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Recap / Community S 3 E 08 Documentary Filmmaking Redux

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He never wanted to be in this commercial. He never wanted to be bald. Now he's both.

The Dean is filming a new commercial for Greendale starring most of the study group while Abed makes a documentary about it. Famous alumnus Luis Guzmán agrees to be in it which causes the Dean to go overboard and over budget.

The Community episode "Documentary Film Making Redux" provides examples of:

  • Acquired Situational Narcissism: The Dean becomes a Prima Donna Director when put in charge of directing the commercial. It says something that he doesn't ask Abed, who is a film student, to direct.
  • Actor Allusion:
    • Pierce's prima donna antics call to mind Chevy Chase's notorious reputation for being difficult to work with for much of his career.
    • Shirley's refusal to play "sassy" in the commercial reflects Yvette Nicole Brown's comments in interviews that she enjoys playing Shirley precisely because the part isn't a stereotypical "sassy black woman" role.
  • Advertisement:
  • Actually Pretty Funny: The Dean loves Jeff's tongue-in-cheek impression of him, down to the voice.
  • Arc Words: "Why do I go Greendale?"
  • As Himself:
  • Aside Glance: Abed after witnessing Troy and Britta continuing to hug after the Group Hug.
  • Brick Joke: In Advanced Criminal Law, when the Luis Guzmán statue is announced, Abed makes a list of the questions he would like to ask Luis Guzmán should he arrive for the statue's dedication, while Troy makes a sarcastic comment about Guzmán coming over specifically to be interviewed by Abed. In this episode, Guzmán ends up being interviewed by Abed for his documentary and would rather talk to him than work with the Dean.
  • Call-Back:
    • Annie wore her hair in this episode the same way she wore it in Social Psychology. Fittingly, she went completely batshit in both episodes.
    • Advertisement:
    • Even in the late 1980s/early 1990s, the basketball team was pretty gay.
    • When the Dean strips off after his breakdown, his underwear is identical to that of Jeff's in Physical Education.
    • At the end, the Dean begs to know whether he's a "good Dean" in a similar way to Applied Anthropology and Culinary Arts.
    • Both the Dean's speech at the beginning about how Greendale asks little of its students and mainly gives, and his tearful confession to camera about how Greendale accepts him for who he is, call to mind Pierce's speech about how Greendale accepts people, faults and all, at the end of For a Few Paintballs More.
      • Also during the speech, he explains that he holds 5 dances a year because he thinks the school isn't good enough. This calls back to Pascal's Triangle Revisited when Jeff asked how many dances would the school have and the Dean responding five.
    • Leonard is listed as "Leonard Rodriguez" in Abed's documentary.
    • Chang uses the same bald cap for Jeff's understudy as he does for his "Butch" costume in the Critical Film Studies episode.
  • Cassandra Truth: Ahem:
    The Dean: (after seeing the commercial Abed put together) I'm confused. That's not my commercial, I-I didn't make that.
    Carl: Yeah, yeah, okay, Zemeckis, it moved through you. Anyway, congratulations. (to Richie) That should last us another 16 years.
  • Comically Missing the Point
    • Abed:
      Abed: The Dean is going insane and taking all of you with him.
      Troy: If you know that, then do something!
      Abed: I'm doing everything I can. I only have so many cameras.
    • Also this:
      Britta: It's great that he got a celebrity, but why reshoot everything?
      Abed: Perfectionism. The Dean's first step down a road that ends in self-destruction.
      Britta: ... That sounds... horrible.
      Abed: Actually, I might end up taking this to some festivals.
      [Britta looks nonplussed]
    • And:
      Luis Guzmán: Oh, I get it. You're worse than crazy. You're ashamed of your school. And that statue of me out there? That's just wrong.
      Dean: The bronze adds ten pounds, it's not gonna be perfect...
      Luis Guzmán: Hey, screw you! I'm just saying — don't worship the people leaving Greendale, worship the people that are here.
  • Creator Breakdown: In-universe. Shown nicely by the Dean when he prepares to show what he thinks is his commercial to the school board members:
    Dean: Gentlemen, what you are about to see is not the commercial you paid me to create; what I am about to show you is a glimpse into my mind and soul. Please hold your questions until the end; I know you will have a lot of them, but I will understand if you'd rather I just leave.
  • A Day in the Limelight: For the Dean.
  • Deconstruction: Like the earlier documentary episode, the episode deconstructs documentaries, especially those where the filmmakers follow subjects around with their cameras to record their struggles and traumas without doing anything to help for the sake of distance and remaining "objective"; Abed knows exactly what is going to happen and, as Troy angrily notes, could probably do something to help, but chooses not to do anything and thus lets everyone suffer needlessly. Abed then ends up rejecting this approach when he takes pity on the Dean and uses his footage to cut together a suitable commercial for the school, thus saving his job. It also once again reiterates the artificial nature of "reality" programming, even documentaries:
    Abed: Documentarians are supposed to be objective to avoid having any effect on the story. And yet, we have more effect than anyone, because we decide to tell it. And we decide how it ends.
  • Documentary Episode: Like "Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking".
  • Drunk with Power: The Dean.
  • Dumbass Has a Point: Even though she declares herself "a licensed psychology major," Britta was the first one to confront the Dean and point out how unethical/insane the filming production had become.
  • Easter Egg: In the Dean's mental breakdown video, he is shown wearing Jeff's orange underpants.
  • Epic Fail:
    • The Dean's task of shooting a simple commercial ends up shutting down classes for 12 days, goes $17,125 over budget, and results in several people (including himself) having a mental breakdown. Also, whatever he did to the ice cream machine.
    • Jeff's attempt to reduce the amount of work he has to do backfires enormously, resulting in a nightmarish amount of distress. He might have just been in a simple commercial, had he actually just decided to do the work instead of trying to avoid it.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Britta stands up to the Dean when he makes Jeff cry. It was a case where Jeff didn't deserve it.
  • For Want of a Nail: Luis Guzmán wanting to appear in the commercial is the point where production begins to nosedive.
    • More specifically, Jeff's decision to have his scenes filmed in front of the Luis Guzmán statue is what started it, given how they had to get permission from him to use his likeness, and Jeff called his lawyers soon after...
  • Fourth Wall Psych: Britta points at the screen and asks what the camera was doing in the study room. Then it's revealed she meant Abed who was filming the scene for his documentary.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus:
    • During Chang's interview the screen says "Ben Chang: Self-Proclaimed Understudy", meaning that he's hanging around uncomfortably dressed as Jeff dressed as the Dean when nobody asked him to.
    • The Greendale school paper is full of funny quotes.
  • Fruit of the Loon: Scene IV.
  • Gilligan Cut:
    Jeff: What if this shoot drags on another day?! Or, God forbid, two!
    [Caption on black: Four days later]
  • Gone Horribly Right: Jeff does an over-the-top impression of the Dean, complete with nailing his voice. The Dean seems upset at first, but then realizes it is Actually Pretty Funny and gives him a bigger role.
  • Group Hug: Without a trace of irony at the end of the episode.
  • Hope Spot: "Once we get this shot, we are done!" "Your phone is ringing."
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    • The Dean's efforts to end racism and "pull a four-hundred year old dagger out of America's heart" by having Troy and Britta hug on camera eventually ends with him promising to restore segregation to the school if they screw up one more time.
    • There's really only one word to describe the way Shirley delivers the line about the Dean using the word "sassy".
  • I Can Explain: The Dean, after the study group views his original commercial / nude emotional meltdown on camera:
    Dean: Ugh, before you say anything... nope, I've got nothing. Can you just forgive me?
  • I'm a Doctor, Not a Placeholder:
    Pierce: I'm an actor, not a circus freak!
  • Insane Troll Logic: Of the Sunk Cost Fallacy variety. As a sign of some serious Sanity Slippage, Annie reasons that the Dean is really a genius, since she's spent over two weeks working for him, and spending two weeks working for an idiot is unacceptable to her.
  • Insult Backfire: Jeff's imitation of the Dean is very camp and mocking. The Dean thinks he "hit gold."
  • Ironic Echo: In a meta-sense — in the earlier Documentary Episode, Pierce's prima-donna antics were the centerpiece of the plot and had significant impact on the other characters. Here, his similarly prima-donna antics go completely unnoticed by the others and he spends most of the episode unseen in a trailer.
  • Irony: Helpfully supplied by Jeff, whose attempts to prevent the commercial from going ahead ensure that not only does production continue, but that things go completely out of control as a result.
  • It Will Never Catch On: Inverted for laughs by Leonard, who's apparently a bit out of touch:
    Leonard: I'm thinking of getting into the TV game, because it's apparently sticking around.
  • Just Friends: One occurs between Troy and Britta after the Dean asks if it would be awkward for them to hug for the commercial.
    Britta: Yeah, Troy and I are buds, best buds, Air Buds even.
  • Laborious Laziness: True to form Jeff, apparently without noticing the irony, "go[es] the extra mile to avoid doing something", in this case the Dean's commercial. As is also true to form, his laziness just ends up creating more work and trouble for himself later on.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Jeff tries to sabotage the filming of the commercial for the purely selfish motive of ensuring he doesn't have to participate in it. His efforts to do so not only ensure that the filming lasts even longer, but that he personally suffers the most to the point of experiencing a full-blown identity crisis and near-nervous breakdown.
  • Leave the Camera Running: Ends up being the style of the final commercial, courtesy of Abed.
  • Line in the Sand: Backfires; see Tempting Fate.
  • Lost in Character: The longer he spends in the 'Dean' costume, the more the identity lines between Jeff and 'Dean' begin to blur.
  • Malaproper: "Pierce Hawthorne, stage of screen and star."
  • Manipulative Editing: A heroic version: The commercial Abed (mostly) made out of the footage recorded from the first day of filming. To name a specific example, Britta's emotionless "To meet different people." is played over a shot of the first time Troy and Britta practiced the hug, where they're the happiest.
    • A more poignant one would be Abed's usage of the Dean's emotional "Greendale... is the best school in the entire world." from when he was recording his confessional. This is interesting because the emotional context is still there, but the filming context was removed.
  • Motion Capture: Parodied: Garrett is put in a green mo-cap suit with ping pong ball sensors for the commercial - in order to play a microscope.
  • Movie-Making Mess: The Dean's commercial ends up more than $17,000 over its $2,000 budget. Many characters, including the Dean, have nervous breakdowns as a result.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Jeff made the cameramen shoot in front of the Luis Guzmán statue so he could use lawyers to pull the commercial. Then Luis calls and says he wants to be in the commercial, leading the Dean, himself and most of the school to go through a mental breakdown, just because he didn't feel like being in the commercial. And to rub salt in the wound, the Dean had almost finished production, under budget.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • In the throes of his breakdown, the Dean apparently did something rather unpleasant to the ice-cream machine, and begs no one to eat from it until it's been cleaned - and judging from his comment that the Janitor knew how to clean it, it can be inferred that this isn't the first time it's been done.
  • Oh, Crap!: Behold: The Dean's Start of Darkness:
    The Dean: (to the camera) You know, I thought this commercial was going to be okay. Well, guess what? It just officially became great. Let me give you a little rundown of this commercial's great elements: Luis Guzmán is in it... (can't think of a second one) ...I'm sorry, will you excuse me?
  • Only Sane Woman: Shirley is apparently the only person in the school — and certainly the only member of the study group other than Abed — who manages to remain sane during the entire affair.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: Normally Britta is fine with Jeff getting insulted. She realizes that the Dean went too far, however, in making him cry. That's when she stands up to the Dean and quits because Jeff didn't deserve that.
  • Overly Narrow Superlative: According to the 1990s commercial, the primary reason to choose Greendale as a place of study was that it had "the most advanced typing class in the south-western Greendale area." And you can submit your application by fax!
  • Poe's Law: In-universe; Jeff's impression of the Dean is clearly supposed to be over-the-top and insulting, but is actually remarkably close to the reality. So it would make sense for the Dean to think it's a golden performance.
  • Political Overcorrectness: In more ways than one; the Dean ends up convinced that the scene where Britta and Troy hug is intended to solve racism, which prompts him to drive them to nervous breakdowns by forcing them to repeatedly hug for twelve hours straight while screaming at them.
  • The Prima Donna: Parodied; Pierce is outraged when he learns the commercial shoot won't be catered and announces he won't leave his trailer. When he learns that the shoot also won't have trailers, he rents a trailer and refuses to leave it until he receives a trailer which he can refuse to leave until the shoot is catered. And so on, in a series of events which leads to him spending the entire time in a trailer, which is eventually towed to a movie set in Hollywood, where Jeff Garlin displays the trope.
  • Prima Donna Director: The Dean was already dangerously close to the edge at the start of production but throws himself off of it screaming and flailing once Luis Guzmán signs on.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Luiz Guzman give one to the Dean.
  • Retraux: The commercial at the start of the episode would appear to be from the early 1990's.
  • Sanity Slippage: Pretty much everyone except Shirley and Luiz Guzmán goes through this while working on the commercial.
  • Self-Deprecation: A meta case - The Dean's increasing Sanity Slippage over the course of shooting the commercial can be seen as Dan Harmon mocking his own reputation as being a "tyrant" on set and being in part responsible for his own works' frequent Troubled Production.
  • Ship Tease:
    • Britta and Troy do a lot of hugging in this episode, and usually get very giggly and sheepish around each other because of it. Until the Dean makes them hug each other for twelve hours straight while screaming abuse at them the whole time, by which point nervous breakdowns start looming.
    • And then at the Group Hug in the end. When everyone let go, Britta and Troy held on to each other.
  • Shout-Out:
  • A Simple Plan: All they need to do is film a simple commercial showing off Greendale and its student body. It doesn't quite work out like that.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: The commercial is supposed to be a basic twenty-to-thirty second TV spot. The longer he films it, however, the more the Dean's ego gets completely out of control as he becomes convinced he's making some kind of important statement.
  • Springtime for Hitler: Jeff's attempt to derail his role in the commercial by firstly doing an over-the-top caricature of the Dean and then having his scenes filmed in front of the school's statue of Luis Guzmán (thereby meaning that it will have to be scrapped when Guzmán denies permission for his image to be used) backfires when the Dean loves his interpretation and Guzmán, learning about the issue, offers to appear in the commercial.
  • Stockholm Syndrome: Annie, who is absolutely convinced of the Dean's genius until he replaces Jeff with Chang.
  • Strange Minds Think Alike:
    • Abed and Luis Guzmán both say that Hearts of Darkness is way better than Apocalypse Now.
    • The study group all seem to have unanimously agreed that the camp basketball player's dramatic thumbs-up in the 1990s commercial was a key factor in them deciding to study at Greendale. Abed even makes a point of including a shot of Troy doing the same thumbs-up in the new trailer.
  • Sunk Cost Fallacy: Annie rationalizes the Dean's behaviour because she doesn't want to admit that she's wasted several weeks of her life helping him.
  • Take Our Word for It: We don't see the original cut of the Dean's commercial, but from what we hear — and Luis Guzmán's reaction to it — it's not good.
  • Take That!
    • A possible one to Charlie Sheen.
      Dean: I'm surrounded by assassins. My own school's paper has turned on me. But when this is all over, I'll have a commercial with Luis Guzmán in it, and all they'll have are their words and their fears and whatever embarrassing photos they can get from my two-faced mother.
    • Another possible one aimed, subtly, at the Mockumentary show format where unseen cameramen do nothing to prevent chaos that they know could unfold.
      Abed: Some flies are too awesome for the wall.
    • Pierce acting as The Prima Donna is one towards Chevy Chase' reputation of being hard to work with.
    • Jeff having to spend the entire episode in a bald-cap may be a jab to the various rumours circulating that Joel McHale has had hair transplants to prevent baldness. Or, if they're true, a jab at Joel McHale for having had hair transplants.
  • Tempting Fate:
    • At the climax of his Prima Donna Director weight-throwing, the Dean yells that anyone who doesn't want to help him with his movie can leave. Everyone, having been driven up the wall with his madness by this point, has gone before he even finishes the sentence.
    • Jeff, who confidently predicts that his Dean impression "won't make the cut" and that Guzmán's lawyers will intervene to stop the production (and thus his role in it), only to almost immediately be proven wrong both times.
  • 2 + Torture = 5: After twelve days of wearing a bald cap, Jeff comes to believe he is bald, and "only dreamed of having hair".
  • Unfortunate Implications: In-universe example. Amidst his nervous breakdown, Troy points out how "to meet different people" can actually mean the opposite of what the message is supposed to be.
    Troy: [sobbing] Stop saying I'm different!
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Luis Guzmán's helpful offer of service for the commercial leads to the Dean's breakdown and all the resulting stress of the episode.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • Luis Guzmán gives one to the Dean for being ashamed of Greendale.
    • Troy gives one to Abed when the latter admits he knows what's going to happen, but refuses to stop it.
  • Wilhelm Scream: Heard in the cut of the commercial shown to Luis Guzmán.
  • Yes-Man: Annie seems to become one of these for the Dean, although in her defense it is primarily due to a stress-based psychological breakdown. Subverted in the one occasion we see her about to act as the Dean's Yes-Man, in which she realizes the lunacy of what she's supporting halfway through and immediately rejects it:
    Annie: Shut your face, Britta! If the Dean wants his role to be played by a Chinese man in a blonde wi— oh my God, you are insane.