Jim Rash

Let us sing the praises of Community while we can — an apt sentiment as the NBC cult comedy, and recent TV Guide Magazine "Fan Favorite," airs its last original episode (8/7c) before taking an unwelcome and indefinite hiatus in the new year. Also appropriate since this inspired outing is a splashy musical parody of Glee that, as is Community's wont, becomes a mash-up of genres that goes to some awfully dark and weird places, though always with an effervescent absurdist whimsy. Saturday Night Live's Taran Killam is right at home in this company, playing the perky yet kinda sinister glee club leader "Mr. Rad," who recruits (or is it brainwashes?) the initially reluctant study group to join the club in time for the Christmas pageant — even Pierce, who can't stop grumbling, "What the hell are regionals? They never stop talking about it!" Sample lyric from the first number, all about the notion of "Glee:" "It's the feeling you get when your brain finally lets your heart get in its pants!" It's really no sillier than what goes on most weeks with New Directions, when you think about it. Piece of friendly advice: Record this episode, because you'll likely want to watch it again. And again. Whatever it takes to get us through the next few months until NBC brings the show back.

Stay tuned for a very touching Christmas episode of Parks and Recreation (8:30/7:30c) that finds a suspended-from-work Leslie (Amy Poehler) going so stir crazy she forms a "militant citizen group" action committee to storm City Hall. Back in the office, the goal is to come up with a gift for Leslie that's as personal and thoughtful as the presents she famously doles out every year. Even Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman, in top form) is willing to try something "cute" (a word he has trouble uttering, but you'll be glad he did). The climax of this memorable episode approaches It's a Wonderful Life-level sentimentality, and is just as open-hearted and moving.

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From there, the NBC comedies take a steep quality dive, although any night that gives us back-to-back slams of The Black Eyed Peas in two separate episodes can't be all bad. The Office (9/8c) is built around another unpleasantly raucous office holiday party, where Andy's intent is to grant everyone's Christmas wish — so why would he invite along his new girlfriend, which predictably sends Erin into a drunken frenzy. Robert California (James Spader) is also on hand, down in the dumps after being dumped, because where else is a CEO going to go? And Jim and Dwight keep playing pranks, even at the risk of their year-end bonuses. This all feels about as fresh as last year's fruitcake. ... But for a truly blue Christmas feeling, look no further than the shrill Whitney (9:30/8:30c), where guest stars Peter Gallagher and Jane Kaczmarek (as Whitney's long-divorced parents) bellow their punch lines in hopes of convincing us something funny is going on. A fool's errand, to be sure, but at least NBC is giving us the gift of bouncing this show from Thursday to the black hole of Wednesday night.

NBC's lineup concludes with a special Thursday airing of Friday sleeper Grimm (10/9c), evoking memories of Buffy in its storyline of a prep-school outcast who's implicated in the death of a teacher. When Nick sees under the surface of this prodigy, he turns to reformed creature Monroe to talk some sense into the tormented teen.

How do you protect someone who's trying to take you down? That's the challenge in this week's strong feels-like-sweeps episode of CBS's Person of Interest (9/8c), revolving around Detective Carter (Taraji P. Henson), whose number comes up on The Machine, meaning Reese (Jim Caviezel) will have to get uncomfortably close to the person who's been tracking him all season. We learn quite a bit about Carter, including her past as an Army interrogator in the Middle East, as Reese and Finch (Michael Emerson) try to figure out just how the elusive master criminal Elias (Enrico Colantoni) will target his prey. Will it be through one of the many cases she is selflessly pursuing? The more Reese observes, the more he sees a kindred spirit in Carter. "Some people the world can't afford to lose," he says, as he tries to stay a beat ahead of her in hopes of averting disaster. The palpable sense of looming danger is what separates Person of Interest from most often formula procedurals.

Anyone for Jingle Balls? ABC's Wipeout (8/7c) returns for a Christmas special, with new co-host Vanessa Lachey. This kicks off an all-reality lineup including an America's Funniest Home Videos "Christmas Spectacular" (9/8) full of yuletide gags, and a new special, The Great Big American Auction (10/9c), in which Ty Pennington scours flea markets and yard sales all across the USA, finding hidden treasures that are then auctioned off. Sounds like a collision of about half a dozen hit cable series.

So what else is on? ... Leonard confronts the bully who tormented him in high school on CBS's The Big Bang Theory (8/7c). ... Craig Bierko guests on The Mentalist (10/9c, CBS) as a retired NFL quarterback. ... ZZ Top's Billy F. Gibbons returns to Fox's Bones (9/8c) as Angela's rocker dad, who offers to babysit and give the new parents a rest, while Booth is busy being overprotective of the pregnant Bones. ... After several weeks in the bottom, is this the night Marcus Canty is sent packing on Fox's The X Factor (8/7c)?

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