by Mark Greig
Documentary parodies are nothing new in the world of comedy. The Baron Haden-Guest (better known to the plebs as Christopher Guest) has made a career out of them, while mockumentary sitcoms like The Office, Parks and Recreation and Modern Family (which this episode is essentially a parody of) have proved to be popular. While Megan Ganz clearly has a lot of fun with the documentary format here, it is ultimately nothing more than a gimmick, a different way to tell the story. Fortunately this story is so strong that even without the documentary format I would still consider this to be one of Community's finest.
I’ve noticed that Community’s best episodes, such as ‘Modern Warfare’, ‘Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas’ and ‘Advanced Dungeons and Dragons’, are the ones that eschew subplots and focus on a single story. This is very much the case with ‘Intermediate Documentary’. The gang is gathered at the hospital after Pierce overdoses on painkillers. He tells them he is dying and wishes to leave them gifts. This is, unfortunately, a lie. Pierce is fine, he’s just decided to inflict psychological torture on the only people who actually seem to care about him. Obviously he didn’t get Jeff’s text about opening his heart. Even though Pierce is far, far, far, far, faaaaaarrrrr from my favourite character (at this stage the only thing he has going for him is that he is not that which shall not be named), this episodes makes good use of him by once again casting him as the villain.
Pierce knows enough about his “friends” to make them all unravel (in Annie’s case, unintentionally). Of the various revenges he dishes out, Shirley and Britta’s were by far the weakest, although both still had their funny moments. Annie and Abed was exempt from Pierce’s wrath: her because she’s his favourite and him because he was making the documentary. Unless Pierce's revenge on Abed was to make him look at hours of dailies featuring Pierce. Now that would be torture.
The funniest part of the episode was Tory’s encounter with LeVar Burton (the best celebrity cameo this show has ever done) which allowed Donald Glover the chance to waltz off with the entire episode. To say Troy was star struck by the host of Reading Rainbow is something of a major understatement. Whenever Burton was around Troy was completely catatonic. When he was elsewhere, Abed’s other half was having the type of emotional freak-out that gifmakers on Tumblr drool over.
But it is with Jeff that Pierce really goes too far and pays the price. Pierce uses the spectre of Jeff’s long absent father to mess with him, completely underestimating just how deep those wounds are. The ass kicking he got as a result was much deserved. Which brings me to the only problem I had with this episode: it was all wrapped up far too neatly. Once again Pierce acts like a complete jackass to everyone and once again the group, even Jeff, sort of forgive him. What does this guy have to do before they decide enough is enough?
Notes and Quotes
--I know LeVar Burton best for TNG and Roots, I’d never even heard of Reading Rainbow until this episode.
--This is the first episode without any scenes set at the Greendale campus.
Troy: "I've told Pierce a thousand times, I never wanted to meet LeVar in person! I just wanted a picture! You can't disappoint a picture! I hate you Pierce! I hate you so much!"
Jeff: "If you're lying to me, if my father isn't coming, if a car pulls up and anyone other than my father steps out, say an actor or you in a wig, if you pull any Ferris Bueller, Parent Trap, Three's Company, FX, FX2: the Deadly Art of Illusion bull--- I will beat you. And there will be nothing madcap or wacky about it."
--I love it when this show references obscure movies and their sequels.
Annie: "I don't want to die in a place like this. People shouldn't die in the same place as People magazines do."
Britta: "It's called a Complisult. Part compliment, part insult. He invented them. I coined the term. See what I just did there? That was an explainabrag."
Pierce: "It was the pills, they just took me over. I saw awful things: aliens, demons, Critters 3, and something called Bruce Willis Surrogates."
--That line was the funniest thing Pierce has said all season, maybe ever.
Four out of four omnipresent cameramen who never capture each other on film.
Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011. More Mark Greig.