Community recap: Agree to Diss-a-'Glee'
You’re a mean one, NBC.
You really are a heel.
You’re as ugly as Fear Factor,
Your dramas have no appeal,
Your miserly GE
Doesn’t care how we feel!
That’s probably what a lot of you guys are feeling today as we enter the uncertain dawn of an era without Community on NBC’s primetime lineup. But if we put our feelings to music, we’ll be a shoo-in for regionals, right?
Oh, there are more NBC-ribbing, “Mr. Grinch”-inspired lyrics to come, rest assured! Seriously, like three stanzas more. But first, you have to read the rest of my recap! The remainder of my song will be like the Christmas almond at the center of the Norwegian julekake…or for NBC, a lump of coal in the bottom of their stocking. It’s fitting, though, that I’ve started off by awkwardly recontextualizing a classic song, because last night’s all-time-series-high episode, “Regional Holiday Music” was that most delicious of parodies: a parody of Glee! And even better, a musical parody of Glee that also served as a satisfying and eggnog-sweet holiday episode.
Yes, the season of sweater vests and shamelessly indulgent vocalizing was upon Greendale—though for the glee club, I suppose it lasts all year long. Pierce would be spending his first Christmas without his father. Britta would be spreading yuletide cheer working for a suicide hotline…again. Troy would desperately avoid Christmas to honor his Jehovah’s Witness-ism. And Annie would spend the day at the movies with her bubbe—not to be confused with “Annie’s Boobs,” the monkey. Abed, though, just wanted to share a warm and cozy Christmas with his friends. He’d just received the long-lost 1981 Inspector Spacetime Holiday Special, featuring appearances by Paul McCartney and Dame Edna—a yuletide offering so wretched, the creator of IS had his knighthood revoked. Like Troy, I probably would want to watch that twice, but if it doesn’t have appearances by Art Carney, Diahann Carroll, Harvey Korman, and Jefferson Starship, plus a twenty-minute Wookiee celebration of Life Day completely in unsubtitled Shyriiwook, it still can’t compare to The Star Wars Holiday Special.
NEXT: Does forced cheer make the holidays darker? Doesn’t the mere presence of the Greendale glee club answer that question?
But what Abed failed to grasp is that trying to make the holidays brighter can give them a certain darkness. At least that’s what Jeff felt. Shirley was unconvinced, though. She looked forward to spending Christmas by giving gifts to the “more persuadable of our Jewish friends.” (Look out, Annie!) But even Shirley’s holiday cheer was dimmed by the appearance of that black hole of taste, that quantum singularity of in-your-face awfulness: the Greendale Glee Club.
It was just before lunch break. They came out of nowhere. The glee club ambushed the Greendale Cafeteria with an aggressive rendition of “Deck the Halls” that added “rock on!” to the lyrics. And just when you thought it was over, one of the female members started vocal adrenalizing the carol even more: “De-e-eck! I say, de-e-eck!” They had come to announce their annual Christmas pageant, their first stop of the Great Glittery Way to, you guessed it, [fist-pump], regionals! But a Grinch, or savior depending on your point of view, stood in their path. A Grinch with a strategically-tousled bedhead and a Colombian law degree. Ladies and gentlemen: Jeff Winger. Jeff notified ASCAP, the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers, that unlicensed material was being performed, and Chang immediately pounced with a Cease and Desist order. Just like that, the glee club’s fragile mental stability shattered like some Christmas marzipan. And for the second time in as many years, Greendale was without the gift of song.
If you recall, Greendale’s glee club has quite a dark history. During the First Great Paintball War, they lured unsuspecting students into sniper traps with their siren-song taunt of “Hit Me With Your Best Shot.” Then, the entire club perished in a bus accident, prompting our study group to fill in heroically, a la We Are Greendale. Now, the new glee club lay in psychological shambles, with some of the boys even discussing sports!
Desperate, as always, for holiday cheer and togetherness, Abed was drawn to the glee club’s sponsor Mr. Radison—call him Mr. Rad!—like a moth to flame. As Jeff put it, Mr. Rad is equal parts Hanson and Manson, and for that matter I can’t think of a better description for Glee’s Mr. Schuester, either. Looking at Mr. Rad, and thus automatically thinking of Matthew Morrison, I was thinking how our definition of “cool” has so radically changed over the last decade. To be cool always meant to be an outsider looking in, standing on the fringe, commenting on establishment culture with a bemused smirk and a middle finger proudly raised. But just like how Steve Urkel, the definitive ‘90s nerd, would now be a 2011 hipster without changing any of his style, to be “cool” today means to stand squarely in the middle. Far from being the avant garde of style and taste, to be cool today means to be safe, to unironically retread and paint over previous cultural innovation with ever more wan shades of vanilla. Or as my colleague Lisa Schwarzbaum put it in her brilliant review of Burlesque, “[This is] an era when we agree to pretend that mediocre mimicry is enough to keep us entertained.” You could say that Community, like Glee, plays into this endless cycle of cultural rehash. But the key difference is one of tone. Where Glee feigns irony to mask it’s sticky-sweet sentimentality, Community is the cynical ideal, perched like an ūber-smart critic instantly assessing and giving perspective to the myriad TV shows and movies it habitually references. Unlike Glee, Community embraces irony, rather than just mere snark. End digression.
NEXT: Is everything cooler when cameras are spinning? Mr. Rad and Ryan Murphy think so!
Musical Number #1: Glee! It’s a Feeling!
So I said that Steve Urkel is a ‘90s nerd who would be a 2011 hipster. Likewise, Groundhog Day’s Needlenose Ned Ryerson, the epitome of ‘90s uncool, would be today’s Mr. Rad. Am I right or am I right? Right? Only instead of selling insurance, he’s selling gleefulness! And poor Abed was sold. He started singing along to Mr. Rad’s “Glee, It’s a Feeling You Get!” ditty, even noting, as I’m sure Ryan Murphy has, that “Everything’s cooler when cameras are spinning.” As Britta suggested, “it was almost like being on Ecstacy, except instead of having pointless conversations and dancing like idiots…oh, wait.”
Musical Number #2: Childish Gambino
Abed, now committed to the gleeful ideal of “liking to like things,” began his recruitment of the rest of the study group, like a Nick Fury with jazz hands. He appealed to Troy, his usual partner in crime, through the joy of rap. He krunked his way through a pitch that involved Troy becoming Jehovah’s “Most Secret” Witness: “What if you were a Jehovah’s Witness that was merely pretending to be into Christmas?/Gathering clues and blending in to take down the holidays from within.” Troy was more than game to play lyrical tag-team, swapping rhymes like the MC Blanket Fort he is. My favorite line? Abed’s “If years were seasons this December would be the December of our December.” For more of Donald Glover’s inspired mix of comedy and hip-hop check out his new album, Camp, under his real MC name, Childish Gambino.
Next target: Pierce
Musical Number #3: Troy and Abed’s Excellent Musical Adventure
Troy and Abed were now a unified team. They rearranged the study room by adding three rows of elevated choir chairs. “Why can’t you just like liking things,” Troy asked. “Glee literally means…glee!” Jeff’s comeback has to be one of the all-time great Winger-isms, and a damn perceptive critical take: “Not liking glee club doesn’t make us bullies, and implying that is reverse bullying.” As Annie aptly noted, Trobed were merely “trying to pander to [Pierce’s] demographic’s well-documented historical vanity” when they launched into a medley of decades-spanning, Baby Boomer-encompassing genres, from Boogie Woogie to Dylan to some genetically-spliced Jackson 5/Bee Gees hybrid. After all, the Boomers invented music. Or at least perfected it. Together they, this musical troika, would seduce Annie to their cause.
NEXT: Annie’s “Santa Baby on Steroids” routine could melt even the most frigid hipster heart.
Musical Number #4: Santa Sex Bomb
Wow. I mean, wow. These may be the most perfect two minutes of television…since, I don’t know, that “You and I” number on Twin Peaks. Alison Brie, as an elfin Christmas bombshell singing in babytalk, seemed to deconstruct a century’s worth of sexual personae—particularly the idea perpetuated by female celebrities from Marilyn Monroe to Kim Kardashian that women playing dumb is somehow sexy. I love how her bit continued to devolve as it went along, until grammar finally flew out the window: “Mistletoe for eating tastes good?/You smarty, me dumb!/Help baby have fun!/Boop-e doop-e doop doop sex.” Of course, for me, Brie’s heavy dose of self-awareness actually did make it sexy, and it’s no wonder Annie melted Jeff’s frigid hipster heart and turned him to the Glee Side.
I didn’t think Alison Brie would be able to top her ditty from last year, when, in Claymation form, she sang Jeff’s musical elegy: “Bitter, shallow hipster/Sweater matching socks/Christmas has more presents than a haircut in a box.” And yet she did. Because non-animated Alison Brie is even more animated than animated Alison Brie.
Musical Number #5: JC, Can You Hear Me?
In what surely must be the most manipulative use of a children’s choir since Sheridan Whiteside, Pierce trotted out some angelic altar boys and altar girls to sing a song about their unfamiliarity with one Christmas birthday boy whose initials are JC. No, not Jon Cryer, you heathens—and Britta. One Mr. Jesus Christ. It was Christian catnip, and Shirley couldn’t resist. With full-throated Gospel zeal, Shirley joined in to answer the tykes’ all-important question, “The Constitution says the State can’t tell us, was anyone important born today?”
Musical Number #6: The Pageant
That left Britta as the only one unconverted. When she ran to Jeff for help, and he slowly turned around wearing a sweater vest and plastered smile, it felt like when Veronica Cartwright finally realized she was all alone in Invasion of the Body Snatchers (though anyone who prefers that version to the Don Siegel original is as crazy as a pod-person). There’s no choice at that point other than to join ‘em, and Britta, only rebellious when it’s self-servingly convenient, decided to do just that and be the Christmas tree in the pageant. (Mr. Rad wouldn’t allow her to play any being with a face—human, angel, or animal—lest she should sing.) But when Abed discovered that Mr. Rad wasn’t inspired by the love of Christmas so much as he was the love of regionals, he let Britta, oddly dressed in a Seven of Nine-esque body-suit play the part of the Mouse King. Before too long, she was singing her go-to standard, “Me So Christmas! Me So Merry!” Hey, it wasn’t any worse than a “Deck the Halls” with the reworked lyrics, “Fa la la la la la la…holla!” But Mr. Rad lost it, stormed the stage and announced that the pageant would be performed his way or there would be another bus accident!
NEXT: Mr. Rad, glee club sponsor, soon-to-be-convicted murderer. Plus, the conclusion of my NBC-directed “Mr. Grinch.”
Yes, Mr. Rad was a murderer. And Jeff’s concern that trying to make the holidays brighter only makes them seem darker was validated. Like Abed’s unexpectedly moving, Lost-assisted revelation in last year’s Christmas episode, “Regional Holiday Music” was ultimately in favor of moderating holiday expectations. It’s when your yuletide dreams get out of hand, that depression can easily ensue. So it’s better to just sit back, throw on some plaid, pop in your Star Wars or Inspector Spacetime holiday special and enjoy the craziness of the season with a smile, a wink, and your friends and family by your side.
Likewise, I suppose we should follow Tiny Tim’s example when toasting Mr. Scrooge and thank NBC for giving us these two and a half seasons of televisual brilliance. And for continuing to have the single best comedy lineup on television.
Aw, screw it. Here’s the encore you’ve all been waiting for: three more stanzas of “Mr. Grinch” directed at NBC for pulling our beloved Community. Look out, Sondheim. There’s a new wordsmith in town.
You’re a vile one, NBC.
You’re creatively in hock.
You have all the bitter flavor
Of an undercooked peacock,
Given the choice between the two of you,
I’d reach for a Glock!
You nauseate me, NBC.
Like the Donald’s yooge toupee.
You’re in fourth place permanently,
And you still air Nick Lachey,
If I were an advertiser,
There’s no way I’d pay!
You’re a foul one, NBC.
Your late night’s ruled by a chin.
The Voice may move like Jagger,
But it makes me reach for gin,
Your iconic three-note chimes
Stand for as follows, and I quote,
“Bunk, Dump, Trump!”
Happy Life Day everybody! And until Community comes back, please join me for my recaps of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Otherwise, see you after regionals!