Community, Season 3, Episode 8 “Documentary Filmmaking: Redux”
Airs Thursdays, 8pm EST on NBC
Before I start my review, let me address the elephant in the room. Yes the show was benched from the January lineup this week and it was a real shame to get that news. While it didn’t come as a huge shock to learn given the low ratings, it’s something that we all had hoped would never actually happen.
What I will say about it is this. The fans backlash at NBC for benching the show has been great so far. From starting petitions, to writing NBC letters about how much they love the show, to live tweeting #SaveCommunity and #sixseasonsandamovie during the episode to show how much we want the show to stay on the air. It’s not ideal that the show will go missing from the air for a few months but my hope is that it will come back from this much stronger and show the studio that the fans, however small they are (and I still don’t believe this) do actually care about the show.
Now to take a look at the most recent episode that aired, to which showrunner Dan Harmon tweeted beforehand “AND, tonight, celebrate Community’s unschedulization with the least accessible, least marketable episode in its alienating history!”. Something which made me both laugh and cringe at. The show was always going to have a lot of focus on it after that news and so any new viewers coming into it wanting to get an idea of what the show is may have been very confused by what they saw. But this wasn’t an episode for new viewers, it was an episode for the fans to enjoy.
The reason that the episode worked so well is because it played into the audiences perception of each of the characters. We got to see the Dean take his craziness to a whole new level here but we were given reasons as to why he was like that, which shows good writing. By making it a documentary format style, not only does it mock other television shows that are made this way, but it also allows them to focus the characters to focus on things that they would not otherwise be aware of, such as Troy and Britta’s awkward lust for each other. Now that it has been seen by Abed, it is only a matter of time before it is expanded on.
By far the best part of the episode was Jeff’s ridiculous but scarily accurate impression if the Dean for the commercial. Possibly one of the funniest moments of the show and something that I hope we see again in the future. Luis Guzman showing up to film the commercial and finding the school empty other than the Dean and Abed was also hilarious.
Abed may have taken a backseat role in this episode, but it allowed us to see things almost as from his vision of them. Hearts of Darkness was constantly referenced throughout the episode, in which famously we see Francis Ford Coppola slowly go crazy during the shoot of Apocalypse Now. By doing this, we knew where each person was headed before they got there, not that it made it any less enjoyable.
The episode showed what Community essentially is, a show about people who are stuck together in an environment who ultimately care about each other. Sure the Dean has in the past seemed like a caricature, someone who is there only to be the butt of the joke, but this episode fleshed his character out and showed him to be deeply flawed emotionally, embarrassed of where he is, and that’s something that people can relate to.
I always enjoy looking at characters flaws because it makes them more realistic in my eyes. People complain that the show is too quirky and strange but what it does well is show that these people have problems that make them act the way that they do.
Abed abandoned his project in order to help the Dean with his commercial and that shows how much he does ultimately care about him and the others. They all care about each other in different ways and the group hugging the Dean at the end, even after all of his craziness proves that. As Jeff said “we’ve all been there”. They have all had their low moments and they all come out stronger because of it. If that isn’t something to parallel with the show’s benching, I don’t know what is.