Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking
|"Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking"|
|Episode no.||Season 2
|Directed by||Joe Russo|
|Written by||Megan Ganz|
|Original air date||February 17, 2011|
"Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking" is the 16th episode of the second season of Community. The episode originally aired on February 17, 2011 on NBC. In the episode, Pierce pretends to be dying after a drug overdose and takes psychological revenge on the rest of the study group for not taking him seriously. He stages a documentary with Abed and plays on the rest of the study group's sympathies by giving them gifts and promises that torments them with their insecurities.
The episode was written by Megan Ganz and directed by Joe Russo. It parodies mockumentary sitcoms such as The Office, Parks and Recreation and Modern Family. It was very well received by critics, and is regarded as one of the best episodes of the series.
Pierce (Chevy Chase) is found unconscious on a park bench after nearly overdosing on his painkiller medication and is admitted to a hospital. The study group rush to the hospital to be with him. He pretends he is dying and asks Abed (Danny Pudi) to film a documentary on the "final" moments of his life. Unbeknownst to them, the documentary is in fact revenge – in the form of psychological torture – on the rest of the group for not taking him seriously, with varying results.
Pierce summons each member of the group to his room one-by-one for his "bequeathals":
- He gives Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) a CD purportedly containing a recording of the group talking behind her back. She becomes incredibly insecure although the group dismisses it, and later says that she "forgives" the group for the presumably nasty things they said about her. Britta eventually forces her to listen to the recording, which reveals an incident where the group defends her when Pierce talks behind her back, and Britta pointedly "apologizes" for being supportive of Shirley. She realizes that she often uses guilt as a weapon, then makes Abed feel guilty for recording her statement.
- He gives "sourface" Britta (Gillian Jacobs) a check with the payee line blank for $10,000 to give to the charity of her choice since she considers herself the most selfless one in the group. Due to her own poorly managed finances, she considers cashing in the check herself and begins making excuses not to donate it. She eventually gives the money to the Red Cross, though she admits she only did so because she was in front of the camera, which makes her feel guilty. During a conversation with LeVar Burton, he tells her that she is generous but stupid with her money, making her feel better.
- He tells Jeff (Joel McHale) that his estranged father is on the way to the hospital to meet him. Jeff is unconvinced but becomes emotional at the thought of speaking to his father. He constantly freaks out while being interviewed and filmed by Abed. He then threatens to assault Pierce if he finds out that Pierce lied about his father coming, which causes Pierce to panic. A sedan pulls up outside the hospital, and Jeff receives a call purportedly from his father inside the sedan, but it is obvious the person speaking is Pierce. He chases the car down, pulls Pierce out of it and beats him up. By the end of it, he accepts that he needs to confront his father one day instead of avoiding the issue. Pierce thinks that he managed to take the role of Jeff's father on the day, and while Jeff says Pierce did not do that, Jeff is later shown looking very pensive.
- He manages to get LeVar Burton to come to the hospital and meet Troy (Donald Glover), who becomes stunned and speechless. Troy had previously told Pierce that he never wanted to meet Burton in person and only wanted a picture of him, because "you can't disappoint a picture." He is unable to speak to Burton for fear of disappointing his idol. At the persuasion of Britta, Burton cancels an appointment and spends the rest of the day with Troy trying to communicate with him. They end up having dinner together in the library, during which Troy runs outside screaming in panic, to which Burton happily notes "more fish for Kunta!".
- He gives Annie (Alison Brie) a very valuable tiara, since she's his "favorite". This gesture makes her realize the dangers of her being too tough on herself which causes pain to people around her. She returns the gift to Pierce, who unwittingly praises her catharsis even though he remarks later in a talking head that "she actually is [my] favorite."
During Jeff's confrontation with Pierce outside the hospital, the group gathers round to stop Jeff. Pierce has an outburst where he chastises the group for not taking him seriously and neglecting him throughout the year, though Jeff points out that the whole episode has made the group's relationship with him worse.
Abed wraps up the documentary by pointing out that it was not as easy to make as he imagined it to be but finishes it off saying that the documentary format of storytelling works.
- Jeff's relationship with his father is further explored in Season 4. He reconnects with him in the episode "Cooperative Escapism in Familial Relations".
- In Season 5, after Pierce has died, Annie receives the tiara again as a gift.
- LeVar Burton appears as himself again in Season 5, episode 5. He and Troy reconcile and travel the world together.
The idea for a mockumentary spoof was conceived by show creator Dan Harmon. It was the show's latest attempt at pushing more generic and stylistic boundaries, having already done action/shooting ("Modern Warfare"), zombie Halloween ("Epidemiology"), space ("Basic Rocket Science"), stop-motion animation ("Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas") and Dungeons & Dragons ("Advanced Dungeons & Dragons"). Executive producers Joe and Anthony Russo also wanted a redemptive episode for Pierce, who has been increasingly "evil" throughout the season, for the audience to understand what's going on emotionally with the character.
The episode pays homage to and mocks the mockumentary-style filmmaking of other comedies such as The Office, Parks and Recreation, and Modern Family. Character Abed Nadir described the style as "fish in a barrel", suggesting that its methods – such as talking head interviews – are a lazy way to divulge a complex plot:
|“||It's easier to tell a complex story when you can just cut to people explaining things to the camera.||”|
|“||You can always wrap it up with a series of random shots, which, when cut together under a generic voiceover, suggest a profound thematic connection. I'm not knocking it. It works.||”|
Ferris Bueller's Day Off is referenced by Jeff in a heated exchange between him and Pierce in the hospital. This reference is further extended later in the episode with Pierce imitating Jeff's father in a similar way that Cameron imitates Sloane's father in Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Furthermore, the bath robe that Pierce is wearing in the car is very similar to the robe worn by Ferris Bueller in the post credit scene of that film.
"Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking" was one of the best reviewed episodes of the series' second season.
Jeffrey Kirkpatrick called the episode "pitch perfect" and gave it a 5/5 rating, the highest of the season for the show on TV Fanatic. He praised the episode's use of the mockumentary concept, remarking "[a]s always, Community shines best when it's skewering pop culture." He added "Everything I love about the show was powering on full thrusters, from the impeccable characterization to some of the funniest, wit-laced dialogue in its history..." and that the dialogue was "off the wall amazing."
Todd VanDerWerff of The A.V. Club called it "pretty stellar" and a "great, great episode of television in a great, great season." He praised Donald Glover's performance as Emmy Award-worthy. Despite his concern about Pierce's character arc, VanDerWerff still describes the episode as "an immensely well crafted piece of catharsis that brings a number of things that have been building all season to a head... It gives every member of the ensemble something wonderful to do, and it gives Glover a plot that tops all of the other amazing stuff he's done on the show."
Kelsea Stahler of Hollywood.com gave the episode "a resounding 'Yes'" and singled out Glover for praise, calling him a "comedy god". She said that the show's creators "are proving that they love television just as much (if not way, way more) than the rest of us; so much so that they can take the tropes, styles and techniques of other shows, adopt them into their own amorphous world and still make it work."
Alan Sepinwall of HitFix called the episode "pretty fantastic" and one of his favorite ever. He called both Glover and Joel McHale's performances Emmy-worthy although he did wonder "how the hell [the writers will] dig their way out of the Pierce hole after this", because Pierce's actions on the show undercut the episode's plan to provide his character with some redemption.
Britta: Hi, hey, hi, I'm Jeff's dad. Hi.
Jeff: Hi Jeff's dad, I'm Britta's dad.
Britta: What? Why?
Jeff: I dunno, got drunk, didn't have a condom, and her mom gets freaky when she hears Oingo Boingo.
Britta: Oh god, I wish I could relate, but much like my son I'm a closet homosexual.
Jeff: Don't apologize for that. You're talkin to the guy that banged Britta's mom. I have no standards.
Britta: Well, what do you say we take a tumble? I'll put on a wig.
Jeff: That's it, you're under arrest. I'm an undercover cop.
Britta: It's not illegal to be gay.
Jeff: It is here in Iran.
Britta: Not when we're in the Green Zone!
Jeff: That's Iraq, stupid.
Britta: Well what do I know? I'm Jeff Winger's dumb gay dad!
- Kirkpatrick, Jeffrey (February 17, 2011). "Community Review: "Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking"". TV Fanatic. Retrieved June 18, 2011.
- "Community Directors Joe and Anthony Russo on Tonight’s Mockumentary Episode and Outdoing ‘Modern Warfare’". New York. February 17, 2011. Retrieved June 18, 2011.
- Sepinwall, Alan (February 17, 2011). "Review: 'Community' - 'Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking': Pierce the puppet-master". HitFix. Retrieved June 18, 2011.
- Sanger, Craig (May 31, 2011). "At season's end, which comedy was best?". The Washington Times. Retrieved June 18, 2011.
- Seidman, Robert (February 18, 2011). "Thursday Final Ratings: 'American Idol' Adjusted Up; 'Parks & Recreation,' 'Private Practice' Adjusted Down". TV by the Numbers. Retrieved June 18, 2011.
- VanDerWerff, Todd (February 17, 2011). "Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking". The A.V. Club. Retrieved June 18, 2011.
- Stahler, Kelsea (February 18, 2011). "'Community' Recap: Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking". Hollywood.com. Archived from the original on January 25, 2013. Retrieved June 18, 2011.