Community season 3 episode 8 review: Documentary Filmmaking Redux

It may be the last episode we’ll see of Community, but at least the sitcom goes out on a high. Here’s Emma’s review of Documentary Filmmaking Redux…

3.8 Documentary Filmmaking Redux

As you probably all know, the most recent episode of Community will be our last visit to Greendale for a good long while. Whatever the rights and wrongs – mostly wrongs – of that decision, it’s more than fitting that our favourite study group (temporarily) left us with a prime example of what makes this show so special.

Documentary Filmmaking Redux is one of those episode that starts out as a way to humiliate Jeff – as so many do; he does richly deserve it – and turns into a warm, funny, reference and impression laden homage to cinema and the tendency toward megalomania that the presence of film cameras engenders if you’re so inclined. Oh, and Luis frickin’ Guzman is in it!

Of course, a more suitable title for the episode would be something along the lines of Oh! The Irony, involving as it does the Dean’s inevitable mental breakdown as a direct result of trying to make an interesting, relatable and popular advert for the college, for network broadcast. Not that I’m in any way insinuating that Dan Harmon et al are experiencing anything close to mental illness, but you wouldn’t blame them. Somehow, NBC failed to see the irony when choosing exactly which week to pull the show.

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Providing the perfect showcase for endless making of spoofs, and the awaited McHale does Brando – actually pretty good, but nowhere as good as his Dean Pelton – some fantastic gags and some weirdly affecting emotional breakthroughs, Redux is a gem of an episode. There’s even what might possibly be a Saved By The Bell reference, within a definite Breakdance reference – what more could you possibly ask of your weekly sitcom?

As the shoot disintegrates into chaos, only the presence of ex-student Luis frickin’ Guzman can fix what has become broken, and what’s broken is Dean Pelton. Worn down by years of repression… by the Assistant Dean, endless streams of mediocre and slightly unusual students, and the constant pressure to come up with excuses for costumes changes, added to the Heart of Greendale disaster prove too much, and he almost leaves the building for good, and possible only the second time ever. Thanks to Luiz frickin’ Gusman and the apparent ninja editing skills of Abed, the college still has its Dean. Which may or may not be a good thing.

What was a good thing however was the video resignation – how 21st century. In a wonderfully written, beautifully acted sequence, as per docudrama convention, the real Craig Pelton is finally revealed. Funny, over the top and strangely realistic in its own way, Jim Rash turns a great secondary character into a great regular character, making the show’s recent yanking all the sadder.

Not that we shouldn’t be pleased with what we’ve been allowed to see so far – despite claims that the show is weirder than ever; clearly unfounded – season three has had some fantastic moments, and Redux had more than its fair share – Winger in a bald cap, Chang in a Winger special, the group forgiveness, Britta and Troy’s touching final hug, oh, and Luis frickin’ Guzman. Could it possibly be that when critics/networks call a show weird, what they really mean is that they just don’t get the jokes? As with Family Guy, Futurama and Arrested Development, sometimes it takes the rest of the world a little while to catch up. Pray to the TV Gods that they catch up soon – it would be a tragedy should Community go the way of Firefly.

As inadvertent swan songs go, the schadenfraude abounds, turning what would have ordinarily been a great episode into something altogether different. Full of all those things that mark Community out as something unique, but tainted with the knowledge that we’re about to lose one of the sharpest, most original, superbly written and brilliantly acted shows on TV. Perhaps what’s most upsetting about this decision is, given it had the courage to air two seasons, NBC didn’t keep the courage of its convictions, and finish out the rest of the season three.

To paraphrase the about to be much missed Abed Nadir, just keep thinking six seasons and a movie. Sadly, in the greatest Abed tradition, they may well have stay in our heads. See you in summer school guys.

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Read our review of episode seven, Studies In Modern Movement, here.