Documentary Filmmaking: Redux
|"Documentary Filmmaking: Redux"|
|Episode no.||Season 3
|Directed by||Joe Russo|
|Written by||Megan Ganz|
|Original air date||November 17, 2011|
In the episode, Dean Pelton directs a new commercial for Greendale College, with members of the study group as actors and crew members. The entire episode is an in-universe documentary made by Abed, who is seeking to emulate the success of Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse. Production of the commercial gets out of control as the Dean becomes insane and Abed is forced to abandon his objectivity to save the commercial.
The episode was written by Megan Ganz and directed by Joe Russo. It was released in the same week NBC announced that the series would be placed on hiatus in the mid-season, which prompted fans to mount an Internet campaign to prevent the show's cancellation. The episode received positive reviews from critics.
The Greendale College Board has given Dean Pelton (Jim Rash) $2000 to shoot a new commercial for the college. He enlists the help of the study group, which agrees. Abed (Danny Pudi) declines to participate, but instead shoots a documentary about the commercial's production. Throughout the episode, Abed asks to remain "invisible" to reduce interaction with the subjects of his documentary.
The Dean makes himself director of the commercial with Annie (Alison Brie) as script supervisor. The rest of the group play roles in the commercial, including Jeff (Joel McHale) (with a bald cap) as the Dean himself. Pierce (Chevy Chase) becomes a diva, demands a trailer, fails to get one, rents one on his own and locks himself in it, "'til I have the one I don't have!". Jeff asks to shoot his scenes in front of the school's Luis Guzmán statue, hoping that Guzmán's lawyers will force his scenes to be cut due to image rights restrictions. Instead, Guzmán, a Greendale alumnus who turns out to be proud of his time at Greendale, decides to play a part in the commercial, to the delight of the Dean.
Dean Pelton decides to overhaul the entire script and production to make it far more elaborate and expensive. Production shuts down all school activities, and other students are chosen to participate in it as well. The Dean becomes overly demanding with the actors, including forcing Britta (Gillian Jacobs) and Troy (Donald Glover) to reshoot a hugging scene for 12 hours. Production goes way over budget while the Dean becomes increasingly erratic, as does everyone around him, especially Jeff and Annie. Despite predicting that this would happen, Abed declines to intervene to avoid interfering with his documentary's story. Eventually, the actors and crew crack under the Dean's demands and abandon him.
Weeks later, Guzmán arrives at Greendale to shoot the commercial. However, upon seeing the Dean's initial cut, he decides not to be in the commercial. While admonishing Guzmán, the Dean inadvertently insults Greendale, leading Guzman to angrily tell him that he loved his own time at Greendale and the Dean doesn't deserve a school that's ultimately so rewarding. The Dean has a remorse-driven breakdown and later films a video in which he addresses his insecurities about being in charge. He invites the Greendale Board members to view it, but instead a different video — a professionally made Greendale commercial — plays. The board members are impressed.
Abed reveals himself to be the one who made the commercial. In his documentary's closing statement, Abed says that documentarians are supposed to be objective to avoid having any effect on the story, yet they have the most effect because they decide to tell it.
Finally, the Dean apologizes to the group, which they accept, leading to a group hug. When everyone walks away, Britta and Troy continue hugging, which gives Abed pause when he notices it.
The trailer which Pierce locks himself in ends up in Hollywood for Jeff Garlin's use. In the final scene, Pierce storms out as Garlin approaches the trailer, stunning Garlin. Garlin then locks himself in the trailer while demanding a new one.
Series creator Dan Harmon previewed the episode by tweeting: "AND, tonight, celebrate Community’s unschedualization with the least accessible, least marketable episode in its alienating history!", referring to the show's impending hiatus.
Luis Guzmán guest starred as himself. Jeff Garlin appeared in a brief scene at the end. Ryan McPartlin of Chuck had a cameo in the opening scene of the original Greendale commercial. The following month, Danny Pudi and Yvette Nicole Brown would appear on Chuck.
The episode is a parody of Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse, a documentary about the troubled production of the 1979 film Apocalypse Now. The episode title is a reference to both season 2's "Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking" and Apocalypse Now Redux.
The episode also shows quite a few similarities to the mockumentary Waiting for Guffman: A homosexual and very eccentric director tries to fulfill his wish for widespread fame by hiring amateur actors to play the key roles in his new script. His expectations grow more and more unrealistic and he has soon spent the entire budget. The character of Guffman, just like Guzmán, is a popular figure in the show business and plays a key role in the movie/episode. Another key similarity is that the director has a camera following him around, documenting his progress, and suffers from a nervous breakdown along his way to completing his commercial/play.
"Documentary Filmmaking: Redux" received generally positive reviews from critics. Most critics praised Jim Rash's performance and Luis Guzman's appearance.
In a turbulent week for the show, Todd VanDerWerff of The A.V. Club described Abed's abandonment of objectivity at the end as the show's way of embracing its small, fervent fanbase: "And isn’t that why we tell stories in the first place? We want to share some part of ourselves that’s important to us... Stories are about entertaining other people, yes, but they’re also functionally about being part of something greater than yourself, about tapping into a community that gets excited by the same stuff you do and wants to listen to the same tales of excitement and woe. Community—one of the fan-service-iest shows on TV—has always understood this. It’s always understood that the flipside of being a low-rated cult hit is that the people who love you, adore you." VanDerWerff gave the episode an 'A,' saying that it "created the best possible argument for why it should be allowed to survive."
Alan Sepinwall of HitFix said "... I don't necessarily see "Documentary Filmmaking: Redux" as the key that's going to unlock a bright new future for the series. But I do look at it as yet another inspiring, hilarious, moving, example of why I'm so glad Team "Community" is out there, pushing the outer edge of the sitcom envelope, finding new and strange and brilliant ways to tell stories about this very diverse (minus Hispanics, alas) group of people who came together through a cosmic quirk of fate and now can't live without each other."
Leigh Raines of TV Fanatic gave "Documentary Filmmaking: Redux" 4.5/5 stars, praising Luis Guzmán's performance as "the best use of a guest star I've seen in forever." Hollywood.com's Kelsea Stahler said the episode was "unapologetically, unequivocally alienating; it’s an episode only a Community fan could love."
- Sepinwall, Alan (November 17, 2011). "Review: 'Community' - 'Documentary Filmmaking: Redux': Luis Guzman's heart of darkness". HitFix. Retrieved November 18, 2011.
- Harmon, Dan (November 17, 2011). "AND, tonight, celebrate Community's unschedulization with the least accessible, least marketable episode in its alienating history!". Twitter. Retrieved November 18, 2011.
- Stahler, Kelsea (November 18, 2011). "'Community' Recap: Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking Redux". Hollywood.com. Retrieved November 18, 2011.
- VanDerWerff, Todd (November 18, 2011). "Documentary Filmmaking: Redux". The A.V. Club. Retrieved November 18, 2011.
- Wyman, Bill (November 18, 2011). "I Love the Smell of Community in the Morning!". Slate. Retrieved November 19, 2011.
- Alter, Ethan (November 18, 2011). "Community: Apocalypse Soonish". Television Without Pity. Retrieved November 19, 2011.
- Raines, Leigh (November 17, 2011). "Community Review: Prisoners of Dean-sanity". TV Fanatic. Retrieved November 18, 2011.
- Gorman, Bill (November 18, 2011). "TV Ratings Thursday: 'X Factor,' 'Person Of Interest,' 'Mentalist,' 'Whitney,' 'The Office' Hit Lows On An Up & Down Night". TV by the Numbers. Retrieved November 18, 2011.