As I was watching Community‘s glorious entry into the claymation Christmas canon last night, I couldn’t help from thinking about my essay about the series that discusses Abed’s popular culture-tinted worldview. Last night’s episode is kind of an obvious example for the points I make in that long essay, but I’m not really sure that makes them any less valid. Some weeks, Abed needs to film Jeff and Britta so he can make a movie about the guilt he feels in relation to his parents’ divorce. Other weeks, he needs to dress up as Jesus and make a film about Jesus as a way to understand Christianity a little better. And this week, his whole world crumbles so much when he finds out that his mother won’t be continuing their annual trend of watching claymation Christmas specials, everything actually turns into a claymation Christmas special.
This is beyond heartbreaking. I, and I imagine most fans of the series out there, feel unbelievably sad for Abed after the events of this episode. I talked to a number of people who thought last week’s episode was just tremendously sad, and I’ll be interested to see how those individuals react to this episode. On the surface, “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas” is probably even more depressing, but just like “Mixology Certification,” the final act pulls everything together in such a way that you can help but smile.
Most importantly, “Christmas” tells us a nice story about the value of friendship and the lengths people are willing to go in hopes of making their friend feel better. Certainly, this is television and I’m not sure that anyone in real life would act out a claymation winter wonderland full of Christmas pterodactyl’s and Humbugs, but in the heightened world of Greendale Community College, I can buy it — especially with these people. The fact that even Jeff and Britta are able to come back and go with it is beyond words fantastic. I know I love this series and tend to be hyperbolic when discussing it, but man, that was awesome.
And really, it’s the little moments that make this episode so wonderful: Pierce coming back and getting a nice beat about loneliness is just as heartbreaking as Abed’s story; Annie’s little kiss on the cheek to Abed before dropping down the secret slide; The way in which Britta’s claymation lip quivered just a bit; The claymation version of the Troy-Abed handshake; Duncan’s breakdown; The Lost gag. I could go on for another paragraph, but you get the point.
Of course this episode is a gimmick, but like most of the series’ “gimmick” episodes (well, except maybe “Basic Rocket Science”), there is an obvious intent for why the gimmick is used in the first place. It’s weird though because I feel as if I just keep repeating myself in these Community reviews by saying something along the lines of “Well, this just shows that the series can do just about anything and fit inside any sort of template,” and well….this just shows that the series can do just about anything and fit inside any sort of template. So much so that friend of the blog Daniel Walters wrote about that very fact this week!
Obviously, the claymation is beautiful. This episode just looks fantastic. The characters all look wonderful and enough like their real selves that there is little to complain about. And although there was certainly something lost in the transfer over to claymation in terms of line delivery and facial expressions, but frankly, I can forgive that. I wouldn’t want to watch the series do this every week or even every year, but as a one time thing, with an extremely strong story behind it, there’s no point it getting too wound up over the fact that we didn’t get to see Donald Glover or Alison Brie’s awesome reaction shots.
“Abed’s Controllable Christmas” probably won’t go down as a classic in the way that NBC would want to air it every year around this time, but it should. It’s sad, but uplifting, tragic, but glorious. It might not be the funniest episode of Community ever, but it certainly one of the best. Without question.