It’s a very special Community Christmas come Dec. 9, when the Greendale students go “wall-to-wall stop motion animation,” according to the show’s creator Dan Harmon. “It’s Abed’s search for the meaning of Christmas. Everything that happens on this episode is part of the actual show and will change the characters, and yet there are wonderful, fantastic holiday things happening in it.”
Harmon had been toying (har har) with the idea of an animated episode for a little while, and when the “network brass” said they were thinking the same thing, he jumped at the chance — at which point it was time for the Community writers to hunker down and get in the holiday spirit. “Once you’re past the age where you’re running on sugar and adrenaline about tomorrow morning, it’s hard to get through anything — even my favorite shows,” Harmon jokes. “But we rewatched all the Rankin/Bass [Rudolph] specials. It’s interesting to notice all these things that got magnified, and other things that got washed away in the tides of time […] you pull these images and sounds into your heart as a child, and they stay there.”
Harmon’s pretty much an expert on the pop sounds and images that live in all our hearts and often incorporates them into Community episodes. Just see the Predator homages, the show’s pacing — which is akin to a Simpsons episode — and the stars’ sexual chemistry, which mimics the dynamic between Han Solo and Princess Leia. “That’s Jeff and Annie,” Harmon admits. “He’s a scoundrel. But it could be said about Jeff and Britta, too,” except with Britta in the bounty-hunter role and Jeff as the monarch of Alderaan. “Jeff longs to be thought of as cool.” But Harmon’s loath to put too high a value on the referential aspect of the show. “I’m not really intentionally doing that,” he insists. “My brain is just made of a patchwork of stuff that I’ve seen.”
Hm. Someone who expresses their ideas through cultural allusions and feels that he connects best with people when he communicates through pop references… sound familiar? “Abed is the character on the show that has the most in common, psychologically, with me,” Harmon admits. “In the writers’ room, I sound a bit like Abed — I’m constantly communicating what my point is through examples I’ve seen on TV and in movies.”
It’s a form of communication that’s working well for Harmon, for Community, and for the character of Abed. “The Christmas episode looks into what makes him different from other people,” Harmon says. We’re down for those reindeer games.