In “Documentary Filmmaking: Redux,” the latest installment of NBC’s Community, Abed (Danny Pudi) decides to make a documentary about Dean Pelton (Jim Rash) writing and directing a new commercial for Greendale. Abed suspects that the Dean will slip into insanity, but things go surprisingly well. That is, until Luis Guzman (himself, How to Make It in America, Oz) wants to be in the commercial, and then the Dean goes off the deep end. The study group turns on him, and things explode. But Abed breaks his creed of noninterference and saves the day.
The Dean, now a main character, is one who is not delved into too often. But Rash brings a unique brand of humor that makes for a hilarious character, so “Documentary Filmmaking: Redux,” which features him at his craziest, is quite welcome. The Dean covers the spectrum of emotional stability in this episode of Community, from living on top of the world, to finding his true inner artist, to slipping into depression and resignation that he will likely lose his job. It’s a tour de force, and it is likely that “Documentary Filmmaing: Redux” will be remembered as one of his best episodes.
The “Redux” part of the title comes from the fact that, less than a year, ago Abed makes a documentary about Pierce (Chevy Chase), who believes he is dying. “Documentary Filmmaking: Redux” is not a sequel or followup to the earlier episode, and other than filming style, and Abed mostly not being seen, they share little in common. This week’s entry follows more closely Hearts of Darkness, the Apocalypse Now documentary, in that it is a behind the scenes look at something else being filmed. In both, disaster strikes. Also, the re-released version of the subject film is called Apocalypse Now: Redux.
Community is brilliant at making the worst things, like the characters’ world falling apart, very funny. Annie (Alison Brie) tries to stay calm, forcing herself to believe that the Dean is brilliant, so that she doesn’t have to accept that she is wasting her time. Of course, viewers understand that she is, in fact, wasting her time, as nothing the Dean touches ever turns to gold. But it’s her sincere efforts to be there for him, until she no longer can be, that crack up. Plus, her crazy eyes and hair.
Jeff (Joel McHale) is even better, channeling his inner Dean, and making the character even more flamboyant than the real one, if that is possible. At first, Dean Pelton enjoys the portrayal, with Jeff in full costume and bald cap. Then, as the Dean plumbs his own soul, he rejects that image, wanting to be something greater. How exactly that lands on Chang (Ken Jeong) is anyone’s guess. But it’s silly and zany and one cannot help but love it, especially how the replacement effects Jeff, and causes his own, lesser, breakdown.
The final aspect of note in “Documentary Filmmaking: Redux” is the strange relationship developing between Britta (Gillian Jacobs) and Troy (Donald Glover). This week is not the first time there are hints at something more than friendship. For the commercial, they have to hug, which becomes extremely awkward. That is, until the end of the episode, where they stay in a hug far longer than necessary. Given Community‘s penchant for hiding things off-screen from viewers (see: Jeff and Britta’s sexual arrangement), could something already be going on between them? Any why would they be hiding it? Or are these the awkward, early stages of courtship?
Community also stars Yvette Nicole Brown. Watch it Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC, until it takes a mid-season hiatus to make room for the returning 30 Rock on the schedule.