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Community Review: "Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking"

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The phrase "fish in a barrel" describes an effortless or simple action, one with guaranteed success. 

I'd hardly say writer Megan Ganz, or anyone else involved in the production of "Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking," spared much effort in putting together this pitch perfect episode, but it definitely delivered in terms of success.

LeVar Burton on Community

From the moment Abed referred to the mockumentary style of filmmaking using the above idiom, claiming it's an easy (read: lazy) way to tell a complex story, I knew we had something special in the offing. Some might call it an homage to comedies such as The Office and Modern Family, but this had lampoon written all over it, based on Jeff's spot on Jim Halpert deer-in-the-headlights glances at the camera alone.

Consider the episode an overall "complisult," if you will. 

Abed's final voiceover, a perforation of the much maligned overuse of the device (looking at you, Modern Family!) almost had me in tears it was so dead on:

"After a while it can become cramped, chaotic and stinky... you can always wrap it up with a series of random shots, when cut together under a generic voiceover, to suggest a profound thematic connection.  I'm not knocking it. It works."

Suuuure. It was clearly an intended jab at its more lauded, viewer-magnetic competitors. I imagine creator Dan Harmon and Ganz are sheepishly grinning just a little bit today.

What I didn't expect, though, was how well Community lends itself to the use of this concept. Not that I want it to follow the same pattern weekly, but as much as I love my Parks And Recreation, I don't think I've yet seen a better use of the form than here. As always, Community shines best when it's skewering pop culture.

Pierce in the Hospital

Everything I love about the show was powering on full thrusters, from the impeccable characterization to some of the funniest, wit-laced dialogue in its history, including the most under the radar scatological joke I think I've ever heard ("Mr. Hawthorne is ready to begin his bequeathing." "Shouldn't you be telling that to an orderly?") In fact it was so off the wall amazing, I nearly transcribed the entire episode for the Quotes Section.

How much more perfectly could each of the "gifts" (or, rather, weapons of psychological vengeance) that Pierce bequeathed upon the others have challenged their personalities and brought their individual issues to the surface?

What better way to get Shirley to recognize that she uses guilt as a weapon, and test her Christian dexterity, than to place in her mind the idea that she's the target of a perceived wrong? How greater to show Jeff that he can't just bury his inner demons and glibly meander through life unscathed, than force him to confront the source of his underlying anger? Would Britta's eyes have been opened to the fact that she might not be as selfless as she lets on, or at the very least needs to find a good accountant, if Pierce hadn't dangled such a tempting carrot before her while in front of a camera?

Might Annie have continued on, so unrelentingly tough on herself and risking becoming a bitter, sad person had she not been given the tiara as a cautionary symbol - despite Pierce's claim she was actually just his favorite? How could Troy be taught the lesson that nobody's expectations of him, either real or perceived, should cause him to be anyone other than himself if Pierce had not produced his idol LeVar Burton in the flesh, at whom he could silently gawk?

Ok, so maybe no one actually learned anything that will stick, save perhaps for Abed, whose filmmaking skills have vastly improved since "Six Candles," but as is more often than not the case, Pierce's vengeful acting out yielded a bit of introspection and catharsis for each of his classmates. It certainly made for a fun and interesting episode don't you think?

Perhaps my favorite exchange of the evening, aside from the geektastic Firefly shout out, was that of Jeff and Britta's escalating role play as each other's father, the whole of which I cite below:

Britta: Hey, Hi I'm Jeff's dad.
Jeff: Hi Jeff's dad, I'm Britta's dad.
Britta: What? Why?
Jeff: I dunno, got drunk, didn't have a condom, and her mom gets freaky when she hears Oingo Boingo.
Britta: Oh god, I wish could relate, but much like my son I'm a closet homosexual.
Jeff: Don't apologize for that. You're talkin to the guy who banged Britta's mom. I have no standards.
Britta: Well, then what do you say we take a tumble? I'll put on a wig.
Jeff: That's it, you're under arrest. I'm an undercover cop.
Britta: It's not illegal to be gay.
Jeff: It is here in Iran.
Britta: Not when we're in the Green Zone!
Jeff: That's Iraq, stupid.
Britta: Well what do I know? I'm Jeff Winger's dumb gay dad!

Will Britta ever learn? When it comes to a quippy battle of wits, no one can best Jeffrey Winger. The dude was lawyer. He one-upped people for a living.

As you likely can derive from the 5.0 rating I bequeathed upon it, "Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking" is an instant classic in my book and quite possibly my favorite episode of the series to date. What did everyone else think?

Review

Editor Rating: 5.0 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.9 / 5.0 (67 Votes)

Jeffrey Kirkpatrick is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow him on Twitter.

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Addict666

I liked this episode, but I don't know if pitch perfect is the best way to describe it

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I think his bequeathment to Abed was the ability to make the documentary. Even though he had little respect for the format, its Abed...his bliss is holding a camera

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Completely agree. Pitch-perfect, hilarious, and a really amazing use of the format.

Piecar

Truly funny episode. Pitch perfect is correct. There is such attention to detail on this show. When Troy is freaking out in the break room, for instance, you can barely make out the reflection of Abed in the window. They could have got away without having Abed standing off screen... But they did it anyway. And it's nice to see my fave show skewer those "DocComs" that are all over the place...
....and some good use of Shirley! Huzzah! Call backs to other eps! Huzzah! Chevy Chase actually funny for a change! Huzzah! Levar Burton doing his own Kunta Kinte joke! Huzzah! Community mascot Garrett! Huzzah! Good review. Good ep, Thanks.

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Alright... just checking. But... how do I know your not holding back on us? :P

Jeffreykirkpatrick

No this was the first one.

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Oh, well... that explains it, and makes you seem a wee bit less awesome. ... although... have you had any "advance screenings" for any OTHER episodes?

Jeffreykirkpatrick

Thanks for the kudos, but at the risk of capitulating into an explanabrag myself, I had the privilege of screening it in advance. :)

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Such an awesome episode. And I, too, am SHOCKED at how quickly you got this review up. :D I also loved Annie asking the nurse if this was her only job. :D

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My favorite show definately brought the funny tonight. I was crying laughing during the Britta-Jeff role-playing exchange. The line about bouncing a check to Kunta Kente was outstanding. Shirley (who seems like she came back from a long vacation) was awesome, especially when her talking head segment was cut off. Troy's bug-eyed approach to his idol, phenomenol. Abed, when he did speak, was spot-on with his criticism of the documentary format. The only minor complaint about this episode I have is what (or how) was Pierce suppose to bequeath on Abed? Still, a very minor complaint for an outstanding show. Ever since coming back from mid-season break, the show is like Barry Bonds on ultra-steroids lying to Congress and knocking them out of the park. What an Explanabrag.

Community Season 2 Episode 16 Quotes

Everytime I need to cheer up I just make fun of Pierce, but now it would just make me sadder. It's Gregory Hines all over again.

Troy

Pierce: It was the pills, they just took me over. I saw awful things: aliens, demons, Critters 3, and something called Bruce Willis Surrogates.

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