The Telefile

Community: Life During Wartime

by Ethan Alter April 6, 2012 9:00 am
<i>Community</i>: Life During Wartime

Given that last night's Community installment combined two things that this show always does very well -- spoofs of documentaries and elaborate battles pitting Greendale student against Greendale student -- it should come as no surprise that "Pillows and Blankets" was a Season 3 highlight.

An extended riff on every Ken Burns documentary ever made (and, more specifically, his groundbreaking Civil War series), the episode depicted the fall-out from last week's outbreak of hostilities between Troy's blanket fort army and the pillow fort squad commanded by Abed through a series of still photos (some of which were snapped -- ineptly, natch -- by Britta), caught-on-camera footage, text messages, e-mails, maps and voiceover narration (mostly provided by The Cape's Keith David, whose rumbling baritone lent the proceedings the right amount of gravitas). It was as dead-on a lampoon of your typical Burnsian doc as last November's "Documentary Film Redux" (another one of this season's finest half-hours) was of the Apocalypse Now making-of, Hearts of Darkness. Naturally, it also got us thinking about which other well-known documentaries might serve as the basis for awesome Community episodes. So we went ahead and matched each study group member with their appropriate non-fiction feature counterpart.

Best Burnsian Moment: Asking Annie via text where she got her sweet collection of special icons.
Ideal Documentary Spoof: Don't Look Back, D.A. Pennebaker's fly-on-the-wall portrait of prickly artist Bob Dylan. We can just picture Jeff delighting in Dylan's method of giving cryptic answers to dumb questions. Bonus: Joel McHale would look pretty great in black-and-white.

Best Burnsian Moment: Operating her own clinic for pillow-wounded veterans.
Ideal Documentary Spoof: Almost any Werner Herzog doc, as we can picture the cynical German director finding the eternally upbeat Annie as mysterious and bizarre a subject as men who willingly hang out with grizzly bears or centuries old cave paintings. Plus, if you thought Keith David's voiceover was great, just imagine listening to Herzog's nutty mutterings about life at Greendale. In fact, we'd pay good money just to hear him utter words like "Troy and Abed in the morning" and "Annie's Boobs" in that pronounced German accent.

Best Burnsian Moment: Eagerly watching the combination biathlon/singing reality competition series Ski Shoot Sing with his troops.
Ideal Documentary Spoof: Morgan Spurlock's Super Size Me, because it's easy to picture Troy doing something crazy like eating nothing but McDonald's for a month or making himself a walking billboard for advertisers as Spurlock did in The Greatest Movie Ever Sold. And Troy wouldn't even do these kinds of stunts for a film -- he'd just think they'd be fun.

Best Burnsian Moment: Accidentally snapping an iconic photo of Troy and Abed making peace when she was actually trying to nab a shot of some particularly well-lit waffles.
Ideal Documentary Spoof: Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg's warts-and-all portrayal of Joan Rivers, A Piece of Work. For one thing, the title describes Britta to a T. Also, like Joan, she adopts a strident tone to mask her deep-seated insecurities.

Best Burnsian Moment: Bemoaning the lack of logic in the titles of the Rambo movies in a Facebook status update.
Idea Documentary Spoof: Exit Through the Gift Shop, Banksy's history of street art as experienced as a hanger-on turned "professional" artist. The wild collection of images and layers of meta present in that film is what we imagine the inside of Abed's head looks like. He's practically a three-dimensional Banksy creation anyway.

Best Burnsian Moment: Requesting that her hubby record that night's Forensic Files so she can protect Troy from getting on the wacky weed courtesy of Britta.
Ideal Documentary Spoof: Jesus Camp seems like the obvious choice, but while Shirley is religious, she's not that religious. (At least, for the sake of her kids, we sincerely hope not.) So we're going to go with Michael Apted's Up series, because -- given what we've learned of Shirley's past during the course of the show -- we'd love to check in with her every seven years from childhood to now to find out how exactly she got this way.

Best Burnsian Moment: Unleashing his secret doomsday device -- a pillow super-suit -- against the youthful Changlorious Basterds.
Ideal Documentary Spoof: Fast, Cheap & Out of Control as only the great Errol Morris could properly capture the eccentric insanity that is Pierce Hawthorne's general state of mind.

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