Rob McCarthy searches out the meaning of Christmas...
The 2010 Christmas special from Community was one of the most ambitious episodes ever, and with Community that's really saying something. Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas was a parody of the classic Rankin/Bass stop motion animated stories, and also doubled as a musical episode.
The episode begins during Greendale Community College's politically correct non-denominational holiday celebration, and Abed starts seeing everybody in claymation. He sees this as a sign that he must seek out the true meaning of Christmas, the rest of the gang think it's a sign of on oncoming mental breakdown, whilst Greendale's resident psychologist Professor Duncan sees this as an opportunity for a profitable book and some respect in his field. So Duncan leads an innovative therapy session to find the source of Abed's supposed distress.
Off we go to Planet Abed, a winter wonderland of Abed's imagination in which everybody is a fun holiday version of themselves (Jeff-in-the-Box, Troy Soldier, and the adorable Teddy Pierce). Duncan wants to head to the Cave of Frozen Memories to continue his therapy, but Abed believes the only way to get to the bottom of his ailment is to find The True Meaning of Christmas, which he expects to be at the North Pole.
Not only does this episode pay homage to Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer and those Christmas specials we all know and love, but there is also a very strong Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory vibe throughout. It starts with just a casual reference to the film, but as the story goes on we see characters expelled one at a time, with each one getting their own little Oompa Loompa song. The first to go is big baby Shirley, soon after that Jeff is devoured by sarcasm-seeking humbugs.
Duncan finally gets to the Cave, but ends up only finding his own sad repressed memories. By the time Abed finally makes it to the North Pole he is only accompanied by Pierce. In a box labeled "The Meaning of Christmas," he finds a DVD of the first season of Lost! Theorising that it is a metaphore, as it "represents a lack of pay-off", Abed realises that his distress is due to the fact that his mother "had a new family" and won't be visiting him this year, as she had always done previously for the holidays.
This was such a strong episode of Community. The show consistently leaves me laughing out loud, but this time it also broke my heart a little. And then, in the end, when the study group banded together to share Christmas with one another, it was heartwarming. Just as a great Christmas tale should be.
From the Christmas pterodactyl, to Abed fondling snowman Chang. From "Troy and Abed in stop-motion" to the adapted opening titles. Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas is now on my must watch list for each and every Christmas season.