A Paranormal Activity parody may seem a little late at this point, but NTSF knows what it’s doing. “Christmas Activity” doesn’t just send-up found footage horror—though Kove gets in a good zinger about the gimmicky style—as much as it uses that familiar structure to get across a subversive message about overly aggressive Christmas devotees.
The entire NTSF team goes to Kove’s house for Christmas, outfitted with hidden security cameras—so Kove can make lovemaking tapes in any room—extra Flip cameras and SAM’s onboard camera cover the other angles. As the only Jewish member of the office, Sam attends the party to be with his friends and coworkers, but remains skeptical about the specific complexities involved in the NTSF Christmas gathering.
Kove wants everyone to open a present, but since it’s early, that may have superstitious consequences. As in “Wasilla Hills Cop,” the Christmas episode plays up the surreal interpretation of Alphonse’s Alaskan heritage. He lays out his version of Santa Claus with grim folk tale attributes like a suit that starts out white but is stained by blood, and a sleigh made from bones of those who defied him. The “Alaskan voodoo mysticism” is the funniest part of Alphonse’s character, but his superstitions about a vengeful Santa seeking revenge on those who open present early starts to come true.
Since it’s a horror parody packed into 10 minutes, the tropes come up fast. First the power cuts out, and Kove sends Jesse to fix it (“Jesse, you’re the least fun, go out back and check on the fuse box.”). She comes back with a giant candy can stuck in her back, and the group unravels from there Kove goes crazy and hangs herself with a string of lights, the deranged Stana beheads Trent—twice, since he ties his head back on with tinsel—and turns Piper into a doll, the very thing she’s most afraid of.
It ends with Sam alone against Santa in a murderous rage, bellowing at the cowering technician while holding an electric drill fitted with a dreidel. But Sam renounces his beliefs, and everything’s over—all the other NTSF staff members come out, the lights turn on, and Santa is unmasked as the President of the Navy. It’s all an elaborate prank to get Sam to sell out his actual beliefs and join everyone else in celebrating Christmas, because it’s “the best holiday ever, and every other holiday is the worst!”
Though it probably ranks third among Community Christmas episodes, the first season's "Comparative Religion" remains one of my favorites, if only for how it shows how much progress Shirley has made when it comes to pushing her religion on others. The way she tries to make everyone sing Jesus-soaked carols at her study room party is exactly the kind of overzealous attitude that doesn't fit the message of acceptance. It's the same attitude that this episode of NTSF attacks.
“Christmas Activity” is a not-so-subtle jab at how Christmas is so domineering to other holidays because of the way it affects the economy, and how loud its supporters shout down anyone trying to gain actual equality. Christmas specials are ubiquitous, and I can enjoy that since my family celebrates Christmas. But for me, it’s a time to appreciate my immediate family, which isn’t religious at all, in the same way that we ignore the historical aspects of Thanksgiving in order to focus on the people we care about. The yearly “War on Christmas” tradition on Fox News and the philosophical furor gets in the way of a nice holiday, and NTSF skewers that haughty attitude with the same surreal laughs it earned throughout this season.
- Apologies for the mix-up that left us with no coverage of the 13th episode this season, it’s the only one I never got a screener for, and I was out of the country when it aired. The infomercial marked the first broadcast episode for writer Nick Wiger and director Alex Fernie, who were responsible for the webisode “Intertia,” which has been playing in installments on the A.V. Club website.
- Alphonse cites an old Eskimo song “The 12 Kills of Christmas,” which is hilarious, especially the fact that it’s supposed to be sung by weeping orphans.