Community: Season 3, Episode 10
Regional Holiday Music
One of the themes this season of Community has continuously returned to at its best is the idea that, in this era of post-modernism, post-irony, and meta-textualism, its still ok to just like things. In fact, it might even be a good thing. One could read this in a meta-textual way (which would not be out of the question for this show) as a reaction to the inevitable backlash that the show has experienced in some circles this season, but I don't think that explains it. Community has always been a show that was willing to cut the snark and show that underneath all of its anger and cleverness, there is a heart that beats for each of its characters, whether or not that's cool. "Regional Holiday Music" is not a great episode of the show, and it is not the epic send-off I had hoped for. The plot is kind of tired, and I preferred the show's Glee bashing in small doses, but it still delivered a resonant message, the sort of thing that the show has been trying to impart all year, and hoping that Jeff will learn right along with it's audience.
This is the last Community write-up I will get to do for who knows how long. The show is now officially on indefinite hiatus, and while I hope NBC's winter schedule tanks so badly we get it back by March, it may be summer time before I get to revisit Greendale and parse over the show with you guys each week. For that reason, let's get the stuff about this episode that didn't work out of the way as quickly as possible.
Glee club director Mr. Rad (Taran Killam, who was game without ever really extending into funny) needs the group to step in for the Glee Club again after Jeff uses the law to cause the current incarnation to have simultaneous nervous break downs. I liked the premise that Mr. Rad was completely insane and that Glee could be caught like a virus, and I enjoyed Community's attempt to make a holiday horror movie, but none of this ever coalesced the way the best episodes of the show do.
The concept of an episode full of original songs was exciting to me, especially after Abed and Mr. Rad's incredibly clever duet, but the rest of the songs felt, well, flat. Troy and Abed rapping was funnier in concept than in actuality (I enjoyed the reveal of them just standing in the bedroom and Annie's desire to join), and while I am hardly one to complain about Alison Brie in a sexy Santa outfit (and while I completely recognize the entire point of this sequence was to make a joke out of how overtly sexualized she is, while also doing a riff on one of the worst Christmas carols out there, "Santa baby"), her number went a little bit too far into creepy infantilization. I get that the joke was premised on the devolution, and I think the premise is a strong one, but somehow it fell flat in execution.
Even the heartwarming conclusion, in which the gang decided they wanted to spend Christmas together, lacked the emotional impact it seemed to think it had. The show acknowledged this has been a dark semester for the group (As Jeff pointed out, "I basically killed a guy, and I attacked you with a fire axe.") and it just needed to have some holiday cheer to brighten things up, and I am all for that. Unfortunately, instead of creating a modern holiday classic like they did last year in "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas," they created something more akin to the Inspector Spacetime special they all gather to watch: it wasn't very good, but at least it was sort of compelling.
There were a lot of good ideas here. A christmas horror episode? Sounds funny. An episode-long parody of Glee? I'll bite. The concept that, in order to save Christmas, Abed has to ruin it with Britta? That's funny (at least in theory). Somewhere within "Regional Holiday Music" there was a classic episode of Community, one for the ages. But it was buried pretty deep.
Yet, as I said above, its message was still resonant. Thinking about this episode, there was a lot of analysis I could have mapped on; there were plenty of things I could have read into it and called brilliant, but it would have been disingenuous. What isn't a lie is the reason I thought about all of that: It's because I love Community. I love it a lot. I love it so much it hurts, so much I wish I was blind to the flaws of this episode, so much I am deeply, deeply invested in its return. When I wrote about "Remedial Chaos Theory," I wrote about how this show, at its best, isn't just about characters trying to be better people, but functions as an active attempt to make its audience better as well. I wrote about how I tend to be a "no" person, and I imagine that is true for most people who are huge fans of this show. It can be hard to become a "yes" person. It can be hard to open yourself up. What Community tells us is it might just be worth it to take down the walls we build, to put away the snark, and to just like something every once in a while. This wasn't a great episode of Community, but Community is a great television show. And, at this time of year, in this moment where the show's future is uncertain, I think we can all look past this week's flaws and just admit it: We like this show.
-I did find the regionals jokes funny, especially "What the hell are regionals?" "They're this close, Pierce!"
-Second best Glee joke: When the gang walked into the redesigned study room and Pierce checked to make sure everyone else could see the guy at the piano.
-As a continuity nerd, I loved that the show recognized the gang took over for the Glee Club once before (in an episode we never saw, but that was alluded to in "Paradigms of Human Memory), and that we learned tonight that Mr. Rad was responsible for the bus crash that forced them to do that in the first place.
-"This guy is like human fro-yo."
-"He is equal parts Hanson and Manson."
-"Hey guys. Rapping?"
-Best lyric of the night: "Glee, its a feeling you get when your brain finally let's your heart get in its pants." CLOSE runner-up: "Boopy boopy boop doop sex."
-"Pierce, they're just trying to pander to your generation's well-documented sense of vanity."
-"You're welcome for everything in the world."
-"I'm scared to go in the study room. There are so many top hats in there."
-"We asked our public school to give us the answer, but they can only tell us not to pray."
"This is what we do now. This is who we are now."
-"Oh, Britta's in this?"