It's our final week with this lineup of NBC comedies, and each one rose to the challenge by providing enjoyable holiday-themed episodes. For the last time in 2011 (sniff), let's get recapping.
"For awhile there I thought the semester was going to end on a really dark note. I'm glad we're dancing and singing instead. It's been a good time."
Oh Abed, if you knew how prophetic that statement would turn out to be. As the last Community episode to air before an indefinite hiatus, it was sadly fitting that the characters noted how difficult the past few months have been, mirroring the series' continued struggles in the ratings. But at least the show went out on a deliriously creative high note.
It was a lot of fun to see the characters belt out tunes nefariously designed to draw each one of them into Mr. Rad's glee club. But what stayed with me after the episode ended was the impetus for it: Abed's yearning for the group to spend the holiday together. As an avid consumer of pop culture, Abed has surely absorbed the way television, music and movies insist upon the holidays as a time of joy, merriment and familial bonding, and was looking to mirror that in his own life. (Last year he did this by imagining everyone as Claymation characters.)
But as Jeff said, "forcing the brightness to be bright makes the dark underneath seem darker." Abed hoping that the glee club's aggressive cheeriness would spur his friends into the holiday mood made his alienation and loneliness truly palpable. Only after he provoked Britta to ruin the Christmas pageant did his friends recognize his need for them. The fact that they could all come together for him by arriving at his doorstep singing a Christmas carol, without their usual in-fighting and cynical quips, demonstrated how much they have bonded into a genuine family.
And that's where we leave Community for now, with the characters gathered around the television to watch the terrible Inspector Spacetime special. Let's hope we have the opportunity to see them on our TV screens again very soon.
- The songs on this episode were fantastic. Troy and Abed's rap gave Donald Glover a chance to unleash his Childish Gambino skills, but I think I enjoyed their Baby Boomer Santa number even more. The musical time-shifting from doo wop to disco was hilarious (Glover does a surprisingly spot-on Bob Dylan impression). And how perfectly diabolical to draft Shirley into glee club by having sad-faced kids sing about the emptiness that comes from not knowing who celebrates a birthday on December 25th.
- Community never misses a chance to put Annie in a sexy costume for its male fanbase, but to echo Jeff yet again, there really is a diminishing return on her sexiness. Her purposefully cloying, Betty Boop number was pretty funny, especially the last line of "boop boop be doo boop sex." But they're going a little overboard in objectifying Annie, to the point where it can be a real detriment to her character. At this rate, every time Alison Brie shows cleavage, I expect all of Greendale (and the Internet) to shout "Annie's Boobs!" like the Cheers gang did for Norm.
- Gillian Jacobs was fantastic singing her horrendous heart's song, which included her saying "Me So Christmas!", a callback to her hungry pizza song from the episode featuring multiple storylines. Also loved the Dean muttering "Oh, Britta's in this?" when seeing her on stage.
- It feels sort of dated to be dissing Glee at this point, since the show is no longer the ratings and cultural juggernaut it once was, but the jokes still worked. In particular I enjoyed Pierce's confusion about regionals, the Glee-esque bearded piano player in the study room and Taran Killiam's portrayal of Mr. Rad. He really nailed everything that makes Mr. Schue so irritating.
- This week's tag was perfection, maybe the funniest one Community has ever done (and they have done a lot of great ones). I could watch it again and again. If you want to do the same, watch it here. Merry Chang-mas everyone!
PARKS AND RECREATION
"Giving Christmas gifts is like a sport to me...because I always win. This year my friends won. In fact I got my ass handed to me."
If Leslie Knope ever decides to give up her career in government, she should consider becoming a personal shopper. We first glimpsed her gift-giving skills in the season 2 episode "Eagleton" when she gave Ron Swanson the perfect birthday present (steak, whiskey and solitude), so it was fun to see this talent used for the rest of the staff. Then, watching Leslie's ass get handed to her by their present of gingerbread office, wood-carved City Council office and a "Knope 2012" campaign staff, I got nearly as emotional as Ron when he was discussing his remote-controlled office doors.
Like Leslie, I was convinced that her City Council bid was over, because it made sense that there would be real fallout from her and Ben's office romance. Based on what we've seen of the Pawnee citizenry, they're a pretty judgmental bunch (Joan in particular would have a field day with the scandal), and a candidate who polls at milkshake-sip level is not going to retain her political backers, no matter how qualified.
So it's a nice twist to have her staff act as her support system for once, and give her the ability to stay in the race. It's easy to envision that that Ben "Resigned in Disgrace" Wyatt will eventually come on board as well. Then again, as a commenter noted in last week's post, it would be more intriguing to see Ben in the role of political spouse. After all, he seems to be embracing his return to the private sector, and might prefer assisting Leslie by sustaining her with sugary spaghetti, adorable nicknames, and back rubs during what's sure to be a challenging campaign.
- Of all Leslie's gifts, I most coveted April's artwork depicting her brutal vanquishing of the Black Eyed Peas. And for some reason, Jerry's socks.
- Was anyone else expecting Donna's robe to emblazoned with "Treat Yo Self" instead of "You Can Get It"?
- Jean-Ralphio has amazing hair. So amazing that he briefly trended on Twitter during the hilarious tag of him seeking the boring accounting for accountants job.
- Leslie's presents are Ron's emotional Kryptonite. I can't remember a time—except for Lil' Sebastian's funeral—when we've seen him so verklempt.
- You know what's a fun thing to do when procrastinating, say, writing a TV recap, or just about anything else? Studying Leslie's word cloud. Her preoccupations are are both expected (Cady Stanton, waffles) and unexpected (Seal, seals, jeggings).
- Leslie is revealed to have great TV taste in this episode. Downton Abbey is in her word cloud too, and she quotes Friday Night Lights while rallying her PCP.
"I get really pranky when I drink."
If The Office is a coma patient clinging to life, then Mindy Kaling the is the defibrillator that momentarily jolts it back into consciousness. The Office has a history of enjoyable Christmas episodes, with Michael Scott (usually dressed as Santa) instigating the holiday party shenanigans. I worried his absence from the series would be felt acutely during this week's show, but luckily this one was penned by Kaling, who added enough humorous touches to make the show engaging, and sometimes even laugh-out-loud funny.
Last week I talked about how much the characters seemed to dislike each other, but everyone was on much friendlier terms this week. I'm not sure whether it was because Kaling wrote this episode, or because the Dunder Mifflin gang were drinking throughout, but it was nice to watch them enjoy each other's company again. As in Christmas episodes past, the gang did shots together, exchanged gifts, and enjoyed some rollicking holiday music, courtesy of Dwight.
Unfortunately, we had witness yet another Jim/Dwight prank war, something both these guys should have tired of years ago. (Jim in particular needs to stop smugly looking at the camera for approval.) You have to sympathize with temp worker Cathy, whose request to be transferred out of their cluster provokes this latest go-round. I wish Andy did follow through on his threat to take away their bonuses, because it might have finally stopped this played-out dynamic between them. The sole highlight of this subplot was the porcupine, which is not saying much.
The Love Triangle No One Cares About also chugged along, with Erin reacting to meeting Andy's girlfriend by getting wasted. Ellie Kemper did a great job in portraying Erin's alcohol-fueled sadness, but this dramatic turn feels a little manipulative, like the writers want the Erin/Andy romance to be viewed as equal to the Jim/Pam and Michael/Holly relationships. Andy and Erin are too one-dimensional to fuel a season's worth of will they/won't they angst. But based on how much their characters were featured this episode, it seems that's what's in store for viewers anyway. My Christmas wish is for Kaling to write every episode from here on out, to at least make this story arc bearable.
- I loved everything about Toby and his mystery novel. (Perhaps he was inspired by his stint in jury duty for the Scranton Strangler case?) His earnest description of Jack Flenderman, street-smart black guy, Oxford student and leading Egyptologist, was the funniest moment of the episode.
- Second funniest one belonged to Creed for commenting "we have a real Clarence Thomas here" when seeing Darryl in a tux.
- Darryl and Val's burgeoning relationship received only about five minutes of airtime this week, but I'm glad the writers are letting this romance inch along too.
- The Black Eyed Peas received their second (negative) reference of the night, with Robert California's Ryan-approved explanation of their popularity.
- So glad that newly separated Robert didn't make a move on Erin. It would have been too creepy, and Robert's character would never be able to come back from such low behavior.
- Kaling wrote her character some fun moments in this episode. I personally related to Kelly's blank stare after Robert wished her a Happy [random Hindu holiday celebrated around the same time as Christmas]. I also liked how Erin deployed Kelly like a bomb on Jessica, Andy's new girlfriend.
- After Stanley's rant about all their past holiday parties, my second Christmas wish is to experience a Mo Rocca Christmas party.