April 24, 2020

Community 2x11 “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas” Review: A Series Acme

I started binging Community the day it went on Netflix, and so far, I haven’t been disappointed. Somehow this show is the most unique sitcom I’ve ever seen, and it just keeps getting better. One of the standout episodes in my viewing binge so far came midway through Season 2, and I’m sure this episode will continue to stick out in my brain whenever I think of Community’s trademark “special episodes.”

The episode in question is, of course, “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas.” Brought to life entirely through stop-motion animation, the episode stays true to its title by focusing on Abed (Danny Pudi), who is having ‘delusions’ that the entire world is now animated. This continues the running joke of Abed being constantly aware that they exist in the world of a TV show, and allows for the show to accommodate situations that a live-action budget wouldn’t cover.

Abed’s delusions are tackled by Professor Ian Duncan (guest star John Oliver), who brings Abed (along with the rest of the study group) into an enchanting Christmas-themed wonderland. It’s there that the majority of the episode takes place, with all of the study group members transformed into Christmas-themed toys. Dan Harmon explained these choices best: “Abed sees Jeff as a big talking head with limited practical functionality [jack-in-the-box], and he sees Pierce as maybe deserving of more love than he gets [teddy bear], and sees Troy as a soldier, and sees Britta as a malfunctioning device [robot], and sees Annie as a creature of grace [ballerina], and sees Shirley as a big baby who feels entitled to the Christmas of her choosing.” I’m telling you, if you only need one reason to watch Community, it’s Dan freaking Harmon. His writing is what makes the show so special and unique. If you ever want to know what Community would be like without Dan Harmon, just check out the fourth season.

Abed’s journey into the Winter Wonderland is even brought up in a future episode, “Paradigms of Human Memory,” and we see exactly what was going on in real life, seemingly confirming that the whole thing took place in Abed’s mind. I’m not taking that as fact, though, because if there’s one thing Community is good at (which is wrong, there are many things it’s good at), it’s taking a nonchalant and casual approach to its canon. I’m honestly fine with either solution.

The Christmas-ified study group
The episode also continues Community’s trend of musical Christmas episodes. The songs, while short (to be expected of a 20-minute episode on network television) are uniquely original, funny, and are placed sensibly throughout the episode’s plot. My personal favorite is Abed’s “Queen of Christmas Babies,” followed by Annie’s equally hilarious variation about “Haircut in a Box.” They gain your trust with the humorous, jaunty tunes, and then you’re caught off guard when they hit you with a genuinely emotional song. In case you’re wondering, I’m referring to the “Britta-Bot” song. Dan Harmon’s writing is just flat-out terrific, able to intertwine emotion and silliness so seamlessly.

It isn’t perfect, of course, but it gets real damn close. Aside from barely making use of the already criminally underused Ken Jeong (something the second and third seasons of Community are infamously guilty of), the only thing “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas” falls short of is ending too early. Damn you, NBC, and your twenty-minute runtime restrictions. I could easily see this episode having enough material to fill at least another twenty minutes. Let’s make it happen! If there ever is going to be a sequential follow-up to any episode of Community, please let it be this one. [Grade: A+]

Director: Duke Johnson
Writers: Dino Stamatopoulos and Dan Harmon
Starring: Danny Pudi, Joel McHale, Donald Glover, Gillian Anderson, Alison Brie, Yvette Nicole Brown, Chevy Chase, Ken Jeong, Jim Rash, John Oliver
Rated: TV-14 (language)
Available: Netflix, Hulu
Fun Fact: Abed's mom's Christmas card ends with the phrase “Wash your dupa”. Dupa is the Polish word for “ass.”

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