Community Mocks Mockumentaries

By Tim Surette

Feb 18, 2011

I know I'm going to get lambasted for this one, but I didn't think Community's "Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking" was as good as everyone else did. While some are calling this the best episode of season 2, I place it middle of the pack (and by no means did I hate it). But there's a reason for that! And that reason is in fact half-intended by the writers.

"Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking" took shots at the documentary format that's been popularized and--let's face it--so incredibly overdone by shows like The Office, Parks and Recreation, and Modern Family. And Community pointed out the flaws of that form of narrative by diving headfirst into that narrative itself. Much respect to that.

In that sense, it was another brilliant step for Community, which isn't afraid of taking on the giants even on its own comedy block. Applause to the show for going for it full-speed ahead.

"It's easier to tell a complex story when you can just cut to people explaining things to the camera." - Abed

Exactly, Abed. And ditto for the "series of random shots which when cut together under a generic voice over, suggest a profound thematic connection" that Modern Family makes its trademark, with mostly positive results. Both of those tactics do work, but they are also formulaic and lose a bit of their potency when they're expected, don't they? And at this point in the lives of The Office and Modern Family and whatever else, it's something that we come to expect weekly.

Community, on the other hand, excels at giving us the unexpected. Each episode is different from the previous on the outside, with the core consistency coming from its warm, fuzzy interior about a group of outcasts with a unique bond and a growing friendship.

But the mockumentary format used in "Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking" (shaky cam, zooms, "confessionals") did so well in looking like those shows it was trying to rib, it almost didn't feel like an episode of Community at all. And, while I respect the gusto with which the episode tackled its premise, I missed that old Community feeling. It felt like they tried to write an episode of The Office using the cast of Community.

Or maybe I just hate it when people talk straight into the camera. The laughs were all there, but the packaging irked me. Do I really hate people talking into the camera that much? I'm going to have to get over that.

As for my favorite moments: Troy, Troy, Troy, and Troy. His freakout in the waiting room? A classic Community moment. Someone give Donald Glover a gift certificate to Outback Steak House. He's earned it.

But trouble looms. Our problem with Pierce... yikes. We thought this might serve as a redemption episode for Pierce, but if anything it made things worse. How far down are they going to drag Pierce before it's impossible to bring him back up?

Next week the show goes after politics with a student body government being formed at Greendale. I've already heard great things about this episode. But what else would I expect from TV's best sitcom? Oh yeah, the unexpected.

Follow writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom

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  • torontogirl98 Feb 22, 2011

    I totally loved this episode it was hilarious because it was so different

  • Tom3345 Feb 21, 2011

    The only problem I had with it was that it seemed like by the end that this was the episode that would redeem Pierce, but as you said, it just made him seem more evil. I have no problem with the mockumentary format. I love The Office, Modern Family, and especially Parks and Recreation (which is sometimes better than Community). I'm loving this season, but what I miss from the first season is episodes where the gang takes a class with a cooky guest-star teacher. We had Betty White at the beginning, but nothing since then. Unless you count Professor Professorson. We need a Jeff Blow-Off Class episode!

  • trudelek Feb 21, 2011

    I liked this episode, but I'm really starting to miss the gang just hanging out. Sure, it's fun when they do crazy things like this, but the reason i fell inlove with this show, is because of the characters, and I wish there would be a little more screentime of them just doing regular community collage stuff. and something really has to be done with pierce, i love

  • Tur42 Feb 21, 2011

    I thought this episode was one of the best in the series so far. I laughed all the way through and the mocking of mockumentaries was classic community, as you said. This show just keeps getting better and better, which I thought would be impossible after the Mafia episode and Modern Warfare. can't wait for next thursday :)

  • mobster88 Feb 20, 2011

    Completely agree with the points.This episode felt completely different to the others this season or last. I've been hating what the show has been doing to Pierce the last few episodes. His personality changed from an idotic old man to one of the most vindictive people around. Hopefully they do the redemption episode soon... And Troy was awesome.

  • iagoliva Feb 20, 2011

    Pierce is the best, his comments are hilarious! all the crazy stuff that he does, amazing...not the best episode though but with community is hard to choose one

  • headclub Feb 19, 2011

    Sorry Timmy!! That episode was freakin' hilarious. I get what you're saying about the packaging, but I totally disagree. LOVED this episode. // and in the end, Pierce didn't redeem himself, but he did explain why he was acting out... so it's a start...or is it? I think it is. just saying... or am I? ok too much coffee for meeeeee

  • tjaman Feb 19, 2011

    This was one of the best installments I've seen. "Community" is amazing.

  • Enthropii Feb 19, 2011

    So we're just not liking non-CBS shows now?

  • AndreiIonutNea Feb 19, 2011

    Long live CBS who is paying your salaries for writing such awful articles about their rival shows! This site should be renamed ! Shame on you !

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