Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on November 13th, 2011 5:36 am by HL
?Parks and Recreation? Open Thread: To High School and Back Again
This post contains spoilers through the November 10 episode of Parks and Recreation. One thing that’s struck me about Parks and Recreation as its come into its own as one of the best comedies on network television is the way it uses its supporting characters. While 30 Rock‘s essentially abandoned its supporting cast to the […]
This post contains spoilers through the November 10 episode of Parks and Recreation.
One thing that’s struck me about Parks and Recreation as its come into its own as one of the best comedies on network television is the way it uses its supporting characters. While 30 Rock‘s essentially abandoned its supporting cast to the point of making jokes about it, and Community‘s core cast is so big that the supporting cast is mostly there for very minor moments or one-offs like the Dungeons and Dragons episode, Parks and Recreation‘s supporting characters, even if they don’t get full episodes of their own, are reasonably well-developed and used for perfect inflection points. There’s something very funny and tender about Jerry as the minor bureaucrat with the soul of an artist, the kind of guy who recommends Italian Renaissance poetry from a horse funeral and paints pictures of Leslie as a Greek goddess, who’s too nice not to help April and Andy fulfill Andy’s bucket list even though he just wants to go home to his wife’s roast, who can’t tell Chris to leave him alone even as Chris is driving him insane by pulling Jerry into Chris’s relationship with Millicent. Similarly, I love Donna as the small-town hedonist, she of the Mercedes, and the treating yourself, and in this episode, lying back, eating popcorn, and getting Chris and Anne to relive their tantric sex workshops. They reinforce the main storylines perfectly without needing to be something they’re not for the situation. It’s a very nice bit of work.
I say all this as a preface to saying that I thought this was a particularly good episode for April, one of the characters who consistently frustrates me the most on Parks and Rec but has, this season, shown real signs of promise for the future. April’s clearly very smart, but she mostly acts willfully difficult or ignorant. Because she tamps down her own capabilities and Andy’s so perpetually enthusiastic, they mostly end up averaging out and ending up in the same place, but she’s clearly smarter than he is, and I’m always curious as to what might happen to their fledgling marriage if they got out of synch. You can see flashes of that in their participation in the Model UN tournament. When Andy tells April that “I just traded Finland’s military to Kenya for 50 lions,” her momentary practicality shows through when she reminds him that “Militaries are pretty good at protecting stuff.” And she also has a really good moment with Leslie, who has regressed to high school ridiculousness with Ben. “I just wanted to say it was cool how everything fell apart in there,” April says as she and Leslie slump by the lockers, before shifting into a slightly more mature gear. “And maybe you should talk to Ben…he takes really long sadness baths and makes me late for stuff.” I think it’s a really smart move to give April and Andy a spinoff web series: I’m sort of excited to see what they’re going to grow up into.
I have to admit, I’m less compelled by the core problems in this episode than the good stuff happening at the periphery. I worry that the show’s going to spend too much time with Leslie and Ben just being stuck in romantic limbo. Leslie’s lament-disguised-as-pep-talk “Friends help you move. They drive you to the airport. Boyfriends just love you and marry you,” is a very funny line, especially signaling the high school regression of the episode. But we know she feels this way. The show is wallowing a bit. Similarly, Chris’s decision to launch a ” full-scale investigation into my relationship with your daughter, Millicent Gergich,” as he puts it to Jerry, is very funny, and in character. But it also mostly serves to resolve a position that I’ve been basically talked around to, that Chris and Anne shouldn’t actually be together and will be better off as friends. And I’m glad that Tom is back, if only for Entertainment 720 to be definitively over. But I think it’s the least interesting choice the show could have made with him: it doesn’t really expand our vision of Pawnee, something that’s going to have to happen in Leslie’s campaign anyway and could have set the stage for the very different show it’ll be if she ends up on City Council.