TV Review: COMMUNITY S4E06, Advanced Documentary Filmmaking (Or, We Need To Talk About Kevin... I Mean Chang)

Ben Umstead, U.S. Editor
After last week's episode where Jeff confronted his estranged father, moving on from a darker side in his life, last night's episode returned to the Greendale Campus and an issue that's been sorta loosely and peripherally dangling over the entire season thus far: Just what the heck is Changnesia and why should we care?

Chang himself has made a few brief appearances before this episode, only we're told he isn't the maniacal Chang anymore, he's now the sweet, child-like Kevin who suffers from a bizarre form of amnesia called Changnesia. Bizarre because it's just stupid and made up. Jeff's sure of it anyway, and he's out to prove the rest of the school, who have sided with Kevin, wrong. Meanwhile the Dean has enlisted the help of Abed in making a propaganda video that'll help Greendale get a hefty grant to research Changnesia, and of course put Greendale on the map as a school with a reputation. A good reputation that is. Only Abed want's to take this film behind-behind-the-scenes and instead follows Jeff as he schemes on how to expose Kevin for the fraud that he is.

Advanced Documentary Filmmaking is the fourth episode of Community that's taken some doc aesthetic and run with it, or well... for all intents and purposes jogged with it. While the first doc-inspired episode was a send up of TV shows shot in the style of The Office or Modern Family, the second (and arguably best) a riff on the Apocalypse Now BTS Heart Of Darkness and the third being a spoof of Ken Burns style docs, this episode drops the propaganda angle by the end of the opening, taking a little bit from everything and proving that this story didn't really need to be done this way, except... well there is a slight nod to Werner Herzog's Grizzly Man, plus any opportunity for Troy to mug at the camera is always solid, and this one had some fine moments when Jeff sends Annie and Troy off to investigate the trout farm Kevin was found on. Taking to the names Partner and Hoolihan, Troy and Annie (and Garret with steady-cam) head down to the farm. Though both Troy and Annie have played the good cop/bad cop roles before, but never together, it was fun to see them play off of each other here. 

Meanwhile, Jeff sends Shirley and Britta to video tape Kevin's every move, a choice that at first seems wasted, except Abed and Jeff find some intriguing and possibly incriminating evidence that Kevin knows he's Chang. As for Pierce, he's left rehearsing a black face/yellow face hand puppet act for the McGuffin Institute, the grant folks that are coming to evaluate the school's case. Yeah, I know, McGuffin...

Advanced Documentary Filmmaking is a pleasant enough episode that makes a few interesting chess moves for what is coming later in the season however groan inducing you may find that to be. My main issue with it, is that this Changnesia idea hasn't been that funny or clever from the get-go. Heck what it gets down to is that I'm finally beginning to see that Ken Jeong's presence on the show is becoming increasingly unneeded. Now many viewers figured having Jeong around after season one was no good. It seems pretty unanimous that Chang is the least integral and important character on the show, and I'll agree with that part, sullying many an episode, and quite possibly during the last half of season three  hijacking the show outright with his fascist power grab of Greendale that resulted in the expulsion of the Study Group. While I've enjoyed him in spurts  (loony tunes security guard over whiny student who lives in the vents) I've often wondered what a Change-less Community would look like. Some of the bigger and wackier half-season plots (again with Over Lord Chang) would not have existed not to mention all the minor intrusions and a part of me thinks we would have been all the better for it. Yet here we are in the midst of Changnesia, probably the most absurd twist yet. We know Chang is still Chang, we've always known it, and by the end of tonight's episode though he's got the whole school (including Jeff) believing he's the doe-eyed do-gooder known as Kevin, he's of course up to no good. One cell phone call to say that the plan is going accordingly and we know. As to just who he's talking to at the other end of the call, well... For anyone paying attention to where Chang was hiding out in the final moments of season three, they know exactly who is on the other end...

It's nothing unexpected and I guess the only way they could go, but it sure isn't that exciting. Yet. If there's an opportunity for a Dean:Dean showdown by episode 10 (let's not drag this out til the very end of the season, folks) I'm all for it.

Random Thoughts and musing:

-Sorry that this review is coming in late. I spent the evening at an experimental art performance where everyone behaved like mute Abeds -- no joke. John Cage would have been proud.

- Britta's theory on Changnesia was pretty excellent if I do so say myself. However controversial.

- If we get a season five I'd urge the writers not to do another documentary style episode. I think they've gone to the well one too many times.      
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