Image Map

Thursday Night 'Lights: Christmas Time is Here

headshots of Leslie Knope, Dwight Schrute, and Jeff Winger from the NBC comedy lineupIt's our final week with this lineup of NBC comedies, and each one rose to the challenge by providing enjoyable holiday-themed episodes. For the last time in 2011 (sniff), let's get recapping.

COMMUNITY

"For awhile there I thought the semester was going to end on a really dark note. I'm glad we're dancing and singing instead. It's been a good time."

Oh Abed, if you knew how prophetic that statement would turn out to be. As the last Community episode to air before an indefinite hiatus, it was sadly fitting that the characters noted how difficult the past few months have been, mirroring the series' continued struggles in the ratings. But at least the show went out on a deliriously creative high note.

It was a lot of fun to see the characters belt out tunes nefariously designed to draw each one of them into Mr. Rad's glee club. But what stayed with me after the episode ended was the impetus for it: Abed's yearning for the group to spend the holiday together. As an avid consumer of pop culture, Abed has surely absorbed the way television, music and movies insist upon the holidays as a time of joy, merriment and familial bonding, and was looking to mirror that in his own life. (Last year he did this by imagining everyone as Claymation characters.)

But as Jeff said, "forcing the brightness to be bright makes the dark underneath seem darker." Abed hoping that the glee club's aggressive cheeriness would spur his friends into the holiday mood made his alienation and loneliness truly palpable. Only after he provoked Britta to ruin the Christmas pageant did his friends recognize his need for them. The fact that they could all come together for him by arriving at his doorstep singing a Christmas carol, without their usual in-fighting and cynical quips, demonstrated how much they have bonded into a genuine family.

And that's where we leave Community for now, with the characters gathered around the television to watch the terrible Inspector Spacetime special. Let's hope we have the opportunity to see them on our TV screens again very soon.

Random asides:

  • The songs on this episode were fantastic. Troy and Abed's rap gave Donald Glover a chance to unleash his Childish Gambino skills, but I think I enjoyed their Baby Boomer Santa number even more. The musical time-shifting from doo wop to disco was hilarious (Glover does a surprisingly spot-on Bob Dylan impression). And how perfectly diabolical to draft Shirley into glee club by having sad-faced kids sing about the emptiness that comes from not knowing who celebrates a birthday on December 25th.
  • Community never misses a chance to put Annie in a sexy costume for its male fanbase, but to echo Jeff yet again, there really is a diminishing return on her sexiness. Her purposefully cloying, Betty Boop number was pretty funny, especially the last line of "boop boop be doo boop sex." But they're going a little overboard in objectifying Annie, to the point where it can be a real detriment to her character. At this rate, every time Alison Brie shows cleavage, I expect all of Greendale (and the Internet) to shout "Annie's Boobs!" like the Cheers gang did for Norm.
  • Gillian Jacobs was fantastic singing her horrendous heart's song, which included her saying "Me So Christmas!", a callback to her hungry pizza song from the episode featuring multiple storylines. Also loved the Dean muttering "Oh, Britta's in this?" when seeing her on stage.
  • It feels sort of dated to be dissing Glee at this point, since the show is no longer the ratings and cultural juggernaut it once was, but the jokes still worked. In particular I enjoyed Pierce's confusion about regionals, the Glee-esque bearded piano player in the study room and Taran Killiam's portrayal of Mr. Rad. He really nailed everything that makes Mr. Schue so irritating.
  • This week's tag was perfection, maybe the funniest one Community has ever done (and they have done a lot of great ones). I could watch it again and again. If you want to do the same, watch it here.  Merry Chang-mas everyone!

PARKS AND RECREATION

"Giving Christmas gifts is like a sport to me...because I always win. This year my friends won. In fact I got my ass handed to me."

If Leslie Knope ever decides to give up her career in government, she should consider becoming a personal shopper. We first glimpsed her gift-giving skills in the season 2 episode "Eagleton" when she gave Ron Swanson the perfect birthday present (steak, whiskey and solitude), so it was fun to see this talent used for the rest of the staff. Then, watching Leslie's ass get handed to her by their present of gingerbread office, wood-carved City Council office and a "Knope 2012" campaign staff, I got nearly as emotional as Ron when he was discussing his remote-controlled office doors.

Like Leslie, I was convinced that her City Council bid was over, because it made sense that there would be real fallout from her and Ben's office romance. Based on what we've seen of the Pawnee citizenry, they're a pretty judgmental bunch (Joan in particular would have a field day with the scandal), and a candidate who polls at milkshake-sip level is not going to retain her political backers, no matter how qualified.

So it's a nice twist to have her staff act as her support system for once, and give her the ability to stay in the race. It's easy to envision that that Ben "Resigned in Disgrace" Wyatt will eventually come on board as well. Then again, as a commenter noted in last week's post, it would be more intriguing to see Ben in the role of political spouse. After all, he seems to be embracing his return to the private sector, and might prefer assisting Leslie by sustaining her with sugary spaghetti, adorable nicknames, and back rubs during what's sure to be a challenging campaign.

Random asides:

  • Of all Leslie's gifts, I most coveted April's artwork depicting her brutal vanquishing of the Black Eyed Peas. And for some reason, Jerry's socks. 
  • Was anyone else expecting Donna's robe to emblazoned with "Treat Yo Self" instead of "You Can Get It"?
  • Jean-Ralphio has amazing hair. So amazing that he briefly trended on Twitter during the hilarious tag of him seeking the boring accounting for accountants job.
  • Leslie's presents are Ron's emotional Kryptonite. I can't remember a time—except for Lil' Sebastian's funeral—when we've seen him so verklempt.  
  • You know what's a fun thing to do when procrastinating, say, writing a TV recap, or just about anything else? Studying Leslie's word cloud. Her preoccupations are are both expected (Cady Stanton, waffles) and unexpected (Seal, seals, jeggings).
  • Leslie is revealed to have great TV taste in this episode. Downton Abbey is in her word cloud too, and she quotes Friday Night Lights while rallying her PCP.

THE OFFICE

"I get really pranky when I drink."

If The Office is a coma patient clinging to life, then Mindy Kaling the is the defibrillator that momentarily jolts it back into consciousness. The Office has a history of enjoyable Christmas episodes, with Michael Scott (usually dressed as Santa) instigating the holiday party shenanigans. I worried his absence from the series would be felt acutely during this week's show, but luckily this one was penned by Kaling, who added enough humorous touches to make the show engaging, and sometimes even laugh-out-loud funny.

Last week I talked about how much the characters seemed to dislike each other, but everyone was on much friendlier terms this week. I'm not sure whether it was because Kaling wrote this episode, or because the Dunder Mifflin gang were drinking throughout, but it was nice to watch them enjoy each other's company again. As in Christmas episodes past, the gang did shots together, exchanged gifts, and enjoyed some rollicking holiday music, courtesy of Dwight. 

Unfortunately, we had witness yet another Jim/Dwight prank war, something both these guys should have tired of years ago. (Jim in particular needs to stop smugly looking at the camera for approval.) You have to sympathize with temp worker Cathy, whose request to be transferred out of their cluster provokes this latest go-round. I wish Andy did follow through on his threat to take away their bonuses, because it might have finally stopped this played-out dynamic between them. The sole highlight of this subplot was the porcupine, which is not saying much.

The Love Triangle No One Cares About also chugged along, with Erin reacting to meeting Andy's girlfriend by getting wasted. Ellie Kemper did a great job  in portraying Erin's alcohol-fueled sadness, but this dramatic turn feels a little manipulative, like the writers want the Erin/Andy romance to be viewed as equal to the Jim/Pam and Michael/Holly relationships. Andy and Erin are too one-dimensional to fuel a season's worth of will they/won't they angst. But based on how much their characters were featured this episode, it seems that's what's in store for viewers anyway. My Christmas wish is for Kaling to write every episode from here on out, to at least make this story arc bearable. 

Random asides: 

  • I loved everything about Toby and his mystery novel. (Perhaps he was inspired by his stint in jury duty for the Scranton Strangler case?) His earnest description of Jack Flenderman, street-smart black guy, Oxford student and leading Egyptologist, was the funniest moment of the episode.
  • Second funniest one belonged to Creed for commenting "we have a real Clarence Thomas here" when seeing Darryl in a tux. 
  • Darryl and Val's burgeoning relationship received only about five minutes of airtime this week, but I'm glad the writers are letting this romance inch along too.
  • The Black Eyed Peas received their second (negative) reference of the night, with Robert California's Ryan-approved explanation of their popularity.
  • So glad that newly separated Robert didn't make a move on Erin. It would have been too creepy, and Robert's character would never be able to come back from such low behavior. 
  • Kaling wrote her character some fun moments in this episode. I personally related to Kelly's blank stare after Robert wished her a Happy [random Hindu holiday celebrated around the same time as Christmas]. I also liked how Erin deployed Kelly like a bomb on Jessica, Andy's new girlfriend.
  • After Stanley's rant about all their past holiday parties, my second Christmas wish is to experience a Mo Rocca Christmas party.

 

Bitch Media publishes the award-winning quarterly magazine, Bitch:Feminist Response to Pop Culture. Pitch in to support feminist media: Subscribe today

Subscribe to Bitch


Comments

14 comments have been made. Post a comment.

Toby's mystery novel was

Toby's mystery novel was hilarious, and I agree with you on Erin & Andy's relationship- they are just too one-dimensional for anyone to really care. I'm more excited to see what's going to happen with Darryl and Val. I've always like Darryl, pretty much every time he's on camera (which isn't often enough) he makes me laugh. I have to disagree with you on Jim & Dwight's pranks though, I've always loved that story line.
I also think its good that Robert California didn't do anything inappropriate, that would have really ruined his character, and taken the show to a whole different level. I'm still not sure how I feel about The Office without Michael Scott- he was the star of the show, and is probably still my favorite character of all time. I know a lot of people who say they never really liked him that much though, and they watched the show because they liked the other characters so much, so you never know, they might make it!

I enjoy these recaps so

I enjoy these recaps so thoroughly! Also, I'm so glad I wasn't the only one that expected "Treat Yo'self!" to be on the back of Donna's PJs!

I happened to see the first

I happened to see the first comment made about this post right after it was published, but I see now it has been deleted and I have to wonder why. It was a legitimate criticism of the author's lack of any feminist analysis of the shows recapped in this series. I've wondered the same thing myself. What happened to the feminism, Bitch? That's why I support you with subscriptions and donations, not for roundups that can be found anywhere else on the internet. And why did you delete that comment? It was a totally valid observation.

Hi Rusty, Thanks for your

Hi Rusty,

Thanks for your comment and your support. I deleted the comment you mentioned because it went beyond responding to the content of Kirthana's post and turned into a personal attack, which is against our policy (linked to in my signature below).

To answer your "What happened to the feminism?" question: We publish multiple blog posts per day on this site, and we strive to provide a variety of levels of analysis and types of content. We have some readers who are quite advanced in their feminism, and some other readers for whom the very idea of analyzing pop culture is new. Hopefully, if you find a post like a recap or a gift guide to be lacking in feminist analysis, you can scroll down the page and find some content that's more critical and more to your liking.

Hope that helps!

____________
Kelsey Wallace, contributor

Ask me about our Comments Policy!

I agree with Rusty

It seems like lately bitch is more interested in just having tons of content and less in having it be relevant to the orgs mission. Too bad. I think the potential for these Thursday night line up posts is huge and I think the blogger is missing the mark most weeks. So this is a note to the actual author, not to bitch, a bit more feminist analysis would be more interesting than a recap with personal preferences.

I think there's room on this site for a variety

I've been reading Bitch magazine since 2001 and in that time there's always been a spectrum of "Feminist response to pop culture" from serious in-depth critique to things more like this - pop-culture response written by and for feminists while not overtly theory-drenched in every iteration. Now that this site is, as you say seemingly ramping up the volume of content provided, it make sense to me that that spectrum stays filled out. The print magazine is just as awesome as ever, and all these 'extras' are a great new direction in my opinion.

I like this series of recaps because they're clever and fun, but also because I know that I'm not going to run into obnoxious misogynist claptrap entrenched within them. That itself puts them waaay above similar content elsewhere.

Clarifying

While I've been reading the print publication since 2001, I've only been following this site regularly for about a year and a half. So perhaps there's been an evolution in the online presence I'm unaware of.

"I see a lot of myself in you!"

I appreciated Annie's Christmas number, because it seemed like Community was poking fun at its own Annie's-hot-because-she's-basically-a-kid shtick, which I hate. I've always enjoyed the Community/Glee rivalry too, especially with the knowledge that the shows are studio neighbors and share clothes. I enjoyed The Office's Glee-themed episode, "Viewing Party," but it's appropriate that Community's would hit much closer to home. Wish we'd gotten more Britta, but at least her friends treated her well for once. And wow, did they tease us with those Annie/Abed and Britta/Troy cuddles at the end, or what?

As for The Office, what's to say? I liked the first half, which was mildly plotted ensemble silliness, but then the episode devolved into romantic drama. Again. I can't imagine the show will be renewed.

Check out our Comments Policy!

Just noticed another awesome

Just noticed another awesome lyric from Community, Abed singing: "On the spectrum? None of your business"

Funny response to all the speculation about whether or not Abed would qualify for an Asperger's Disorder diagnosis.

Aha!

Good call, Ms. A! My first thought was that it was a reference to Abed's ambiguous sexuality (ie., Kinsey spectrum).

Check out our Comments Policy!

Did you see "Biden" made the

Did you see "Biden" made the cloud too? One of my favorite lines is when Leslie describes the perfect man as having the mind of George Clooney in the body of Joe Biden.

In defense of wildlife

Can I just say... I loved the porcupine. I couldn't help it! Giggled like a little girl.

Ditto! Far too adorable, and

Ditto! Far too adorable, and a perfect pet for Dwight.

The Office

Toby warms the cockles of my heart every time he has screen-time -- he's so *sad* -- and his novel just kills me. I agree, too, that Mindy Kaling is pumping this show's chest. And, of course, Stanley hits it out of the park with his Christmas tirade (I would like to an office party that's got a Pump Fiction Christmas theme, and I love the references to off-screen Christmases that have happened on the office, along with the ones we have seen, since it creates a sense of depth of character experiences within the frame of the Office world).