Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas
|"Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas"|
The characters in stop motion animation form. From left to right: Teddy Pierce, Troy Soldier, Baby Shirley, Abed, Wizard Duncan, BallerAnnie, Britta-Bot, Jeff-in-the-box.
|Directed by||Duke Johnson|
|Original air date||December 9, 2010|
"Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas" is the 11th episode of the second season of the American comedy television series Community, and the 36th episode overall. The episode originally aired on NBC on December 9, 2010 as a stop motion Christmas-themed episode.
At lunch on the final day of classes, Abed believes that the upcoming Christmas is the most important Christmas ever due to his perception of the entire group as being stop-motion animated. While the group is worried about Abed's mental health, he decides to commit to the format, singing along to a Christmas version of the show's theme song until he is tasered by campus security in the parking lot while jumping on top of cars.
In a meeting with Professor Duncan alongside Britta and Jeff, Abed rejects Duncan's proposal for extensive therapy sessions to discover the cause of his delusion in favor of searching for the meaning of Christmas. While Britta and Jeff worry about Abed potentially being expelled from school, Duncan is more interested having his work on Abed's case published. After working on a snowman outside, who is revealed to be Señor Chang, Abed is tricked into a group therapy session in the library study room with Duncan, Jeff, Britta, Annie, Shirley, Troy and Pierce. He agrees to allow Duncan to use "Christmas-nosis" to transport him to the Planet Abed with the entire group.
Upon arriving on the Christmas-themed planet, Abed sets out with the group to find the meaning of Christmas at the North Pole, but Duncan insists that they first visit the Cave of Frozen Memories. Along the way, Duncan ejects Shirley from the fantasy with a remote-controlled Christmas pterodactyl after she insists that she already knows the meaning of Christmas, while Jeff is eaten alive by a swarm of humbugs attracted to his sarcasm. Arriving at the Cave of Frozen Memories, Duncan asks Abed to access his repressed memories, but in the process of demonstrating the technique, Duncan reveals that his father was absent from his childhood Christmases and leaves the fantasy distressed. Abed initiates a self-destruct sequence and leaves the cave with Pierce, Troy and Annie, but asks Britta to stay behind in the crumbling cave (i.e. leave the fantasy) because she tricked him into therapy.
Arriving on a train to the North Pole, Pierce leaves the fantasy after having eaten all of the cookies in the study room. Abed talks about how his mother comes to visit on December 9 every year and watches Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer with him. However, he is confused when Troy reminds him that the date is December 9. Duncan arrives on the train and tells Abed that he knows the reason for his delusion, but Abed climbs to the top of the train and races to the front of the car, with Annie and Troy stopping Duncan from chasing after him. Pierce returns to Abed's fantasy, saying that the Christmas season is depressing at home by himself.
The two arrive at Santa's workshop at the North Pole, where Abed finds a package that he believes to contain the meaning of Christmas, but actually contains a DVD set of the first season of Lost, which he says symbolizes lack of payoff. Duncan returns and shows Abed a Christmas card from his mother that he found in his dorm room, in which his mother tells him that she won't be visiting him for Christmas this year in order to spend the holiday with her new family. Upon hearing this, Abed is frozen in a block of ice. However, the entire group returns and shoots their Christmas guns at Duncan while singing a song before ejecting him from the fantasy with the Christmas pterodactyl, which subsequently explodes. An unfrozen Abed says that he realizes, "The meaning of Christmas is the idea that Christmas has meaning. And it can mean whatever we want."
The group leaves the fantasy and returns to the study room, where they agree to keep the stop-motion fantasy going through the holiday. They later watch Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer together in Abed's dorm room, and a reflection of the real-life characters is seen in the television.
During the final scene, Abed and Troy sit in the study room still in stop-motion. While Abed is worried since it wasn't he who made them stop-motion this time, Troy assures him that he wanted it this time. The two then decide to switch heads with one another.
The episode was written by series creator Dan Harmon and Dino Stamatopoulos, who portrays Star-Burns in the series and is also the creator of the stop-motion animated series Moral Orel and Mary Shelley's Frankenhole. The episode was directed by Duke Johnson. It was made in the style of Rankin/Bass' stop motion Christmas specials, such as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town. Dan Harmon stated in an interview with TV Guide that "There's a reason for it to be stop-motion animated, but it's not a dream. It still exists within the reality of the show."
The production of the episode was overseen by owners of 23D Films, James Fino and Joe Russo (not to be confused with Joe Russo, a director and executive producer on Community). The animation process was completed in four months, less than half the time it takes to produce an episode of The Simpsons. Fino said animators of the films Coraline and The Nightmare Before Christmas also contributed to the animation. On August 1, 2010, creator Dan Harmon informed Dino Stamatopoulos and Joe Russo that NBC had approved the idea of an animated episode. Two weeks later, Harmon and Stamatopoulos finished the script, and the art department began production on the sets and puppets. Animation began on October 18, though a week later they discovered Pierce was in a wheelchair and had to add a stop-motion wheelchair. One day prior to airing, the completed shots were handed in by 23D Films. Russo said about the project, "We wondered if we could do it. But we knew we'd regret it down the road if we weren't part of this, producing a special episode of a really cool show."
The episode loosely follows the plot of The Polar Express, while serving as an homage to stop motion Christmas specials such as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town. When Shirley and Jeff are ejected from Abed's Christmas wonderland, Abed and Annie each sing a short moralistic song about their transgressions, similar to those sung by the Oompa Loompas in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Abed finds the meaning of Christmas in a Christmas gift with the first season of Lost on DVD, saying the metaphor means "lack of payoff", later saying "The meaning of Christmas is the idea that christmas has meaning. And it can mean whatever we want...Thanks Lost." When Duncan and Troy teleport, they do so by taking a deep breath and holding their nose. This is identical to the method used in the 1970s British children's television series Rentaghost.
In its original American broadcast, "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas" was viewed by an estimated 4.295 million viewers receiving a 1.9 rating/6% share among adults between the ages of 18 and 49. The overall viewership was adjusted down for NBC due to NFL game local broadcasts in Indianapolis and Nashville. The episode tied with the rating from the previous episode, "Mixology Certification".
The episode received positive reviews from critics. Todd VanDerWerff of The A.V. Club rated the episode with an A, commenting that "What "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas" gets that very, very few Christmas specials or episodes have gotten in the history of the medium is the fact that, ultimately, this holiday, more than any other, is intensely personal." TV Squad writer Maggie Furlong called the episode "as touching and poignant as this show has ever been".
The character animator Drew Hodges won an Emmy Award for Individual Achievement in Animation at Creative Arts Emmys 2011, making it the first Emmy for the show despite not being nominated in major categories.
- "Community Plans Stop-Motion Animated Christmas Episode". TV Guide. September 18, 2010. Archived from the original on 19 September 2010. Retrieved September 19, 2010.
- "The Making of Community's Animated Holiday Episode". TV Guide. December 10, 2010. Retrieved December 12, 2010.
- Furlong, Maggie (December 9, 2010). "'Community' Season 2, Episode 11 Recap". TV Squad. Archived from the original on 29 December 2010. Retrieved 2010-12-11.
- Gorman, Bill (December 10, 2010). "Thursday Final Ratings: 'Bones,' 'Fringe,' 'Community,' '30 Rock,' 'Office,' 'Apprentice' Adjusted Down; 'Big Bang Theory,' 'Walters: Oprah' Up". TV by the Numbers. Retrieved December 10, 2010.
- Gorman, Bill (December 3, 2010). "Thursday Final Ratings: Private Practice, Bones, Nikita Adjusted Down". TV by the Numbers. Retrieved December 3, 2010.
- VanDerWerff, Todd (December 9, 2010). ""Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas"". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2010-12-11.