Episode Title: "Regional Holiday Music"
Writers: Steve Basilone & Annie Mebane
Director: Tristram Shapeero
Last year's "Community" Christmas episode was one for the ages. It's going to be next to impossible to outdo "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas," and so "Community" didn't really try.
Instead, "Regional Holiday Music" took aim at the most evil show on TV… "Glee"!
Well, maybe "evil" is too strong a word. But "Glee" is definitely the mortal enemy of good and funny television.
Fortunately, the core study group hates the Greendale Glee Club so much that everyone laughs with Jeff (Joel McHale) as he arranges for the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers to serve the Glee club a cease-and-desist order for belting out their renditions of copyrighted tunes. Incidentally, the ASCAP acronym was amusing, as was Chang's (Ken Jeong) joy in shutting down the singers… who promptly had full-on mental breakdowns.
Therefore, Dean Pelton (Jim Rash) turned to the study group as an emergency replacement for the Glee club… again. Following Jeff's lead, the group refused and broke the heart of Cory Radison (Taran Killam), aka Mr. Rad. However, Jeff forgot to factor in Abed's (Danny Pudi) great love for Christmas and Mr. Rad soon won Abed over with a song about the joys of Glee and the promise of an epic Christmas pageant.
One by one, the group fell under the spell of Glee, as Mr. Rad and his converts attacked each person by using their own desires against them. Abed used a fantastic Christmas rap to convince Troy (Donald Glover) to become "Jehovah's Secret Witness" and enjoy the holiday in spite of his religion by pretending to infiltrate it. Next, they appealed to Pierce's (Chevy Chase) baby boomer vanity and later surrounded Annie (Alison Brie). Some time later, Annie laid the trap for Jeff with the one thing that he wants: her.
Wearing a sexy Santa outfit, Annie belts out "Teach Me How To Understand Christmas" to Jeff while pretending to loose IQ points with each verse. I'm not sure if Annie was just channeling Marilyn Monroe and Betty Boop or if this was satirizing the over-sexualization of teens on "Glee." But the dumber Annie acts, the more Jeff wants her.
Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) falls to her religious fervor when Pierce unleashes a group of singing school children who act like they don't know that Jesus Christ was born on Christmas. This leaves Britta (Gillian Jacobs) alone as the last hold out. And when she seeks out Jeff for support, the creepy smile on Joel McHale's face may have been the funniest visual on the entire show.
All of the original musical numbers were brilliant, especially the Troy and Abed rap. Even the way the songs were tailored for each victim was impressive. The only disappointing thing is that we never see the songs that converted Annie and Britta. What do they want that the Glee-ified versions of their friends were able to offer them?
Throughout the episode, there were hints that Mr. Rad wasn't as rad as he pretended to be. Mr. Rad was practically a Will Schuester and Sue Sylvester wrapped into one person, except more diabolical. You see, Mr. Rad had more far ranging plans for his new Glee club than a temporary pageant. Abed was subtly horrified when Mr. Rad shared his vision of Glee club domination by using the study group as his new team for the regionals and beyond.
Rad's first mistake was in sharing his strategy too soon with Abed the observer. Abed loves Christmas more than the others and he was simply in it to save the Christmas pageant. Rad's second mistake was intentionally recruiting Britta when he already knew that she can't sing. Thus, when Rad cast Britta in the pageant, she was the mute tree.
Abed's solution was deceptively simple. He switched roles with Britta and watched the chaos unfold. While Dean Pelton and the rest of Greendale were happy to give poor tone death Britta a chance in the spotlight, Mr. Rad seethed with rage and inadvertently blurted out that he murdered one of the preceding Glee clubs by cutting the brake lines on their school bus.
It seems like the writers of "Community" agree with Jeff's sentiment that trying to brighten the holidays only serves to make them darker. Even "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas" was predicated upon Abed's mental breakdown when he realized that his mother had essentially abandoned him for her new family. In this episode, Jeff had a revelation of his own dark behavior in the first half of the season. And when Jeff says out loud that he's basically killed someone (Pierce's dad) and come at the study group with an axe, it does sound really bad. Jeff even suggests that he'll start seeing a different psychologist to help him deal with his issues.
But the one thing that the study group has is each other: a strange and weird surrogate family that gathers at Abed, Troy and Annie's apartment. Together, they watch the infamously bad "Inspector Spacetime" holiday special; which is a great play on the infamous "Star Wars Holiday Special" during some of the crazier times in George Lucas' life. That special is all too real and it may be the one thing about "Star Wars" that Lucas has ever openly said that he regretted.
The bittersweet part of "Regional Holiday Music" is that this is a goodbye to "Community"… at least for now. Part of the reason fans are so attached to this show is that the core seven of the study group are so well-defined that it's almost impossible to dislike any of them despite their faults. The acting is great across the board and the writing is sharp… maybe too sharp for most of America. There's no good reason that "Community" isn't a breakout hit instead of in danger of cancellation.
So to all of you out there who are already fans of "Community," I say keep fighting the good fight and share this show with your friends. And if by some chance you stumbled across this review without ever having seen the series, I urge each and everyone of you to give "Community" a chance.
You won't regret it.
Crave Online Rating: 9 out of 10.