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Dec. 11, 2010

Watching in a winter wonderland

by Anya Gosine, Online Managing, Op/Ed and Food Editor
It’s December. It’s cold. There’s really very little to do but pretend to study and pace around the house in fuzzy slippers. But thankfully, ‘tis the season for primetime TV to deliver some of its best material with a holiday twist. This SCO entertainment pundit set her alarms to catch the holiday episodes of the hottest shows this year and is now breaking them down just for you.

Glee - “A Very Glee Christmas”
The Glee Club spreads holiday cheer. Courtesy of FOX
The Glee Club spreads holiday cheer.
Last year “Glee” did not have a holiday episode, but their production of a spectacular Christmas music album did help build a year’s worth of anticipation for “A Very Glee Christmas,” which aired on Tuesday. The frequently sappy nature of the show combined with plots consisting of hackneyed holiday morals nearly pushed the episode into an area of sickly sweetness; however, it was rescued by invigorating renditions of Christmas classics as well as the usual comedic dialogue from its bubbly array of characters.

It is no surprise that the heartless Coach Sue Sylvester portrayed the Grinch of McKinley high, intent on destroying the Glee club's charitable holiday goals. Coach Beiste in a Santa costume, however, was an unexpected delight that only got more fun to watch as she delivered a priceless Santa act for the ever-naïve Brittany. As far as music goes, Finn and Rachel's ongoing romantic troubles provided the perfect premise for a passionate singing of Wham!'s "Last Christmas." It was Kurt and his new love interest Blaine, however, who shined the brightest with "Baby it's Cold Outside."

Despite the clichéd elements, this holiday "Glee" creation was an entertaining and heart-warming gift for Gleeks everywhere.

Raising Hope - “Toy Story”
In "Raising Hope," Hope's first Christmas is a very untraditional one. Courtesy of FOX
In "Raising Hope," Hope's first Christmas is a very untraditional one.
Many were initially skeptical of this new Fox sitcom when it premiered at the beginning of the Fall TV season. But the show, which centers around 23-year-old Jimmy and family’s efforts to raise his baby, has proven to be an offbeat, laugh-out-loud delight and their holiday episode was no exception. Hope’s grandfather Burt is running a black market business for the season’s most popular children’s toy (“Baby Sneezes,” a baby doll that squirts snot from the nose upon being squeezed) while grandmother Virginia makes it her mission to have Hope star as Baby Jesus in the church’s annual living nativity scene. As usual, all Jimmy wants is for his daughter to have a normal childhood Christmas, which he never had.

Jimmy’s constant clashing with his parents is continuous throughout the series, but watching them join forces in this episode was certainly entertaining. One could also say that Jimmy and Burt portraying the two Wise Men in the manger scene was purely laughable irony. And as always, Hope’s great-great grandmother Maw-Maw’s maniacal antics throughout the episode keep things lively.

The best part of this episode was that underneath all the light-hearted absurdity, there was a loving dynamic in the Chance family that stayed true to the spirit holiday season.

The Office - “Classy Christmas”
This year, the Dunder Mifflin/Sabre Christmas party is one of the best yet. Courtesy of NBC
This year, the Dunder Mifflin/Sabre Christmas party is one of the best yet.
“The Office” has a history for brilliant holiday episodes, and this year they managed yet again to top all others with “Classy Christmas.” This year, Michael decked the Dunder Mifflin/Sabre halls for Holly, who returned to temporarily replace Toby. But as expected, classic “Office” drama immediately unfolded with the revelation that Holly was still maintaining a long-distance relationship with boyfriend A.J.

Despite weaker episodes this season, this hour-long special lacked a single dull moment. The entire office takes the unusual route of siding with Michael in his romantic troubles, and their overprotective nature led to countless hilarious lines from every character. Even though the episode was Christmas-themed, the season’s overarching storylines were still continued and left open for further development; not only with the Michael/Holly relationship, but also with the news that Angela’s new boyfriend might be gay.

And of course, no “Office” episode is complete without a heated battle between Jim and Dwight, which in this case took the form of a stealthy snowball fight. This writer’s favorite line of the episode was Dwight’s closing words of wisdom, “The greatest snowball isn’t a snowball itself, it’s fear. Merry Christmas.”

Community - “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas”
The gang is all transformed into clay form in the latest episode of "Community." Courtesy of NBC
The gang is all transformed into clay form in the latest episode of "Community."
This year, “Community” decided to really capture the holiday magic by creating an episode in a stop-motion fantasyland, with the gang taking a wild ride on pop-culture obsessed Abed’s mental rollercoaster. Unfortunately, the stop motion was perhaps the only exciting element of the episode, which was built upon a rather shoddy plot. As a result of not seeing his mother this holiday season, Abed gets pushed over the line of sanity and starts to see everyone in claymation form. Even though he is perhaps the most eccentric character in the show, his dream-adventures seemed simply too child-like and the story was scattered.

Still, the show’s uniquely developed characters were able to bring humor and spark to the episode. Even in clay form, Jeff is still his surly, sarcastic self, Annie still a prissy goody-two shoes and Troy still Abed’s loving best friend. Professor Chang the snowman and “Teddy-Piers” were perhaps the most amusing bits.

The hype for this episode of “Community” set the bar slightly too high, but though it fell in plot strength the animation of the most quirky characters on TV provided for an overall fun experience.

30 Rock - “Christmas Attack Zone”
Jack gets his parents together for Christmas in "Christmas Attack Zone." Courtesy of NBC
Jack gets his parents together for Christmas in "Christmas Attack Zone."
This holiday episode of "30 Rock" focused less on the Christmas-spirit aspect and more on the individual character's problems. Even though it did not compare to some of the shows past holiday episodes (such as “Ludachristmas”) it was nonetheless sharply-written and well-delivered by the cast.

The funniest part of the episode is when Liz (or rather, “The MentaLiz”) finds herself tied up in Jack’s twisted family reunion. Every return of Jack’s mother Colleen provides for a hysterical mother-son battle, and this time it was even greater with the addition of his estranged hippie father. On the other side of the city, Jenna stresses about going to a party with ex-boyfriend Paul. After the two characters’ recent breakup, his return felt almost too soon as well as awkward, but in the end their hysterical coordinated party costumes and singing duet made up for it. This episode was not necessarily unique to the holiday season, but it was full of character craziness and classic “30 Rock” jokes that made it very successful.



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