Welcome to Looking Streets Behind, a weekly Community retrospective column! Each week, we’ll dive into a Community episode that has reached the 10th-anniversary milestone. This go-round, we’re delving into “Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking.” Wherein Troy met his hero LeVar Burton and completely froze. Pierce played his typical mind games. Britta made the important distinction between a “compli-sult” and an “explana-brag.” Abed finally found Pierce interesting from a narrative perspective. We learned that you can’t disappoint a picture, but you can disappoint Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge.
So, without further ado, I give you “Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking.” Set phasers to love us.
Now, we open with Jeff (Joel McHale) and Britta (Gillian Jacobs) checking in on Pierce at hospital reception. Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown), Annie (Alison Brie) and Troy (Donald Glover) follow suit. They all gather together in Pierce’s (Chevy Chase) room. Abed (Danny Pudi) is filming the whole shebang. Pierce reveals that he’s dying, so he wants to bestow a bequeathment upon his dear friends. He asked Abed to film his final days. While Abed doesn’t find Pierce intriguing in general, the documentary aspect does appeal to him.
Next, we discover that Pierce isn’t actually on his deathbed. He did overdose on pain medication, but he’ll recover. Pierce, being typical Pierce, is manipulating the study group for personal satisfaction. Shirley returns first to receive her parting gift. It’s a CD that contains backstabbing, two-faced chatter from the crew. Apparently, they speak ill of Shirley behind her back on the regular. Pierce wants Shirley to listen to it so she knows who her real friends are.
Then, Britta a.k.a. “Sour Face” is gifted with a blank check for 10 thousand dollars. She can make it out to the charity of her choice. Or write in her own name as the recipient. Britta is already suffering under the weight of immense indecisiveness. LeVar Burton shows up. Earlier, Troy reveals that he’d like a signed photo of Burton as his present from Pierce. However, Pierce brought in a real, tangible LeVar Burton. Troy is utterly frozen in shock.
Jeff enters the fray in place of Annie. According to the nurse who keeps ushering them into Pierce’s room, the old man has a set order. Pierce tells Jeff that his estranged father, William Winger, will be sitting in a town car in the hospital parking lot. Jeff can do what he will with that information. Annie receives a tiara that has apparently been in the Hawthorne family for generations. She’s Pierce’s favorite, after all.
Later, Jeff is clearly unraveling at the mere thought of a potential reunion with his father. LeVar tries to elicit some kind of response from Troy beyond, well, shock. He’s failing. Jeff sees a town car outside the hospital. We hear his “dad” call him, but he sounds an awful lot like Pierce. Jeff storms toward the vehicle and drags Pierce out of it. He proceeds to unleash hellfire on the old geezer. Through it all, Jeff realizes that he has unresolved issues with Daddy Winger. After Britta plays the CD for Shirley and she learns that her friends weren’t talking smack, the latter tosses Pierce’s “gift” in the trash. Britta makes her check out to the Red Cross instead of herself.
Now, everyone learns that Pierce wasn’t actually dying. It was all a test! Annie thinks her test was to quash her hubris or elitism, but she’s really just Pierce’s fave. Then, the gang peers into Pierce’s room to find Jeff sleeping soundly beside him. Cue Annie and Shirley’s collective “Aw!” The end credit scene consists of LeVar and Troy having dinner in the study room. Earlier, Britta convinced LeVar to postpone his flight for Troy. However, Troy continues to remain tightlipped. That is until LeVar singing the Reading Rainbow theme song forces Troy to flee the scene while screaming.
The one-liners and gags!
Now, “Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking” boasts some of my favorite lines in all of Community. Troy steals the show, as far as I’m concerned. His breakdown in the hospital wherein he screams, “You can’t disappoint a picture!” is pure, unadulterated gold. Additionally, when Troy is singing the Reading Rainbow theme song to himself in the bathroom. “Set phasers to love me!” is a line I frequently associate with Community. It never fails to give me a case of the giggles.
I also love whenever Britta is ushered into Pierce’s room for her bequeathing. “Is that you, Death?” “No, it’s Britta.” Britta and Jeff’s roleplay may be my favorite scene in the episode. Many thanks to the Community Wiki page for the full dialogue.
“Hi, I’m Jeff’s dad, hi.”— Britta “Hi, Jeff’s dad, I’m Britta’s dad.”— Jeff “What? Why?”— Britta “I don’t know, got drunk, didn’t have a condom. And her mom gets freaky when she hears Oingo Boingo.”— Jeff “Oh God, I wish I could relate but much like my son, I’m a closet homosexual.”— Britta “Don’t apologize for that. You’re talking to the guy who banged Britta’s mom. I have no standards.”— Jeff “Well what do you say we take a tumble? I’ll put on a wig.”— Britta “That’s it, you’re under arrest. I’m an undercover cop.”— Jeff “It’s not illegal to be gay.”— Britta “It is here in Iran.”— Jeff “Not when we’re in the Green Zone.”— Britta “That’s Iraq, stupid.”— Jeff “Well, what do I know? I’m Jeff Winger’s dumb gay dad.”— Britta
There’s the Troy bit where the nurse informs the group that Pierce is ready to commence “his bequeathing.” “Shouldn’t you tell that to an orderly?” Troy asks. Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t include Britta’s adorable victory moment. “Problem solved! Dilemma deleted! Britta for the win!”
Here’s a fun fact: whenever Troy is freaking out after meeting LeVar, you can see a poster behind him featuring a young Amy Poehler. In addition, the last line in the end credit scene was supposed to be “More fish for LeVar,” but LeVar instead said, “More fish for Kunta” as an ad lib.
Now, this is something I noticed when re-watching “Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking.” Pierce mentions that he initially thought Jeff would be the one in a hospital bed and Pierce would be a hologram. Lo and behold, Pierce appears as a hologram in Season five episode one, “Repilot.” That would mark Chevy Chase’s final outing on Community.
The Reading Rainbow of it all!
Overall, “Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking” is quintessential Community. The premise of the episode is quite simple, but this show takes it to another level. Community is so adept at transforming simple episodic concepts into pure meta magic. The documentary format with the “talking heads” is perfect, especially as an outlet for Abed. There are so many standout moments and one-liners. It’s proof that sometimes you can mine for gold in even the most basic of storylines.
Oh, and Britta for the win. Always.
What do you love most about Community‘s “Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking”? Sound off in the comments below! Be sure to join me next week for another installment of Looking Streets Behind, where we’ll be buzzing about “Intro to Political Science.” South Park will be there to win a student body election.
Until then, stay streets ahead.
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