Community Christmas Episodes (2009, 2010, and 2011)

To date, Lindsay and I have actually only watched four episodes of Community, three of which were about Christmas. To give you a sense of where this is going, we just bought the season one and two DVD sets on the strength of two of the Christmas episodes.

The episodes in question are completely different - in fact, each of the three is fundamentally in a different genre - but they're absolutely fantastic, both as Christmas episodes and as comedy. I'm going to look at them starting with the oldest, which is completely different from the order we actually watched them in.

Season One: Comparative Religion

This was actually the last one we watched, because we didn't even realize it existed until we bought the DVD sets. Unlike the other two, it doesn't have a major hook or gimmick - ostensibly, it's just an episode of a sitcom. However, it's also just about the funniest goddamn half-hour of television I've ever seen in my life. As much as I enjoyed the other two episodes, this was my favorite of the three.

The plot was structured around a conflict between Shirley and Jeff stemming from another conflict between Jeff and a bully. The comedy is fundamentally slapstick, but there the writing is nuanced and intelligent. The result is just about the most fun I've had watching anything this year.

Season Two: Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas

I'm actually seeing this one for the second time: I did catch this last year, right after Christmas. The blog had closed down for the year, so I resolved to catch it again this year and review it. Fortunately, it wasn't available online, thus prompting us to get the aforementioned DVD sets.

I get the sense this is probably the most famous episode of the series, and for good reason. The entire thing is shot in stop-motion, which is of course both expensive and time consuming.

The story is fundamentally a psychological comedy-drama where Abed tries to come to grips with the true meaning of Christmas. While not as funny as the season one episode, it delivers plenty of comedy on top of a surprisingly dark little tale.

Season Three: Regional Holiday Music

Having recently survived watching the Christmas episode of Glee, I found this therapeutic. This is a not-so-subtle parody of the campy musical series. And, as you'd expect, Community accomplishes this by turning into a musical, itself.

The songs are primarily parodies of holiday musical genres, and they're pretty good overall. There's been a healthy number of shows experimenting with musical episodes since Buffy: Once More With Feeling, and, while this doesn't rise to the level of that one or the Batman: Brave and Bold episode, Mayhem of the Music Meister, it certainly stands on its own.

All three of these were among the best holiday entertainment I've seen this year. If you've never seen this show, I strongly recommend checking it out. The third episode is streaming on Hulu for the time being, and the DVD sets seem to be a good price on Amazon and Best Buy.