by Thom Yee

Community images courtesy of Sony Pictures Television.

Community images courtesy of Sony Pictures Television.

6×12: “Wedding Videography”

I realized that up until recently my Community reviews had regressed into a pretty stable formula:

  1. Make some odd, but broadly related statement;
  2. Lay out the episode’s premise;
  3. Talk about how the episode is kind of good but not really;
  4. Make reference to some bit of season one or two esoterica that’s long lost its validity;
  5. Lay out my complaints; and
  6. Conclude in a way that suggests profundity in the absence of having anything profound to say.

It was while writing my review of “Basic Email Security” that it really hit home how routine covering Community’s sixth season had become as that whole review spilled out almost fully formed, completely from the stream of consciousness I had during a quiet period at work. It took about fifteen minutes to write. That’s what Community had become at that point: routine. That was also the episode just before “Advanced Safety Features” and a huge upswing in the quality and ambition of the show (or at least a few decent episodes). Community season six has been pretty uneven and, to be honest, unexpectedly disappointing for much of its run, but here near the end of the season (and possibly all things), it’s at least gotten a lot more palatable if not outright great.

See?  Fish in a barrel.

See? Fish in a barrel.

“Wedding Videography” is a return to yet another of the series’ semi-annualized traditions after last episode’s victorious return to paintball, this time with the much less heralded “Documentary Filmmaking” format wherein Abed captures this week’s events through talking heads, voyeuristic footage, and a fly-on-the-wall presence where he only speaks up to remind people not to acknowledge the camera. For a format so vocally derided the first time through in season two’s “Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking”, it sure is an approach the show returns to frequently.

This week we join Mr. Winger’s Law class after a spirited and scholarly round of reviewing what the word ‘law’ looks like when spelled out on a chalk board to find Garrett’s (this guy) supposed extra-credit presentation on marriage law is actually a marriage proposal to his girlfriend Stacy. It’s hard not to instantly feel pity for Garrett, partly for how forced and inelegant the proposal presentation was, but mostly because you feel absolutely sure no one will willingly marry him, especially not a normal-looking girl who sits on the other side of the room. Of course, we don’t have just any normal, average actress playing Stacy. No, this week’s seemingly random bit of casting goes to Erin McGathy, Community creator Dan Harmon’s long-time girlfriend and now wife. And she says yes, she will marry Garrett. Is this a bit of Freudian slippage as we witness the mess Harmon sees himself as through Garrett? A window into the mind of a sad man and brilliant creator? A rumination on the breakdown of social morays in modern marriages? Probably not. It’s probably just a funny little Easter Egg.

Of course, things things go south from there as the layers are slowly peeled back and we discover the secret shared origins of our latest to-be-married couple as they turn out to be cousins. As much as I may have initially felt sympathy for Garrett for the sureness I had about his impending marriage proposal rejection, the whole cousin thing makes for a pretty big laugh simply for how much it fits with everything we’ve seen and learned of Garrett over the past six years. At the very least this episode should serve as a sharp criticism of the perils of using family or pet names like “Mee-Maw” or “Gam Gam”.

I don't want to live in a world that robs us of the right to marry our cousins! Because they're so darn attractive.

I don’t want to live in a world that robs us of the right to marry our cousins! Because they’re so darn attractive.

While the episode centres around Garrett’s proposal and the resulting wedding to which our heroes find themselves inexplicably invited, “Wedding Videography” is still very much an episode centred around the trials and tribulations of the ol’ Activities Committee. In previous episode reviews I’ve spoken of my concerns for certain Community characters, especially Britta, but this episode really made me sympathetic towards Frankie, who’s most likely the least liked character of the group among remaining fans of the show. Watching her clumsily try to interact with and be a part of the group in a social setting made me wonder what secret shame she’s hiding from the group. She actually reminded me a lot of myself in that she’s somebody who feels forced to hold a lot of her true self back, and as soon as she starts to open up, somebody immediately interrupts with something more fun to do. We don’t get much more time to spend with Frankie as the demands of the episode pull away from her pretty quickly, but, like in “Queer Studies and Advanced Waxing”, we do get another win for Chang with his message to Garrett and Stacy after they’ve found out that they’re cousins:

This family is so screwed up, you thought you were two different families. Now that you know you’re not, you can’t wait to leave? And you want this guy to do what, forget he’s in love? For you? … Is anyone here going to make less fun of these two or be better friends to them no matter what they do? [to Garrett] It’s you against the world, and you will not win. But… You get to make your moves, not them.

That’s really kind of a kind of a beautiful, post-modern moment, although it might be even more beautiful if it wasn’t about legally sanctioned incest.

Just do what you're doing, baby.  Just do what you're doing.

Just do what you’re doing, baby. Just do what you’re doing.

I struggled at first with the “aboutness” of the episode in that it mostly felt like an episode about jokes, but what I eventually realized, especially with Chang running to embrace the group after his monologuous victory, was that this was a story about all of us. Most of us aren’t about to get married, and those of us who are probably aren’t going to accidentally marry one of our cousins, but a lot of us do go to other people’s weddings and other things that are only tangentially related to us, and most of the time we somehow manage to make those things about us. “Wedding Videography” is literally about Garrett’s wedding to his cousin, but, as I said above, it’s an episode that serves mostly to further explore the same main characters we usually think about when we watch Community, and, as I said above with Frankie, it’s an episode that makes us think about ourselves, even when the featured story is about something else entirely. And I didn’t even need a patented Winger monologue to spell it out for me.

 Community “Wedding Videography final score: 8.5

Items of Note:

  • That’s a lot of ice. Jeff really has been drinking A LOT this year.
  • Britta does a killer Garrett impression. She sure didn’t Britta that one.
  • Do Annie, Britta, and Abed own a cat now? I hope that’s what that was.
  • I would have laughed pretty loudly if Chang had pulled a self-slapping, post-aftershave scream after the Home Alone reference.
  • How did Abed get to the wedding before everyone else?
  • If I ever get married, one thing’s for sure.  There will be no meatballs.
  • A whole wedding and no Natalie is Freezing music? Is that meme over already?
  • “None of us would have met if Hitler hadn’t been born.”
  • Finally a decent use of a post-episode tag. #LegalizeCousinMarriage

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