Community Watch: Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking

Comedy. Hospital setting. Multi-racial ensemble cast. Multiple character focuses, each with their own payoff and life lesson. End of episode has a series of random shots playing over a generic voiceover to suggest a profound thematic connection, voiced by an over-imaginative central character with delusions of grandeur.

Come on… tell me I’m not the only one thinking Scrubs by the end of this episode.

Of course, my comparison falls to shit when you consider the confessionals cut in throughout the episode. These “talking head” moments – as seen in modern mockumentary comedies like The Office, Modern Family or Parks & Recreation – played a major part in hammering home the emotional pull of each plot development. But Abed’s right – it did help a lot in clearing up a potentially cluttered episode. How does Community manage to make these one-location episodes so dense?

In any case, between the new setting, the contrived story structure, the confessionals, and the uncharacteristic character moments (we aren’t used to seeing Jeff this flustered), this sure didn’t feel like an episode of Community. But it was a break from the norm, and it gave us a glimpse of how the characters will be portrayed in the season’s final eight episodes.

Set Phasers to Stun:

* Troy was this episode’s comic relief. Sure, he emoted more than Jeff or Britta, but it was in his adorable over-the-top fashion. The only real thing we learned this episode about Troy is that he really, really likes LeVar Burton.

* Abed in this episode was Abed. Ubiquitous, observational, and mega-meta. As the “director” of this episode, Abed pretty much poked fun at every modern TV trope under the sun, as far as comedies or reality TV are concerned.

* While Jeff, Britta and Shirley all had their own demons to confront this episode, Annie created one of her own. Mistaking Pierce’s kind gesture of a family heirloom as a character test, Annie refuses Pierce’s tiara, believing it to represent the latent superiority she feels over her friends. Really? The girl attending community college, living above a porn shop, barely making ends meet and recovering from a pill addiction? I never got the elitist vibe from her.

Butterflies in the Sky:

* Who knows what’s happening with Pierce. We were concerned at the end of last episode when it looked like Pierce had hit rock-bottom – passed out on a park bench after a pill binge – but all of that concern evaporated within two minutes of this episode. By this week’s climax, when Pierce impersonates Jeff’s father and attempts to spare Jeff’s feelings, his chief motivating drive is trying to avoid an ass-whoopin’. Jeff and Pierce seemed to have patched things up a bit, but still… Pierce retains the title of The Dickish.

* Shirley’s insecurities spring forth this episode when she assumes she is the second-least liked member of the group, and that the group talks about her when she’s gone. When Pierce presents her with a CD of the alleged chit-chat, Shirley makes a big deal out of forgiving the rest of the group for talking behind her back. However, she learns by the episode’s end that the CD was a sham, and that the group spoke of Shirley highly even in her absence. Shirley glances on the fact that she wields her guilt trips like a weapon, but that’s not going to change. Removing Shirley’s guilt trips from Community would be equivalent to Britta shopping for Prada bags – too much of a deviation from character.

More Fish For Kunta:

* Speaking of character departures, Jeff lost his cool quite a bit this week. Apparently, Jeff never knew his Dad growing up (or did sparsely -- not sure), and it’s hinted that this is the origin of his intimacy issues. The whole episode, Jeff frets at the possibility of confronting his father, whom Pierce says will be coming to the hospital. By the time Jeff is ready to meet his dad, we learn Pierce lied about the whole thing. In an attempt to avoid a beating, Pierce tries to pull a Ferris Bueller on Jeff’s Principal Rooney; Pierce remains hidden behind the tinted windows of the sedan in which Jeff’s dad is supposed to be. Jeff easily sees past the ruse, and attempts to pound Pierce’s face in.

It looks like sooner or later, Jeff will have a confrontation with his actual Dad, but should we care? I say no, since it’ll probably be light on the laughs, like this whole storyline was. But I’m interested in who will be cast for the part.

* For me, this was definitely Britta’s episode. As part of Pierce’s torture, Britta receives a blank $10,000 check. She is told by Pierce to donate it to the charity of her choice, or to spend it on herself if she wants. Ultimately, she chooses to donate it all to the Red Cross, but she feels guilty, as she knows if it weren’t for Abed’s watchful cameras, she would have deprived the needy kids and spent all the dough on herself.

While Britta interprets this to mean she is a bad person, I think she proves the opposite. If she really cared more about herself than the needy – and more about her personal perception than her personal gain – then why would she admit her shortcomings to the very same cameras? It was a nice moment of vulnerability from the study group’s most insufferable member, and proof that even hipsters have hearts. Or at least the ones on TV do.

So what do we have to look forward to in the weeks to come?

Probably a resolution on Pierce of some kind. The pills may or may not factor in, but I don’t think we’ve seen the last of the power struggle between Pierce and everyone else.

We’ll probably see more Chang and Shirley. Chang, because he’s presumably still crashing at Jeff’s apartment, and he may be the father of Shirley’s child. Shirley, because she’s got a bun in the oven… though with Halloween as the date of conception, she wouldn’t be scheduled to have the birth until after the semester. I’m guessing the writers bump it up the due date though.

Could we see Jeff’s Dad? I haven’t the slightest idea, but clearly that’s a large source of internal strife in the show’s main character (assuming Community has a main character).

Extra Credit:

No Quote of the Week, but I was dying at the Iranian exchange between Jeff’s Dumb Gay Dad and The Guy That Banged Britta’s Mom.

Other Favorites:

“Can you imagine bouncing a check to Kunta Kinte?”

Britta: “You know what Dylan Thomas said about death?”

Pierce: “No, tell me.”

Britta: “OK, bluff called.”

…Plus any scene with Troy, including:

“Me and Abed have an agreement; if one of us dies, we stage it to look like a suicide caused by the unjust cancellation of Firefly. We're gonna get that show back on the air, buddy!" Good luck and Godspeed, gentlemen.