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Friday, December 23rd, 2011

The 20 Specials of Christmas: Community

And here we are at the end of my Christmas death march. I’ve watched — and rewatched — a lot of Christmas episodes this month. A lot. I’ve made some bad decisions, seen some things I’d rather forget, and spent too much time on YouTube watching local commercials that aired from 1989 to 1997.

It’s been an emotional time, but one that has taught me an important lesson. The true meaning of Christmas specials isn’t in celebrity guest stars or lessons learned or songs sung. It’s not Jesus or Garfield or Mary Tyler Moore (it’s a little bit Mary Tyler Moore). The meaning of Christmas is trying to find the true meaning of Christmas.

Where’d I get that bit of wisdom? I straight up stole it from my new favorite Christmas special: Community's “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas.”

Right off the bat, the special is stop-motion. That connection with the Rankin & Bass Rudolph is a better signifier of holiday spirit than any amount of lights or tinsel. Elf knew it and Dan Harmon knows it.

While it could be an easy trick, the writing cleverly folds the technique back into the story — Abed is hallucinating everything Claymation because of his love of the holidays. This draws the study group together — along with Professor Duncan — to do an intervention that leads the group into Abed’s imagination.

Stay with me here. The story works because it skates the cliché. Like everything in his life, Abed needs Christmas to fit inside the tropes he’s seen on television and in movies. The push of the other characters against the beloved tropes is both what makes the episode so sweet and so funny.

Let me emphasize that “sweet” point. There’s real heart to this episode. Abed’s reason for wanting a Christmas even more this year has a very human heart to it. And the group’s decision to back him in the end is amazing. What should be a cheesy scene is Community straight-on addressing the cynicism against Christmas joy and then plowing through it.

In its own post-modern way, “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas” is an essay on Christmas enthusiasm. Presents are fun. Seeing family is fun. Hearing grating, catchy music is fun. But it ultimately comes down to the shared experience of the season and the need to just make it work one more, oh God, just one more year.

That’s it. I’m done. Go enjoy Christmas, you vultures.

P.S.: Don’t cancel Community.

P.P.S.: Merry Christmas!

P.P.P.S.: Don’t cancel Community.

Mike Drucker is a lovely man with many positive characteristics. He has written for Saturday Night Live, The Onion, McSweeney's, and Nintendo. He's also a stand-up or something, I guess.

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