Some people may have been surprised when they turned on NBC this past Thursday night at 8pm and saw, instead of their beloved Community, a stop-motion animated Christmas special. I say stop-motion instead of claymation because the technology has grown way more sophisticated than the clay of old, and the episode pointed that out. I hope those people weren’t too hasty to turn the channel, because that stop-motion special was this week’s Community entry, and while not appropriate for children (Jeff-in-the-box got eaten by humbugs, which left a gruesome skeleton), it was a holiday delight.
The premise of the story, titled “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas”, was that Abed (Danny Pudi), feeling devoid of the Christmas spirit, imagined everyone in stop-motion animation to get himself more into the holiday mood. Relax, political correctness police. Abed is half Muslim, but loves Christmas. And in his imaginary winter wonderland, he included a menorah for Jewish friend Annie (Alison Brie) and a reflecting pool for Jevoah’s Witness Troy (Donald Glover). But what he got right is that, in America, most people celebrate Christmas, whether they are Christian or not. The season is about much more than the religious roots, which weren’t the actual roots of the holiday anyway, as pointed out by Brita (Gillian Jacobs). So please stop being so uptight and just let us celebrate a holiday our country has adopted and taken as our own.
Anyway, Abed’s distress leads him to Professor Duncan (John Oliver, The Daily Show), who wants to make a case study of the delusion, and profit off of it. Abed is resistant, as Duncan arranges a group therapy session with the Study Group. Unfortunately for the wannabe therapist, Abed assumes control of the meeting, and Duncan never gets it back. He takes his friends and Duncan to Planet Abed, a Christmas haven where the air is seven percent cinnamon. Abed transforms his friends into Christmas-type characters, and they set off the find the Christmas spirit. One by one, the group drops out, accompanied by a Willy Wonka-esque song (from the old version of the film, not the new one). In the end, the true reasons for Abed’s depression are discovered, and everything is righted.
This episode will not be remembered for its musical numbers, which were short and not that exciting, through true to the series. The one memorable ditty was Abed’s rendition, with holiday-centric lyrics, of the show’s theme song. However, songs are not all that goes into such an endeavor, and in many other ways, it was a success. The visions created were magical, the characters were quite fun with their new looks, and the distinctly Community brand of humor was certainly present.
I also love how true the writing was to each of the established characters. Of course Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) wanted to make the thing about Jesus, but her slowly grown restraint won out. Jeff (Joel McHale) was appropriately sarcastic and dismissive, while the Dean (Jim Rash) warred between what he thinks a good college should be and his own struggle with being politically correct, which is clearly unnatural for him. Pierce (Chevy Chase) was just as sad as Abed, but hid it behind cookies, pretending he didn’t care. All fit with the people represented each week.
On a broader not, I miss Señor Chang (Ken Jeong). Sure, he’s been in season two about as much as season one, which is, not all the much, besides a few featured episodes. He had one brief scene where he was a snowman this week. But his expulsion from the teaching staff opened up an opportunity for him to join the group, and with such a talented actor signed to the series full-time, why are they squandering it? It’s time for him to be let in and get a meatier role. Otherwise, he can be relegated to recurring status like the Dean and Duncan are, because he’s currently only about as important as them.
Community, like most shows, is now on a scheduled winter break, but will return to NBC Thursday nights in early 2011.