On the fifth day of Christmas… I watched Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas (2010)

Christmas is, on the surface at least, the shiniest and happiest of festivals – happy families exchanging presents, lavish feasts, joy and goodwill, everyone happy ever after lit by the glow of a 1000 warmed hearts. But as Abed, who is my favourite character in this creatively rich series, discovers in this most unorthodox of Christmas tales, it isn’t simple at all.

It used to be for him. While he is the child of divorced parents, with a Muslim dad and a Polish Christian mum, which you think would complicate things to an impossible degree, his celebration of the season was simple. Every December 9, he would watch the stop-motion Rudolph the Reindeer special with his mother. He didn’t care about decorating or giving presents or any of the million and one things that symbolise the festive season – all that mattered was that he spent time with his mother.

To everyone’s surprise, most especially Pierce’s (who remarks in trademark politically incorrect fashion – “I thought your people spent the season writing angry letters to the newspapers”) Abed loves Christmas. He knows implicitly what Christmas means to him. So it makes sense that the study group is alarmed when Abed not only admits that he has lost any sense of the meaning of Christmas but that he needs to go on some sort of quest to divine what it really means.
Then he announces, almost as an aside, that everyone is appearing to him as stop-motion figures (and that since they’re animated that they really should act, well, more animated). Since Abed is the most imaginatively fecund of the group, and often uses his creative skills to interpret weighty issues in life, everyone initially laughs it off. But when it becomes clear that this isn’t another of Abed’s flights of fantasy, but that he truly believes they are all animated, everyone becomes concerned and professional therapeutic help is sought.

But naturally being Greendale college, the best anyone can come up with is psychology professor, Ian Duncan, who rather ham-fistedly tries ‘fix’ Abed by proposing extensive therapy sessions which Abed sensibly rejects. But he is tricked into attending a group therapy session in the library study room, and reluctantly agrees to undergo “Christmas-nosis” which will take him to the Christmas-themed Planet Abed.

It’s here that the fun, and eventually thinly-disguised heartache, begins as Abed sets out for the North Pole, with the group all transformed into Christmas toys that represent not necessarily flattering facets of their character, determined to recover his misplaced meaning of Christmas. Along the way the friends drop off one by one –  Shirley is ejected from the group by a Christmas pterodactyl, Jeff is consumed by Humbugs that swarm over and consume him – until he reaches his goal and opens a box purporting to contain the true meaning of Christmas. What the box contains is the first season of Lost on DVD which Abed cheekily says represents “lack of payoff” and it’s only after his friends stand up for him against Professor Duncan that Abed snaps to and realises that Christmas has meaning after all.

What was so wonderful about this episode, which must become a Christmas classic if there is any justice in the world, is that it deftly balances Abed’s great pain with the wit and levity this amazingly creative series displays in spades every episode. The visual style was yet another creative leap right out of the box, and the abundant pop culture references, and insertion of Christmas pterodactyls and the like had me laughing like a fool even as I felt for Abed in his moment of great loss.

It is a beautifully rendered snapshot of what happens when one person pushes aside all the warm and fuzzy trappings of the season and dares to ask where the meaning is in all of this. The fact that he finds an answer of sorts is heartwarming, and the journey to get that to that moment of realisation is inventive, clever and punctuated with more sight gags and pop culture references that I can adequately describe, but the episode is at heart very much about Abed daring to say that the Christmas emperor has no clothes. It is as powerful and touching as it is wildly creative and funny, and succeeds in keeping them all in perfect balance all the way through, which is a rare feat, ultimately creating an episode that inspires as much as it entertains.

On the second day of Christmas, my TV gave to me…

It is no secret that I love Christmas (unless you have been living under a rock in a small village on the windswept edges of Mongolia in which case you are (a) very odd, and yet quirky, and (b) forgiven for missing that) and naturally being a pop culture junkie, I seek out every TV show and piece of music that feeds this festive obsession.

I know many TV shows are derided for featuring twee and corny Christmas episodes (mostly by elves on internet forums with massive chips on their very small, effeminate shoulders), but many of them actually come up with some of their most creative, clever and funny shows of their season, since they are given the freedom to do pretty much what they want.

So here are the Christmas episodes of my some of my favourite shows (which naturally will be shown in Australia sometime around May next year, with no regard for their sparkling seasonal content):

DR WHO


The Dr Who Christmas episode is a staple of British TV and it sounds like this episode is going to be right up there with the best of them. With a more than passing nod to C. S Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, the story takes place during the dark days of World War 2 when a war wear woman, Madge Arwell, flees the death and destruction  of The Blitz in London with her two children to a house in Dorset. There, the Doctor, who she mysteriously met two years before, is waiting for her, and sensing they need some magic in their lives, takes them on a fantastical journey through, yes you guessed it, a wardrobe in one of the rooms.
It promises to be every bit as magical as the other six episodes have been, and I can only hope the ABC here in Australia is able to do as they have done in previous years,and beam the episode into our homes in time for us to see this on or near Christmas Day. Fingers crossed!

Here’s an fun promo clip by Matt Smith to get you in the mood.

A prequel was released online on December 6 for the episode and it shows the doctor holding a red button in a space ship desperately calling for Amy Pond to come in the TARDIS and save him. He recalls though that Amy isn’t going to be able to help him as she is long gone. So he releases the button, and the ship explodes moments after he wishes Amy a Merry Christmas. It’s actually quite touching and bittersweet, and bodes well for the full episode to come.

EUREKA

To my great and enduring delight, Eureka has crafted what looks to be another standout Cristmas episode. The entire episode has been rendered in a number of different animation styles, packed full of the trademark wit and idiosyncrasy that has made this show so beloved by so many (although not enough for syfy, the channel it appears on, who declined to keep it on the air.)
So how do these usually flesh and blood characters end up as claymation figures, CGI and even South Park-esque doppelgängers? It’s all thanks to a super photon generator which as we all know can’t just be left lying around the house, and it takes all the wit and ingenuity of Sheriff Carter (Colin Ferguson – check him out talking about the episode here) and the Eureka gang to fix the mess this device generates.
What’s most impressive is that the producers of this fine series decided to go right outside the creative box, and explode out of the other side of the envelope (yep mixed metaphors – got that – thank you) with colour, fun and a great story to boot! But I’d expect nothing less from such creative minds who have granted fans of great writing, characterisation, and style the best show to come along in years. 
This preview looks wonderful, and I can’t wait to watch it. 
You can watch the Eureka team talk about the episode at Comic con in July 2011.
Also SciFi vision wrote a fun rundown of the show too.



COMMUNITY


Community, beloved for it’s off the wall characters, and even quirkier plots, is going all Glee this Christmas!
When Greendale’s very own Glee isn’t available to perform at short notice, tour favourite group of study buddies, and unlikely friends are seconded to fill in for them, driven to perfection by the college’s very own Mr Shue-like glee club director, who’s possibly a few notes short of symphony in the sanity department, played by Saturday Night Live’s, Taran Killam. All the songs are supposed to be originals and I can’t imagine this not being poptacular!
Here Joel McHale (Jeff) talks about the episode:

Oh, and in news to thrill the heart of any fan of this greatly underrated comedy which has to be the funniest, wittiest sitcom on TV at the moment, Community was voted the Fan Favourite by TV Guide readers and made the covers…yes three different ones! It’s brilliant publicity for a show that deserves to be a lot of love, and be watched by millions more than it is!
GLEE

This year Glee wanted to invoke old-time 70s Christmas TV specials (the fact this time period is now considered ‘old-time’ disturbs in ways I can’t even articulate adequately) by having the New Directions gang appear on a TV special within the episode. It will evoke the Star Wars and Judy Garland holiday specials which explains, at least, why Chris Golfer (who plays Kurt) is hugging the most famnous Wookie of all.

The episode, which will feature about 6 holiday songs, has scenes showing Kurt and Blaine exchanging gifts in the hallway (what looks like jewellery – what could it be?!), Sue helping out a homeless shelter showing she’s not a total grinch, and Rachel and Finn in the front of the lockers possibly giving gifts. Whatever happens the choir room is full of tinsel and a massive beautifully decorated tree and everything seems set for an “Extraordinary Merry Christmas” indeed!

One can only hope Channel 10 gets in the festive spirit and shows this before Christmas…

Matthew Morrison, who directed the episode speaks on Jimmy Kimmel Live about directing his costars, which had some funny moments:

Here’s an interview with some of the cast on the special:





WAREHO– USE 13


This looks, from the trailer, to be one of the classic ‘something-inexplicably-weird-has-happened-and we-have-to-sort it out-really-quickly episodes with a seasonal twist. The basic story pivots around Eddie McClintock’s Pete Latimer being hit on a head by an artifact while stacking them out in the titular warehouse, and waking up to find himself in an alternate reality where he doesn’t work at the warehouse, and McPherson, a very dead bad guy, and ex-Warehouse 13 agent, is very much alive. The episode also involves the usual cast, who all must be convinced in one way or another that they are living the completely wrong lives. As usual there’s lot of laughs to go along with the drama, and this has all the appearances of a great addition to the Warehouse 13 canon.

Here’s a preview of the show by SciFi Vision.

Community on Sesame Street

Joel McHale from Community and his prickly new friend the cactus (image via babble.com)
Joel McHale from Community and his prickly new friend the cactus (image via babble.com)

 

It is no secret that I adore in almost equal measure both The Muppets and the sitcom Community (well if you’re inside my head anyway which thankfull for you, you’re not).

So imagine my utter pop culture-loving, nerdy joy when these two culture treasures combined recently with the appearance of Joel McHale (Jeff Winger) and Ken Jeong (Chang) on Sesame Street, with Elmo and an attitude-laden spiky cactus respectively.

The “squeee” factor was high and my inner child was doing cartwheels so happy was I.

 

 

More Community fun and hilarity!

Yes I know I am getting a tad Community obsessed but why not? It is FUNNY! ’nuff said people…

In further proof that the Community like to kid around a lot, here’s another fun photo..
That’s Joel McHale holding the sign, with Alison Brie hamming it up next to him

I also found this link chock full of bloopers from season 2 of Community…laugh and enjoy…

Community – My New BFF Sitcom

I love a good sitcom.

But I adore truly great clever ones, and it has to be said, COMMUNITY is one of the best for years. It is edgy, clever, funny, takes risks, and still somehow manages to be sweet and touching without resorting to mawkishness. While the cast, all students at the fictional Greendale Community College, at first looks like a pragmatic exercise in politically correct casting, the writers never resort to easy cliches, and if they ever trade on a particular group’s cliches, it’s only to make a point, and it’s made so elegantly and with such humour, you don’t realise it’s been made till it sneaks up on you and you have one of those delicious “Aha!” moments that makes watching TV so special.

What has been so awesome about watching season 1 of this show is that feeds off pop culture, mostly through the pop culture addicted lens of Abed, in ways that leaving me gasping with admiration for the skill of the writers. The paintball episode, Modern Warfare where everyone competed for a sole priority registration slip, is an exquisitely good case in point employing with creative dexterity almost all the action/apocalypse/buddy movie cliches in a package so clever it told a story, displayed some real heart and soul, revealed some more about the characters, and in the case of Jeff and Britta, advanced their relationship, and did it all with an economy of style and visual lushness that made me want to hug my TV set. 

It was truly that good and I am scooting off to iTunes now to download and then feast on season 2.

Emmy Nominations are in!

I would like to say I am a connoisseur of hip quality TV, but the truth is I love and need it so much that I am, in all truth, a junkie. I need my fixes of my favourite shows like Nurse Jackie, Glee, Big Bang Theory, Modern Fanily and Parks & Recreation, and I need them often and now!

So as a junkie of pop culture, one of the big events of the year is the release of the Emmy nominations and this year’s are out and you can see them here:

http://www.spoilertv.com/2011/07/emmy-nominations-2011.html

http://www.spoilertv.com/2011/07/emmys-2011-comedy-nominations-aka-ones.html

My only moment of bug-eyed spluttering outrage was the omission of Community, one of the laugh out loud funniest shows on Tv right now. For shame Emmys, for shame…