‘Documentary Filmmaking: Redux’was meant to be a ‘Heart of Darkness’parody, but is it a coincidence that an episode about showcasing how much Greendale means to its students aired just days after the announcement that NBC had benched the series following its winter hiatus? Just something to think about, fellow Communies.
We start off in the study room, where Dean Pelton shows the group Greendale’s horribly outdated current commercial. He then tells them that he’s been afforded a budget of $2,000 by the school board to update it and of course, he wants the study group to star in the revamp. Annie and Shirley are ecstatic at the prospect of helping out, while Jeff and Pierce (who wants to know if he gets a trailer and a catered meal) are less than enthusiastic. Britta just wants to know why Abed gets to sit behind the camera even when they haven’t started filming yet, but I think we all know the answer to that. Despite a few reservations, the group is ultimately persuaded to join in the madness.
On the first day of production, we learn that Annie is a script supervisor (although by her logic, she’s the star) and as the group does a read-through of their script, Troy and Britta end up having to hug on camera. While both claim they’re comfortable with the sentiment, it’s pretty clear they’re still nervously avoiding their attraction to each other. Chang has been cast as an understudy for Dean Pelton, and since director Dean obviously can’t star as himself, he enlists Jeff to play the coveted role bald cap and all. This might have been the single greatest thing I’ve been able to witness on television, only second to the ‘Kiss From A Rose’karaoke scene from last week’s episode. Jeff decides to convince the Dean to film his scenes in front of Luis Guzmán’s statue, because he knows that the Dean had no permission to create a statue of the celebrity alum’s likeness therefore, none of his shots will be useable and he’ll get out of the project. Jeff then calls Guzman’s lawyer to make sure he gets the message.
Of course, Jeff’s plan completely backfires in nearly every way possible. Not only does Luis call the Dean asking to be a part of the commercial once he finds out they need permission to use his face, but Dean Pelton proceeds to Jeff he’s so perfect for the role, the only thing he needs is more screen time. Armed with the idea of a real life celebrity staring in the commercial and realizing he can put Greendale on the map in an even more prominent way, the Dean becomes obsessed with everything being perfect. He decides that he needs to re-write his entire script, and that everything they’ve shot so far for the day is worthless now that they have a celebrity on board, they needed to start fresh. The group doesn’t exactly agree, but goes along with his antics anyway.
In typical Greendale fashion, what should be a simple project suddenly ends up more complicated than anyone could imagine. Through Abed, we learn how the commercial has taken over the entire school and how the Dean has become officially crazed, imparting his insanity on his students by making them do the same scenes over and over again. After 12 hours of rehearing a simple hugging scene, Britta and Troy are almost ready to kill themselves and even Jeff is upset that he spent the entire day in costume with no time in front of the camera. Four days later, with the budget well over the $2,000 limit, the Dean is still on the crazy train, only he’s started to drag everyone down with him. Annie is on the verge of insanity having worked night and day on the Dean’s vision, while Jeff realizes (after Pierce mistakes him for the real Dean Pelton) that all the time he’s spent ‘bonding’with his bald cap has gone to his head. As they finally start film Jeff’s scene, the Dean becomes upset yet again and orders him to lose the bald cap because it’s ‘hokey and fake.’Jeff refuses while the Dean flips out and fires him in favor of Chang (who he considers to be a more realistic version of himself.) Britta of all people steps up, and as ‘a licensed psychology major’tries to tell him that he’s made them all prisoners by forcing them to be there. Dean Pelton gets defensive and says whoever doesn’t want to help him can leave, his anger eventually driving everyone away.
Luis Guzmán (playing himself) finally shows up, excited to film the commercial but confused that there seem to be no students at the school. Dean Pelton comes to meet him, bringing him into his uber messy office (complete with a loose possum) and introduces him to Abed, who, behind the camera, is pretty much the only person who hasn’t abandoned him. Dean Pelton shows him a copy of the commercial he’ll be starring in, which Luis hates due its over-the-top insanity. He tells Abed as much in the storage closet (a nice throwback to the scene of Shirley venting to Abed in ‘Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking’) and when Dean Pelton finds out what he’s doing, he gets upset that Luis doesn’t want to be in his film. Luis figures out that Dean Pelton is ashamed of his school, and gives him some of his own alumni wisdom – ‘worship this place…it changes people lives.’Realizing he failed the school because he thought that he was better than Greendale, he tells Abed he can’t finish the commercial after all and goes into a deep and dark depression, which Abed of course catches on film.
The school board shows up to view the commercial, and Dean Pelton prepares to show off his creation which he’s assuming will be footage of his breakdown. To his surprise, it’s a beautiful montage of the documentary’s best and most heartfelt moments, all of which came from the fist day of shooting (when everything was real and true.) The school board loves it, even asking if there was more of the ‘crazy Chinese guy'(nice nod to the inclusion of Chang.) The Dean is confused, after finding out that Abed put the film together, he marches into the study room asking the group for forgiveness. In one of the more touching moments of the night, Jeff willingly hugs him, accepting his apology. ‘So I’m a good Dean?’Pelton asks, clearly still seeking validation. The study group assures him that he is (crazy costumes and all) while Abed manages to sneak in one last documentary shot Troy and Britta hugging embarrassingly by themselves long after the group has disbanded. Any guesses as to what this means for future emotional moments between the two?
The tag for the episode is 3 days later in Hollywood, where we find Pierce the Diva arriving in Hollywood in his towed trailer (which really belongs to Jeff Garlin.) What did you think of this episode? Did you like it better than last year’s documentary feature? And how hard did you laugh at Jeff’s impression of the Dean? (I may have rewound a few times myself, and then refused to delete the episode.)