It was always going to be hard to top last year's stop-motion animated Christmas episode, and "Regional Holiday Music" wasn't as inventive or unexpected. But it was less gimmicky and also worked as a funny send-up of Glee (a show they share sets with, trivia hounds). I really liked the concept of this episode, with Jeff (Joel McHale) getting the college's irritating glee club expelled by hitting them with a copyright infringement notice, only to make matters worse when choirmaster Mr Rad (Taran Killam) started persuading the study group to instead perform Greendale's Christmas extravaganza.
This took the form of each character being brainwashed by the joyous power of glee-style singing; beginning with Abed (Danny Pudi) after an impromptu sing-song with Mr Rad called "Glee", leading to Troy (Donald Glover) with the brilliant rap "Jehova's Secret Witness", Pierce (Chevy Chase) with a song called "Baby Boomer Santa" that raced through all the musical styles he's live through, Annie (Alison Brie) with the syrupy "Teach Me How To Understand Christmas" while dressed as a Mrs Claus with a Betty Boop voice to serenade Jeff, and Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) through Pierce's use of a gospel choir full of cute, wholesome kids. Even Britta (Gillian Jacobs) fell under the glee spell, although she was cast as an inanimate tree for the performance on account of her atrocious singing voice.
Lots of songs, lots of fun. As a lapsed fan of Glee (yet still watching out of masochism!), I loved the many digs at that show's crushing formula and sugary optimism. Mr Rad worked as an effective parody of Matthew Morrison's Mr Schue (but why no toe-curling rap?) and the constant chatter about "regionals" was very funny. Perhaps the best moment was Pierce catching sight of a bearded pianist and having to confirm that everyone else can see him. (It helps if you watch Glee.) On top of all that we had a brief moment of genius with a clever Invasion Of The Bodysnatchers homage from Jeff after he's been "turned", more of the show's Doctor Who parody "Inspector Spacetime", and Dean Pelton (Jim Rash) in an awfully vivid Christmas jumper.
Unfortunately, this festive cheer heralds the end of Community for awhile, as NBC have decided to put it on indefinite hiatus for mid-season. From what I've heard, they're likely to air the second half of season 3 before next summer because the show hasn't been axed, but then comes the trickier question of whether or not NBC will bring it back for a fourth season. Community is very low-rated and only has critical acclaim/online buzz working in its favour. My guess is that it's close enough to syndication to get another year's renewal, but there's a chance NBC will demand a budget cut—which is what happened to Chuck as the compromise for giving it a third season (and beyond). I just hope Community comes back, in whatever form and capability. There's nothing else like it on TV right now, and it hits several geek-pleasure spots every single episode with me. Plus it has one of the best comedic casts I've ever seen on the small-screen, with no real weak link among them.
It's such a pleasure to watch a show being this creative and having such fun every week; long may it continue...
written by Steve Basilone & Annie Mebane / directed by Tristram Shapeero / 8 December 2011 / NBC