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Tube Talk: Holly jolly Christmas returns to TV this year

December 8, 2010

By Paula Hendrickson
Contributing Writer

Judging from the promos alone, NBC’s Thursday night comedies want to put the merry back into Christmas. It’s about time.

Over the past 10 years or so, an over-abundance of political correctness has seemed to all but erase “Merry Christmas” from common usage anywhere outside of church-related functions. The pendulum seems to be swinging back to where it’s acceptable to once again wish people a Merry Christmas.

Just a year or two ago, you’d see plenty of commercials showing obvious Christmas trees, Christmas lights and Christmas morning gift-giving—nary a menorah—while mentioning “holiday” celebrations. If you’re showing Christmas images, why be afraid to say Christmas? Some advertisers seem to have realized their own hypocrisy; this year, several ads unapologetically mention Christmas. (Of course, the real reason is probably that advertisers did the math and realized Christmas is a powerful marketing tool.)

While it is insensitive to assume everyone celebrates Christmas, I’d rather have someone wish me a Happy Chanukah than hear retailers and public officials offer a generic, “Have a happy holiday” simply because they’re afraid of offending someone. If they’re going to go vague and generic, why not opt for the more festive “Happy Holidays!” or “Season’s Greetings” than “Have a happy holiday?” The latter could apply to Halloween, the Fourth of July or President’s Day.

We can’t always know what holidays people might or might not celebrate, but it should never be considered offensive to wish someone happiness or joy. One of my friends was raised Buddhist but always has more Christmas spirit than another friend who was raised Methodist. One of the most memorable “holiday” cards I’ve ever received was from one of my cousins. She was raised Lutheran and her husband is Jewish. Their card was a menorah strung with cheery Christmas lights. Inside it read: Merry Whatever!

That’s why I loved hearing Alan Alda—returning as Jack’s biological father on 30 Rock—utter a similar sentiment in the ad for this week’s Christmas episode, “Christmas Attack Zone.” I didn’t memorize the line, but it was something like, “…and a joyous whatever it is you happen to celebrate.” In one line, he conveyed the joy of the season and the absurdity of political correctness run amok.

NBC’s Thursday night festivities kick off at 7 p.m. with “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas,” a special episode of the grossly under-appreciated Community that has the socially awkward, pop-culture obsessed Abed (Danny Pudi), a Muslim, dreaming about his study group existing in a stop-motion animated Christmas show. Community has never been shy about tackling religious and cultural differences. Last year’s Christmas episode, “Comparative Religion,” set the bar pretty high when Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) learned she was the only Christian in the study group. The mind reels at what Abed’s stop-motion Christmas dream will have in store for viewers.

30 Rock follows Community, then The Office’s hour-long Christmas episode (“Classy Christmas”) airs at 8 p.m. Michael’s soul mate, the aptly-named Holly (Amy Ryan), returns to Scranton for Christmas. Wanting to impress her, will Michael (Steve Carell) insist on being Santa at this year’s office party? Let’s hope he’s learned from his past mistakes…but it is Michael.

If game shows are more your style, NBC’s Minute to Win It and—proving NBC isn’t the only broadcast network with Christmas spirit—ABC’s Wipeout both have special holiday-themed episodes running this month.

Paula Hendrickson is a regular contributor to Emmy magazine and Variety, and has been published in numerous national publications, including American Bungalow, Television Week and TVGuide. Send in your suggestions to tubetalking-paula@yahoo.com.

From the Dec. 8-14, 2010 issue

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