What the hell was that? I guess after a surprisingly solid episode, you expect a bit of a drop, but holy crap.
Community sure is bad at weddings. I consider Shirley’s remarriage in season three the worst episode of the first Harmon era. Jeff and Britta getting married came up as a possibility in the season five finale and it was the worst Harmon-helmed episode in series’ history. And now we’ve got this thing, which pretty much sucks on par.
“Wedding Videography” is about the wedding of side-character and giant, loud nerd Garrett. It starts in Jeff’s class with Garrett proposing to Stacy, a never-before-seen student introduced for the purpose of marrying Garrett. Garrett wants the proposal filmed (his family might not believe it happened otherwise) so, of course, Abed is filming it and, yes, it’s another mockumentary-style episode.
This is the first thing that irks me. When I reviewed the mockumentary episode in season four (aka the gas-leak year), I ranted on and on about how the show, under Dan Harmon’s guidance, would never have simply reused a gimmick—like shooting the show a la The Office or Modern Family—without having a unique take on it. Yes, there’d been two mockumentary episodes before season four happened, but one was more straightforwardly like an episode of one of those aforementioned sitcoms and the other had more in kind with a behind-the-scenes chronicling of a film, like (as Abed noted aloud) Hearts of Darkness. There was a new reason for the use of the approach and it felt subtly stylistically different.
Season four brought mockumentary back seemingly just because it was a “Community thing” to do. What’s really shitty is I argued like mad back then that Harmon would never have let the show reheat a gimmick just for the sake of it, but here we are. Okay, yes, I guess filming a wedding is something Abed hasn’t done yet, but the conceit is sloppy.
For one thing, Abed never expressly says he’s the wedding videographer; he apparently was only asked to film the proposal. And if he is supposed to be shooting the wedding, he’s sure doing a terrible job considering he shows up late in the middle of the vows. Also, the core idea doesn’t add up in the first place; it’s not like people get documentaries—as in a camera crew filming multiple angles of events that are later dynamically edited and intercut with wedding guest testimonies—made for their weddings (okay, there must be some people who do, but they’re awful people and certainly not the norm). At most weddings you just get someone to take photos and record boring home-video-style footage that nobody will ever want to watch. So why exactly is Abed doing a documentary? The whole premise is flimsy and, considering Community just went back to the paintball well and managed to make it seem like a new take, the laziness of “Wedding Videography” is all the more disappointing.
Beyond that, for a show created by a guy obsessed with structure, the episode comes off strangely structureless. First it’s about Garrett’s proposal. Then it’s about the study group getting drunk, coming to the wedding late, and making asses of themselves. Then they try to redeem themselves by way of Jeff giving a heartfelt wedding speech, but everything is derailed when it’s revealed the bride and groom are, previously unbeknownst to them and everyone else, cousins.
I realize, on reflection, that the story is meant to be about the study group screwing up the wedding and then un-screwing it up, but the way they ultimately triumph is with a speech from Chang which comes out of nowhere. Nothing about the way the plot develops made me think this was an episode about Chang’s growth. And frankly even the main conflict seemed like such a joke it was basically non-existent. I was just never that concerned with the supposed issue at hand. Garrett’s wedding might be ruined? Oh, no. How could they.
It seems like a hard wedding to ruin, considering Todd is the one officiating and isn’t officiating so much as rambling inanely about how he might be God. Why he’s doing this escaped me completely and fits with the rest of “Wedding Videography,” which mostly consists of disconnected, unfunny concepts, like Annie coming up with a list of punny dragon names. There is better stuff, like Annie and Abed making a fake video for her imaginary lover or the bridesmaid who gives a masterfully awkward wedding speech. Best of all is Elroy’s admission that he has an addiction to encouraging white people. But even many of the better jokes are funnier in concept than they are in execution and, following their introduction, they drag rather than get funnier.
The unfunny, fourth-wall-breaking tag about the writing of the episode itself (and also incest) just adds to the odd, shoddy patchwork feel and also makes the episode feel really badly insular and self-obsessed (you might say it feels… incestuous)—another problem “Wedding Videography” shares with the fifth season finale. In general, the whole thing comes off annoyingly like Dan Harmon just came back from getting married (he did, recently) and enjoyed riffing on it so much that he ended up slapping together this ramshackle episode.
This is further driven home by the fact that Garrett’s older brother is named Bones, Harmon’s brother’s name and, more obviously, the fact that Stacy is played by Harmon’s now-wife, Erin McGathy. She’s got a few acting credits to her name and doesn’t have to do a lot in the episode anyway, so probably really anybody could’ve played Stacy. But her presence here just serves to highlight how “Wedding Videography” feels like, behind the scenes, it was a lot of fun for Harmon and Co., but for us this is one of the lamest episodes he’s done.