Alison Brie, Joel McHale

Is the Greendale Gang the best thing ever to happen to its members or the worst? The group’s collective impact, both on its members and the larger community around it, is an idea Community has toyed with on many occasions prior to “Wedding Videography.” After all, they are more than just friends, as Annie explains to camera while Abed crafts his latest aimless documentary. “We’re an intensely, intimately bonded crew,” Annie says. It’s an odd moment in an odd episode. Community’s sixth season has had lots of fun with the show’s cast changes, spinning Frankie and Elroy’s novelty into winning meta humor about the fact that neither knows the group’s history even as the group treats them like family. Community often tries to have it both ways: The Save Greendale Committee is a tight-knit group that’s generally unwilling or unable to integrate new members…until it seamlessly integrates new members.

Advertisement

This dynamic hasn’t called attention to itself because Paget Brewster and Keith David have jelled so easily with the rest of the cast. Never mind the timeline: When Elroy and Frankie act like these people have been their friends for years, it feels true because the performers sell it so effectively. “Wedding Videography” pulls the contradiction into sharp focus. It’s no big deal to fudge the fact that this is a group of friends with wildly different levels of investment, but when the characters start talking about the idea and broader significance behind a social group that hasn’t been around for that long in its current incarnation, the seams start to show. The problem extends beyond the internal squabbles to the episode’s basic premise. The idea of the gang mingling disastrously at Garrett’s wedding is a sound one, but the situation isn’t moored to any of the relationships. As Britta explains, Garrett is “a guy we don’t really know who we’ve known for like six years at school.” Why would Elroy be inclined to attend Garrett’s wedding in the first place?

On one hand, who even cares? David smashes his scenes into tiny pieces, with Elroy confessing his habitual validation of white people in social and professional settings: “My name is Elroy Patashnik, and from 2000 to 2009, I was addicted to encouraging white people.” Elroy’s segment is far and away the funniest bit of the episode, rendering a justification for his presence at Garrett’s wedding far less urgent. On the other hand, I maintain my concern over how abstract Community is becoming. The show’s heightened reality is the bulk of its charm, but if there are no real narrative parameters or limitations, it’s up to the integrity of the relationships to provide the internal logic and make the Greendale world feel somewhat real. In what has been a broader issue this season, the relationships are harder than ever to nail down. Again, that’s not necessarily a problem if the show keeps being funny, but it becomes one when Frankie starts talking about the group’s possible codependency. If Community wants to be the introspective show it was in its early years and hold a critical lens to its relationships, either those relationships have to be clearly defined, or their lack of definition must be examined.

The all-purpose counterargument to every criticism of Community “it’s supposed to be like that, you just don’t get the joke.” That’s an explanation I’d actually somewhat buy in the case of “Wedding Videography,” given how much of its story is built around the idea of vaguely defined relationships. In the cold open, Garrett begins a lecture in Jeff’s class about matrimonial law, only to parlay it into a proposal for his lady, Stacy (Erin McGathy). Jeff is convinced Garrett is about to get his face cracked, but instead, Stacy plays the emotionally overwhelmed blushing bride and eagerly accepts the proposal.

Advertisement

Abed continues shooting his documentary about the upcoming nuptials, but starts with some “missing lover” footage in case Annie ever needs it. It’s an unsettling misdirect. Is she talking to Abed? Is someone else holding Abed’s camera? Before Britta interrupts and Annie and Abed explain the gag, anything seems possible. The nascent flirtation between Annie and Jeff, a storyline that frequently seems like it was abandoned, is lent new credibility when Frankie takes notice of it. Jeff stands to give his wedding toast, inadvertently revealing Garrett and Stacy share a bloodline, and after an atypically sober pep talk from Chang, Garrett exhorts the crowd to celebrate his controversial nuptials.

If the point is to illustrate how difficult it is to truly know, much less define, any relationship, it’s a point the episode makes well. Aside from that distant possibility, “Wedding Videography” barely hangs together as an episode and works better as a collection of clips. It’s almost like a series of webisodes watched in rapid succession, frequently funny. It’s funny in places, but it’s such a departure it feels inessential.

Stray observations:

  • Stacy’s friend Andi: “Don’t let Garrett keep you from painting.” Garrett’s baffled reaction was the best part.
  • The almost total absence of Abed was disconcerting.
  • Dean Pelton killed it this week: “He’s reading the room. Andi was a bummer, they needed this.”
  • Garrett’s brother Bones bears a striking resemblance, doesn’t he?
  • Annie’s shortlist of potential dragon names: Princess Firebreath, Sir Pent, Dr. Rachel Spinetail, Holly Hotbreath, Jimmy Talon, Christian Scale, Carson Scaley, Jude Claw, and Arianna Puffington.
  • Man in crowd: “Let him finish!” Chang: “They were letting me finish, sir.” Man in crowd: “I know, I was being sarcastic!”
  • Briggs Hatton seems like a nice enough guy, but I did not enjoy that tag. Apparently all the writers get to star in a tag if they want to.

Advertisement