is meant for him and someone is caving in to his demands.
Pierce mistakes Jeff for the Dean which causes Jeff to worry that he is in fact becoming the Dean. The Dean asks Jeff to lose the bald cap, believing it’s ruining the authenticity of the piece. But after wearing the bald cap for twelve days in such an unstable environment, Jeff now believes he’s bald. The Dean calls in Jeff’s understudy, Chang, to fill the role and tells Jeff to go home. Jeff bursts into tears and leaves, leading Britta to declare the production a “violation of human rights”. Annie realises the Dean is insane and everyone walks off set except Abed who is still rolling. Luis Guzman arrives to find the campus empty. After seeing the commercial as it currently stands, Luis Guzman tells the Dean he can’t be in his commercial. The Dean gets rid of Guzman’s trailer in retaliation and it is reclaimed with Pierce still inside. Guzman explains to the Dean that the Dean won’t be able to complete the commercial because the Dean’s ashamed of the school. He warns the Dean not to worship the people leaving Greendale but to celebrate those who still attend. He reminds the Dean what a special school Greendale was and still is.
The Dean confesses to Abed that he can’t finish the commercial but he knows how the documentary ends. He apologises for what he’s done to the school and for what he did to the ice-cream machine (it’s never explained further but I’m sure we’re better off not knowing). He burns his degree and paints himself with the ashes. When the Dean gathers the Board of Directors to show them a glimpse into his mind and soul but what plays is a great commercial for Greendale. The Board of Directors love it and the crazy Chinese guy who ‘pops’. Abed realises that documentary filmmakers can’t be objective because they decide to tell the story and how it ends. The Dean apologises to the group and they forgive him because they’ve all been there, which is why they’re at Greendale. They group hug but Britta and Troy continue to hug long after the scene ends. Days later Pierce escapes from the trailer he was trapped in to find himself in Hollywood.
Thoughts on the Episode
I should probably explain I’m not only a huge fan of Charlie Kaufman’s films but I always enjoy a good film about making a film storyline and this was done so well I definitely think this will go down as my favourite episode of Community ever. I know I’ve said that before but this episode hit everything for me. It was hilarious, it was beautifully emotional and it was incredibly clever in a way that I haven’t seen on television in a long time. The exploration into objectivism and how it’s impossible, even for someone like Abed who seems the perfect candidate for telling a story impartially – his story at Halloween seemed to prove that.
I thought the ‘Kiss from a Rose’ moment from last week couldn’t be beaten but NOTHING will ever beat Jeff being the Dean. Joel McHale was ridiculously convincing and hilarious and wow I just can’t say anything that can express how impressed I was or how I was completely unable to breathe from laughing so hard I almost passed out. Kudos also need to go to Jim Rash, you know kudos or an Emmy... his decent into madness was so believable and you just completely understood how he was feeling every step of the way (maybe not with the ice-cream machine... that scared me a little).
I love the situations Community builds over seasons and this season has seen the payoff of quite a few. This episode we get the culmination of a line way back in season one when the Luis Guzman statue is erected in ‘Advanced Criminal Law’, Troy made a sarcastic comment that Guzman was coming just so Abed could interview him. To see Guzman agree to be interviewed by Abed even though he turned down the commercial was a wonderful moment for all those who remembered Troy’s comment. And another Easter Egg, when the Dean strips off he’s got the same underwear Jeff wore in ‘Physical Education’:
Did anyone see Pierce’s hysterics and connect it with the way Chevy Chase has been acting towards Dan Harmon and the show? Yeah, Pierce/Chevy, not a good look and probably not likely to get you what you want.
It’s funny because those I know who are fans of Glee (yes I cringed too) have argued that it makes them feel like it’s connecting them with others who may be odd or don’t fit in and when they watch it they feel like they have a place in the world too. Yet it’s a show that is made to appeal to popular consumption. For those who are real geeks, weirdos and outsiders, Community is the place to be. This episode reminded fans that for now, we do have this special place we can watch and talk about with others like us. But seriously, if the show wrote for those tuning in for the first time we’d end up with something like Glee and none of us want that. Only the strangest people will love Community but, while we wish the ratings were higher, we enjoy the fact that we are the unique few who will understand and enjoy the show while it lasts. I would give a lot to have six seasons and a movie of this show, but I don’t want them to give up the brilliance of the show in order to achieve it.
My favourite quote for this episode:
Chang: As Jeff’s understudy, I have to wear my Jeff wig on top of my Chang hair and then my bald cap on top of that. There’s no air getting through here, I’m literally dying.
After that commercial, I’m busy enrolling at Greendale. Let us know below what you thought of this episode of Community (but for those ahead overseas, please no spoilers).