Welcome to Looking Streets Behind, a weekly Community retrospective column! Each week, we’ll dive into a Community episode that has reached the 10th-anniversary milestone. For this installment, we’re taking a trip to Planet Abed with “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas.” This episode is one of my favorite Community episodes of all time. It’s simultaneously heartwarming and heart-wrenching. Through it all, our study group aids Abed on his quest to discover his found family in a Christmas gone wrong. There’s a Christmas Pterodactyl, Christm-osis (Christmas-themed hypnosis), a Christmas wizard-turned-warlock and just … Christmas. All around. 

So, without further ado, let’s ditch the “Sad, Quick, Christmas Song” for Carol Canyon and the first season of Lost. The only difference is that I won’t hype this article up sans payoff. Unlike a certain show. 

But I digress. Set your control panels to “Björk“!

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The plot!
Still of Community cast in stop-motion animation for "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas."

Don’t tell Tim Burton about this.

The episode opens with our gang chatting about their Christmas plans. Abed (Danny Pudi) is disappointed to discover that his friends really have no holiday festivities. Although, frankly, Troy’s (Donald Glover) objective to play video games for two consecutive weeks sounds immensely festive. Abed nonchalantly reveals that everyone is currently stop-motion animated. This is Tim Burton‘s wet dream. 

Next, Abed bursts into song for the episode’s opening credits. It’s glorious. Suddenly, Abed is tasered by campus police when he starts merrily hopping on cars. Abed pays a visit to Professor Duncan (John Oliver) with Jeff (Joel McHale) and Britta (Gillian Jacobs) in tow. He’s sentenced to regular therapy sessions with Duncan. If Abed can’t get his shirt sorted, then Greendale will give him the boot. He retorts that he doesn’t want to attend a school that despises Christmas. 

Abed sings a “Sad, Quick, Christmas Song” while putting the finishing touches on a snowman. Well, a Chang-man (Ken Jeong). He’s quickly ushered into the study room wherein Duncan attempts to put the crew under “Christm-osis.”He’s a Christmas wizard and therefore has that ability. But Abed seizes control of Duncan’s hypnosis session. Now, the group is spinning through Christmas space en route to Planet Abed. Planet Abed is a magical winter wonderland. Here, Abed hopes to find the true meaning of Christmas. 

Duncan attempts to regain control of everything by urging Abed to venture to The Cave of Frozen Memories. Abed acquiesces, but only if they can make several pit stops along the way. Jeff, Britta, Troy, Annie (Alison Brie), Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) and Pierce (Chevy Chase) are now Christmas toys. That’s what happens when you set foot on Planet Abed. 

Shirley, who’s a toy baby, is promptly ousted from Abed’s wonderland courtesy of the Christmas Pterodactyl. Jeff gets the boot after a horde of Humbugs devours him. He just couldn’t refrain from using sarcasm as a defense mechanism. Guess he’s gonna go get laid! 

After traversing through Carol Canyon, the remaining members reach The Cave of Frozen Memories. Duncan swoops in (like a pterodactyl) and coaxes Abed to reveal a deep-seated memory that may be the cause of the stop-motion animation. However, Abed flips the script and elicits a tearful childhood memory out of Duncan. Our fearless (and boozy) Christmas Wizard takes his leave. Abed sets the cave to self-destruct but ultimately leaves Britta behind. Britta-bot is on Team Duncan and doesn’t want to find the true meaning of Christmas. Abed sings a ditty to see Britta off that certainly tugs at the heartstrings. As per her usual, Britta has the best intentions but not the best execution.

Now, Abed, Annie, Troy and Pierce are on a train heading for the North Pole. Duncan returns and attempts to thwart their efforts. Abed deems the professor a warlock, not a wizard. The Christmas Warlock is hellbent on destroying Christmas. After a brief encounter on top of the train cars, Annie and Troy unhinge said cars so Abed can freely continue his journey to the North Pole. Pierce-bear tags along because he was stuck in the bathroom and he desperately wants a cookie. After setting the train to “Björk,” which is about as cool as you can get, the pair are on their way. 

Finally, the duo arrives at Santa’s workshop. So, where’s the meaning of Christmas? Pierce points out a package that has “True meaning of Christmas” inscribed on the gift tag. After digging deep, Abed discovers a DVD of the first season of Lost. He understands the metaphor. Loads of set-ups, little payoff. 

Suddenly, Duncan reappears and demands Abed face his reality. Nobody is stop-motion animated and they aren’t in a Christmas wonderland. Duncan procures a card Abed’s mother sent him that was on the latter’s dorm room floor. She reveals that, because of her new family, she can’t visit Abed for Christmas. December 9 was a special day for Abed. Now, the tradition is shattered. Abed freezes. He becomes catatonic. 

Thankfully, the rest of the Greendale Seven return with a song and badass toy weaponry to ceremoniously kick Duncan off Planet Abed. The song is festive, cheerful and chock full of Community joy. Duncan is carried off by the Christmas Pterodactyl and subsequently explodes. 

Later, the crew decides to remain in stop-motion form for the rest of Christmas. By the episode’s end, we see their real-life reflections on a TV screen, which is a nice touch. The end credit scene reveals stop-motion antics featuring Troy and Abed switching heads. Those two are incorrigible! 

The one-liners and gags!
Still of Community cast in stop-motion animation for "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas."

Time for a festive smackdown.

One of my favorite running gags in “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas” is Duncan saying, “Shut up, Winger” to Jeff three times. You know, since comedy comes in threes. Of course, Annie and Shirley’s “aw” moments are always appreciated. Abed’s song snippet for Britta tore my heart in two. “Britta-bot programmed badly, wires with fraying ends. Functioning mad and sadly, no faith in herself or friends.” Annie’s line about taking a relaxation course never fails to garner a chuckle from me. “I’m taking a relaxation course next semester and I was going to use the break to do all the reading in advance.” Typical Annie!

I also love Jeff’s sardonic remarks when they’re on Planet Abed, particularly: “Wow. Somewhere out there Tim Burton just got a boner.” That, and “Guess I’m gonna go get laid!” whenever the Humbugs pick his bones clean. Classic Winger. I don’t know why, but I always get a kick out of whenever Pierce says, “Bleep bloop for me too” in response to Britta’s robot noises. There’s Troy’s line when Duncan vehemently tries to sway Abed: “Whoa, who taught you therapy, Michael Jackson’s dad?” 

This episode boasted the gift of Community original music. The world needs more Community music. Craves it. Additionally, I noticed that, while Duncan and Dean Pelton (Jim Rash) are sharing a drink, Shirley swipes the Menorah from the school cafeteria. It’s a lovely little detail that shows how much she’s learning to embrace other religions. Back on Planet Abed, you can see the snowmen move in the background. I like to pretend one of them is Chang-man, attempting desperately to insert himself into study group shenanigans. 

Fun Easter egg: when you spot the real-life crew on the cartoon TV screen, you can still see stop-motion Pierce holding his prized cookie. 

The Christmas Pterodactyl of it all!
Still of John Oliver and Jim Rash in stop-motion animation for Community's "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas."

When imbibing, Dean Pelton rejects non-denominational Mr. Winter.

Community has heart, and this episode is a stark reminder of that. I always tear up whenever the gang is singing to unfreeze Abed. It’s evident they love each other so much. Of course, the pervasive lesson is family. Not just your blood kin, but your found family. Christmas can be whatever you want it to be. As long as you have loved ones with which to celebrate, the rituals really don’t matter. Make your own traditions. Just be merry happy, when all is said and done.

“Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas” is a jovial jaunt for the holiday season that solidifies itself as one of the best Christmas episodes of any TV show. It’ll turn your frown upside down, fill your bah-humbug heart with cheer and remind you that the season is whatever you make of it. 

So, gather your family, sing a non-sad, quick, Christmas song; resist sarcasm to avert any Humbugs and set phasers to Björk. Keep the Christmas Pterodactyl on hand though, should a Grinch attempt to drain your festive fountain dry. 

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What do you love most about Community‘s “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas”? Sound off in the comments below! Be sure to join me next week for another installment of Looking Streets Behind, where we’ll be ranking the Community Christmas episodes (Yes, I’m aware there are only three). Merry Happy! 

Until then, stay streets ahead. 

 

 

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