There is a very real chance that last night’s episode of “Community” will be one of the last episodes ever. NBC announced this week that it is putting “Community” on hiatus until spring 2012. The decision came as a result of wanting to inject mid-season programming into Thursday nights. For fans of the show, this decision was a punch to the stomach. The loyal Greendale followers who tune in every week are diehard supporters of “Community,” but their number is too small to ensure the show will have a future. “Community” has struggled from the beginning to find a large audience and this struggle may very well be the death of the show in the same way “Arrested Development” died before its time.
If “Community” doesn’t return, then “Documentary Filmmaking: Redux” is one helluva swan song. The episode is one of the most intense and intelligent endeavors in the series’ history. Dean Pelton decides that it is time to update the Greendale Community College TV ad (which has been running for 16 years) as a way to boost enrollment. He enlists the study group to help with the production, all except Abed who begins filming the events which he believes will be akin to “Heart of Darkness,” the documentary that showed the completely disastrous production of “Apocalypse Now.”
The Dean’s commercial begins simply enough, on schedule and under budget, but it has no star. Pelton tries to capitalize on Greendale’s one famous alumnus, “Traffic” star Luis Guzman (who appears as himself), but instead of just using his likeness, Guzman offers to appear in the commercial. This blows Pelton’s mind and before anyone can do anything, he turns into a faux-artistic diva who is determined to make the greatest commercial that has ever existed.
Very quickly, Pelton goes obscenely over budget and begins making absurd demands of his cast and crew. For example, one student is supposed to be play a book reading a book. “It doesn’t make sense,” he yells in desperation. Annie, who has been tasked with being script supervisor, starts to believe Pelton must be a genius because only a crazy person would be trying to do what he is trying to do and Annie would never blindly follow a crazy person, right? Jeff has his own troubles because Pelton casts him as the dean, of course, and forces him to wear a bald cap which has a strange effect on Jeff and his outlook on himself. Meanwhile, Pierce refuses to take part until he gets his own trailer and craft service, but no one is paying much attention to him.
When Guzman finally shows up to Greendale, he finds the campus empty because the students have all abandoned Pelton and his madness. The dean shows Guzman what he has edited together so far, and Guzman can’t even finish the atrocity that has taken place. He confesses to Abed via his camera crew, that he loved his time at Greendale and that the commercial should just be honest and real, not the overblown pretentious crap Pelton has created.
In the end, Abed patches together some of his footage with some of Pelton’s which is then presented to the members of Greendale’s board. They love what they see! Well, they don’t love it, but they figure it’s good enough to run on TV for another 16 years.
Let’s hope this isn’t the end of “Community,” but if it is, episodes like “Documentary Filmmaking: Redux” will be vindication for the show’s loyal fans.