This season of Community has been utilizing very minor characters a lot more than ever before. The show has always had a cast of glorified extras that would pop into scenes when a random student outside of the group was needed. Garrett, Vicky, Magnitude, Todd, Fat Neil and Leonard are all prime examples. They’ve all had their moments in the spotlight, if by “moment in the spotlight” you mean a funny line or two. Vicky dancing for Twix? Pop-Tarts? (something like that) in the old west paintball episode. Garrett screeching various things over the years. Magnitude revealing his secret British origins. Todd pretty much gets to be a major character in his debut episode, as does Fat Neil, who gets one of the show’s better episodes ever centred around him. Leonard has been one of the show’s longest running jokes. “Shut up Leonard, I know about your crooked wang.” “Shut up Leonard, those girls playing ping-pong with you are doing it ironically.” “Shut up, Leonard! I talked to your son on Family Day. I know all about your gambling.” Seriously he even got an end credits bit reviewing pizza. With this season’s diminished core cast the writers have been drawing on these minor but recognizable figures.
This season is the first to really capitalize on this idea by setting one of these minor characters at the centre of the story. This episode sort of focuses on Garrett, whose funny voice and appearance have constituted a running joke on the show since the fourth episode. The show has never been kind to Garrett. Troy described him marvellously once, “That guy’s just a mess, it’s like God spilled a person.” He’s been popping up at odd intervals this season, generally harkening back to a joke from the season two episode “Applied Anthropology and Culinary Arts.” I think it’s Fat Neil in that episode, who, as the plot begins, quietly says something along the lines of “great, we almost had a whole day that wasn’t about them.” Yes the side effect of being the main characters on a TV show is that you tend to make things about you. The group tends to be the centre of every event at Greendale, and this episode, “Wedding Videography,” uses this as the main character arc. It’s a clever idea that gets dropped on the group at the halfway point of the episode.
This episode actually aligns with the concept of another season two episode, “Intermediate Filmmaking.” This is another great season two episode that revolved around the now deceased Pierce Hawthorne. (Just a note, this episode sort of predicts Jeff’s interaction with hologram Pierce that makes that scene a hilarious callback I didn’t notice until a recent viewing.) The episode was about Pierce in the hospital after passing out on painkillers he’d become addicted to throughout the course of the season. He tells the group he’s dying and brings them into his hospital room to grant them gifts before his passing. It’s quickly revealed to the audience that he’s not actually dying; instead he’s psychologically torturing the group. As Jeff puts it when he accuses Pierce, “It’s starting to seem, from observing the others, that you’re using the social leverage afforded you by your alleged deathbed to exact complicated acts of psychological vengeance on those closest to you.” It’s not the content of this episode that’s referenced, instead it’s the style. “Intermediate Filmmaking” was entirely presented as a documentary made by Abed about the events, allowing him to communicate complex ideas using talking heads. It all added up to a great episode.
This episode is all presented as being filmed by Abed, but it’s not a documentary. Or it is, but it’s only for Abed’s sake? It feels more like Community going found footage than it does a documentary, even with the talking heads. “Intermediate Filmmaking” was clearly an edited work. Abed did a voice-over, he cut montages, he talked about his process, that sort of thing. It’s a documentary not just a series of video clips strung together, and some of the episode’s best jokes came from the format. Abed’s personality and meta commentary came through via the structure. This episode doesn’t do that, and the result is a bit odd. I’m just speculating here but if you told me the structure was an incredibly last minute choice (and Dan Harmon and last minute scripts go together like fish and water) created to excuse Danny Pudi’s absence I would believe you. Abed doesn’t feel present like he did in “Intermediate Filmmaking.” “Documentary Filmmaking: Redux”, another great Community episode, had onscreen titles, newspaper clips, and other stylistic trappings referencing the documentary genre. Maybe the key to this episode is the title; this isn’t so much an Abed documentary as it is wedding videography.
It’s true that the talking heads almost lend the episode enough to actually justify the format, even if it never reaches the sublime heights of the show’s other forays into the docu-style. Maybe that doesn’t matter though because, between this, “Modern Espionage”, and “Basic RV Repair and Palmistry”, it seems that season six of Community might have finally settled into it’s stride. It’s not exactly the colossal jaw-dropping stride of season two, or the over-the-top silly-walk stride of season three, but it’s closer to season’s five’s competent stride than it was before. And it’s still miles ahead of the sobbing-ass-dragging-stride of season four, as if there was any question on that front. Between the cleverly conceived character arcs, some good jokes, and another super weird end-credits joke this episode stands out a bit. It’s not perfect, and it’s not quite as good as the last two episodes, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t funny and unexpected.
The episode revolves around Garrett’s wedding, which Abed has been hired to film. Except that’s not true, he was hired to document the proposal. The rest he does to relax, because “it’s like knitting, but with less discipline.” The wedding sees Garrett marrying a new female character played by Dan Harmon’s real-life wife Erin McGathy. Honestly I’m surprised it’s taken this long to see her cameo in the show but, given that this season has actually lifted dialogue from her appearances on Harmontown, it’s only natural this would be the season she finally fills a small role. She was perfectly serviceable and, while a character that better reflected her sense of humour might have been nice, she does a fine job as Garrett’s fiancée.
After Garrett’s proposal, the gang gathers at Annie’s house and plays games and shoots talking heads footage. Prior to this we get the episode’s sole use of the documentary format, which is pretty hilarious. It involves Annie shooting footage her friends could watch on a loop to remember her by if she was ever kidnapped or murdered. Everyone then realizes they’re late, race to Garrett’s wedding arriving halfway through the ceremony and stumble through bushes to take their seats. Chang falls off his chair a few times and the group laughs and stays oblivious to the discomfort they’re causing. After, Garrett’s mother pulls them aside and asks them to stop making the day about them.
The group, despondent, decides to separate and become the best wedding guests possible. Britta dances awkwardly. Franky and Annie talk about their personal dragon “the dragon of helping people.” This is pretty funny until it devolves into another thing about Annie’s infatuation with Jeff, which feels like the show’s personal dead horse trotted out on regular occasions to test the quality of their newly woven whips and katanas. If I had to give advice it would be to either commit to this plot thread or give it the fuck up.
Wheel spinning aside there’s a pretty funny bit where Elroy relapses and starts using his charismatic voice and non-white complexion to encourage white people. It’s a delightfully hilarious concept that builds to a stupendous one-liner. Jeff meanwhile inserts his way into the ceremony, using the groups’ gathered knowledge to craft the perfect best man speech. This all leads to a great twist, and an almost touching moment with Chang of all people. Basically Chang helps the group come to the conclusion that they’re maybe not as toxic and destructive and codependent as they seem. It’s a nice little bow on the climax’s jacket.
It’s kind of a weird episode in that my biggest complaint would be how loose and unstructured it feels. This is weird for me because on closer inspection this is just a feeling; the actual content of the episode consists of some pretty tight set-up and pay-off. If anything, the format detracts from the actually story instead of adding to it. The home-movie look just sort of distracts and muddies the water of a fine piece of TV writing. That’s not a minor complaint, but it doesn’t hamper this episode enough to completely stop it from feeling like a standout.