For our latest battle of holiday episodes, with the focus being on Christmas, we turn to two cult NBC comedies. They were both joke heavy. They were both clearly shaped by their creator. One show ended up airing original episodes on Yahoo, which was weird. It’s 30 Rock versus Community!
Community was basically built to do Christmas episodes. So much of that show was built around riffing on genre tropes and pop culture topics. It’s Christmas episodes basically stand in reflection of existing Christmas episodes and TV specials. Community knew how to get to the core of what makes Christmas pop culture click, and also how to satirize these elements and parody them for fun.
The show only did four Christmas episodes, and one of them is from season four, the season without Dan Harmon at the helm. That episode, “Intro to Knots,” is fine. The first-season Christmas episode is also totally solid. Then, there’s “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas” and “Regional Holiday Music.” Those are two that really stand out among Christmas episodes.
“Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas” is a riff on Rankin/Bass specials, which is not entirely unique. Of course, what Community does is turn this all into a psychotic episode that Abed is having. That adds a tinge of darkness, a tinge of freshness, and a tinge of pathos. “Regional Holiday Music” is basically a polemic against Glee, but it rules nonetheless. It’s one of the show’s all-time best episodes.
30 Rock managed to do one more Christmas episode than Community, and they are all good. On the other hand, they are all, you know, good. What we mean is none of them really stand out. There isn’t a great 30 Rock Christmas episode. None of them feel special. They are just 30 Rock episodes but with Christmas trappings. You watch them, you laugh at 80 percent of the jokes, and you’re feeling good in the end.
Which way do we go? Community has two decent Christmas episodes and two standout episodes, including a fantastic one. 30 Rock has five good, but not great, episodes. Do you go with the highs and lows, or the steadiness? Do you want doubles, or a couple homers and a couple strikeouts.
In the end, when we were thinking about Christmas episodes from these two shows, the first two that came to mind were “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas” and “Regional Holiday Music.” We’ll go with peak performance and give the edge to Community.