The mockumentary is not a format that gets a lot of love, with the notable exceptions of This is Spinal Tap and a certain pair of office-based TV shows.  To redress this cosmic imbalance, Abed has decided to (once again) pick up his camera, this time to document Pierce’s terminal illness; however, it soon becomes obvious that things are not as they initially seem.  Read on to find out the details!

The Players:

Episode Title: “Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking”

When Pierce finally succumbs to the pills he’s been overdosing on, he requests that the group come to the hospital and let Abed film his last days documentary-style.  However, he’s not really dying – he just wants to get back at the group using “bequeathings” to psyche them out; for instance, Britta’s given a blank check for $10,000 and told she can either spend it on a charity or herself.  As his gifts start taking their emotional toll, each of the characters starts freaking out in their own ways, and they have to find some way to come to terms with what they’re given.

The Good:

  • Divert Power to Warp Engines: As you may have noticed from the cast list, LeVar Burton – star of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Reading Rainbow – shows up in this episode in one of the more bizarre moments of the show.  He manages to completely send Troy crazy for no adequately explored reason, and the subsequent staring contest is hilarious to watch, as is Troy’s freak-out in the cafeteria and his surprisingly pitch-perfect rendition of the Reading Rainbow theme.  It’s all capped off by a suitably strange sequence where the pair eat a fancy salmon dinner in the library at night.
  • Doc and Awe: While the whole idea of a faux-documentary TV show is not particularly new any more thanks to both versions of The Office, Abed and the writers of Community still manages to put their own spin on the process.  They still have the obligatory “action then interview” format, but the 4th wall gets broken quite frequently as Abed makes cutting remarks on how easy documentaries are to make (perhaps some good-natured ribbing at a fellow NBC program) and cuts together some pretty funny montages.  There’s nothing really laugh-out-loud about the process; it’s just cleverly done and executed.
  • You Make Me Sick: Pill-popping Pierce has become a full-fledged villain in recent episodes, and he’s actually turned into somewhat of an evil genius to boot.  And while this episode’s arc – Pierce makes everyone feel awkward and weird until they stand up to him – has been used before, it’s never been quite so clever as this.  Pierce manages to get everyone gifts that perfectly embody the worst parts of them, character flaws that have been so built up by each episode that we can instantly understand why each one sucks (well, apart from LeVar.)  Their moments of clarity – where they figure out how to get over their problems – are alternately touching and ridiculous.

The Bad:

  • I Am Your Father: The idea of Jeff Winger coming face-to-face with his father was an interesting one, especially as we know so very little about his family and why he dislikes his dad so much.  It almost seemed like we were headed for a dramatic confrontation, but instead (SPOILER ALERT) nothing happened at all, which was kind of an anticlimax (although it did allow Jeff to whale on Pierce.)  We can only hope they decide to tie up that loose end at some point, as they appear to be in no hurry to actually do anything concrete about it in this episode.

The Quotable:

  • “It’s easy to tell a complex story when you can just cut to people explaining things to the camera.”
  • “Final words?  You’re going to kill us?”
  • “Usually if I need to cheer up I’d make fun of Pierce, but now it’d make me even sadder!”
  • “Mr. Hawthorne is ready to commence his bequeathings.” “Shouldn’t you be telling that to an orderly?”
  • “My third wish would be a million wishes.  But I’d just use them all on a million signed photos of actor LeVar Burton.”
  • “And since in my absence you’ll be the new black sheep – oh, I’m sorry, that’s offensive – black swan…”
  • “You know what Dylan Thomas said about death?” “No, tell me.” “OK, bluff called.”
  • “People shouldn’t die in the same place as People magazines do.”
  • “Me and Abed have an agreement.  If one of us dies, we stage it to look like a suicide caused by the unjust canceling of Firefly.”
  • “I was never one to hold grudges.  My father was – always hated him for that.”
  • “Set phasers to ‘love me!’”
  • “Could you imagine bouncing a check to Kunta Kinte?”


Both wildly funny and oddly inspirational, with an added twist of pop culture homage/parody: It’s the very essence of a Community episode.  It’s also a must-watch in the ongoing saga of the downfall of Pierce.

Rating: 9/10

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