Ah, the holiday season. Time for trimming the tree, lighting the menorah, and attending function after function with relatives you don’t really know that well, or know all too well. Time to eat insane amounts and spend the hours after in an uneasy pregnancy with a giant food baby. Time for taking advantage of the days you have off to watch as much television as humanly possible. Time for a weirdly personal list of the TV shows and movies I intend to consume over the Christmas break.
Community, “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas”
While I plan to watch the other Community Christmas episodes as well — anything that includes an extended riff on Glee or a politically correct reworking of “Silent Night” earns a rewatch in my books – like Mary, there’s just something about “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas” that embodies the holiday spirit for me.
It’s visually stunning, with the use of claymation intentionally stirring up memories of childhood Christmas cartoons. The roles that Abed chooses for the study group are also hilarious – Baby Shirley, Robot Britta, Teddy Bear Pierce.
But the main reason I love the episode is because it evokes that quiet, aching loneliness that sometimes comes with the festive season. Because when we are bombarded with images and stereotypes of what the holidays are meant to be, there’s this inadequacy when you don’t quite fit the picture. This builds on the idea from the surprisingly emotional season 1 episode “Introduction to Film”, where Abed acknowledges his ‘weirdness’, and believes that his weirdness drove his mother away. When Abed’s mom discards the small tradition that they have – the little space Abed has made in order to feel normal – to be with her new, normal, family, it’s too much. And it propels Abed into a world where everything fits what Christmas is meant to be, so he doesn’t have to deal with the fact that in his life, nothing fits anymore.
But the episode also turns this around at the end, showing the study group can act as Abed’s own substitute, dysfunctional family. They are willing to play along and be a bit abnormal. With them, he fits.
Breaking Bad, season 5
So it’s not particularly festive, but having promised my parents I would wait to watch Breaking Bad with them, it just so happens I won’t get to watch it until I get home for Christmas break. Given the knockout episodes leading up to season 5 such as “Crawl Space” and “Face Off”, I put my full faith in Vince Gilligan to deliver a killer final season. Without Gus Fring or a ‘big bad’ for the season (that I know of) diverting the audience’s attention, it may be that the final season will look further inward into the true villain at the heart of Breaking Bad – Walter White himself.
Thus, I will be spending Christmas Eve with Heisenberg as my twisted Santa Claus, handing out lumps of crystal meth instead of coal to all the bad boys and girls. Merry Christmas, bitches!
Friends, “The One with the Holiday Armadillo”
Could this episode be anymore holiday appropriate?
Really though, it’s got it all – Christmas skulls, Superman, the Holiday Armadillo! Ross wants to teach Ben (remember him?) about Hanukkah, but isn’t having much luck with Christmas and Santa Claus in the way.
When I was younger, I found the script online and would read it over and over again – probably because this was before you could just download the episode and watch it. But I remember it was funny every time.
Again, not strictly holiday-related, but Christmas and Peter Jackson’s masterful movie adaptations of The Lord of the Rings are forever linked in my mind. Back in the early 2000s, when I hadn’t hit puberty and vaguely looked like an alien, it became a Boxing Day family tradition for three epic years to take our tickets (purchased way in advance), wait in line for three hours and watch the next installment of Tolkien’s magnum opus. And it was my favorite holiday tradition. There was a reason I spent my freshman year clutching an A4 Lord of the Rings-branded Gimli folder, and it clearly wasn’t to make friends.
When I went to the cinema the other day to watch Skyfall with my mother, they showed a trailer for The Hobbit. Seeing it on the big screen – the familiar landscape of the Shire, the luscious greens, the dependable rumble of Ian McKellen ringing in my ears, it all came rushing back.
The smell of popcorn that never quite leaves my clothes after spending six hours in a cinema. The excitement mingled with a tinge of anxiety that it won’t be quite as good as the previous film. The calculations that went into timing my visit to the bathroom so I wouldn’t have to go during the movie – do I go now, and then just hold or go again later? Do I wait until just before, or will the doors open at that exact second I leave? The panic when the doors finally swing open, fearful that we would end up sitting in the very front row, and I would have a crick in my neck for the next few days, and a migraine from my parents complaining about their necks for the next few weeks. The feeling I got watching the actual movie, blown away by the majesty of it all (though feeling like I timed my bathroom break wrongly). The hilarious fact that the audience applauded when the movie finishes, and I found myself clapping too.
Overwhelmed with nostalgia and brimming with excitement, I turned to my mom to see her reaction to the trailer. She was asleep.
I’m worried The Hobbit won’t live up to the hype, and I have mixed feelings about it being stretched into a trilogy. Plus The Hobbit was released before Boxing Day in the US – bah, humbug. But I’m waiting until then anyway. That way I can go in on Boxing Day to watch another installment of Middle Earth adventures, and for me, that’s a Christmas miracle.
Forget The Holiday, this is the quintessential holiday rom-com. Given the number of stories interconnecting and weaving through the film, Love Actually captures all the facets of love and relationships – there’s the fantasy of Colin Firth’s storyline, understanding each other without actually understanding each other. The excruciatingly sad story of Sarah and her crush Karl, where harsh reality rears its head, coupled with her own reluctance to let go. The painfully realistic depiction of a marriage falling apart – not out of unhappiness, but just an underlying apathy, and a temptation. Plus more stories, all with the backdrop of an aging rock star, often swearing and sometimes nude.
It’s bold, in that it’s willing to give its characters ambiguous or even unhappy endings. And it helps that it balances its heartbreak with a large side helping of humor. I’m sure everyone is familiar with Love Actually and should know its greatness. None of the demon spawn Love Actually has unintentionally birthed – New Year’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Martin Luther King Day (jk) – are even close to being as good, nor will they become so associated with their titular holidays as Love Actually with Christmas.
The OC, “The Best Chrismukkah Ever” and “The Chrismukkah That Almost Wasn’t”
Let’s talk briefly about one of the best holidays ever invented by television.
“The Best Chrismukkah Ever” first established Seth Cohen’s holiday amalgamation – Jesus, Moses, working together! “The Chrismukkah That Almost Wasn’t” then adds to the holiday’s tradition and firmly embeds it within the show’s mythology – the yamaclaus, a theme song set to Death Cab for Cutie’s ‘A Lack of Color’, and a beige colour-coded system of measuring the level of excitement. These two episodes combined create a holiday that everyone can enjoy, both within The OC and out of it – though I haven’t tried it myself, I’m sure there’s enough in there to actually make a real life go at it. It’s an added bonus that all this happens with a huge dose of teen drama, and the usual OC antics with Marissa being a drama queen, Summer being hilarious and Caleb being an old man.
But best of all, these episodes are goldmines for classic Cohenisms. Ah, Seth Cohen. What would the pop culture world be like today without you.
The Santa Clause
…LOLJK! Back before we had the Internet and more than three TV channels, we were at the mercy of the station programmers, who felt The Santa Clause was appropriate viewing for Christmas, every single year in a row. Initially a Christmas favorite of mine, I resented it a little more each year until the thought now of watching Tim Allen acting surprised at his sudden weight gain makes me feel ill.
What’s on your holiday watch-list? Are there are any things you traditionally watch around the holidays?