In an effort to bite off even more than I can chew (and since we don’t have, like, a bajillion articles published on Friday anyway), I’ve decided to take a swing at covering Parks and Recreation, a little gem of a show I’ve gotten into the past week while cooped up inside the apartment thanks to the Great Chicago Blizzard of ’11. (It even made me miss a screening of Sanctum because the city shut down. Really. Though early reports of the film say I didn’t miss much.)
One of the things that got me to check out the show, other than ennui, was the stellar reviews it’d been getting and my general desire to fill the void The Office’s lackluster season has left. Hey, they had a good run and some pretty good episodes so far, but Parks and Rec has been batting a 1,000 since its second season, which is right around when The Office started to come into its own. (And in case you’re wondering, the spate of Office comparisons are because Parks and Rec was created by two Office alums, Greg Daniels and Michael Schur.)
One of the things I admire about the show, beside its daringness to showcase an overtly Libertarian character in Ron “F*cking” Swanson and the adorable pluckiness of Amy Peohler, is the light contempt it has for the general public of the little backwards town of Pawnee. Coming from a small town myself and having lived in an even pettier one that offered hours upon hours of small-town self-righteousness just a local access channel away, it’s nice to see someone satirize this comic gold mine. It always is the same, lonely people who take themselves way too seriously over a trivial point of local government, and the subtle touch of reducing the populace’s rhetorical skills to simple chanting is a nice touch.
But I should get to the recap. This week Pawnee is unveiling another mainstay of the small-town government: the time capsule, which sidesteps the assumptions that anyone from the future would want to learn about Pawnee and has fun with revealing what each of the P&R team likes best about their town—Tom wants to bury a picture of his ex, defacingly replete with mustache and stink lines; Leslie, a brief history of Pawnee, which includes the town’s increasingly disturbing slogans “Pawnee: Engage with Zorp” (for a brief time in the ‘70s, the town was taken over by a cult); bureau punching-bag Jerry tosses in his mother’s diaries; and Ron adds a menu from his favorite restaurant, featuring the intriguing “Four Horsemeals of the Egg-Porkcalypse” dish.
However, once this little pet project is introduced to the public, the town goes nuts. More specifically, a sad man called “Kellie,” (guest star Will Forte) who’s outraged that the capsule doesn’t include copies of Twilight. So outraged that he storms City Hall and chains himself to a pipe, refusing to leave until Twilight is preserved for the future to hate and remake into a series of films starring Justin Bieber (awww, snap! I don’t even know who that is, but the demographic seems profitable!).
But this is Parks and Recreation, and the writers enjoy flipping our sympathies, so we learn that the reason Kellie is pushing for Twilight is because he’s not really a fan; he just wants to make a push for his daughter. Even when the show looks down on the Pawnee residents, it is clever enough to know that behind every kook of the street, there’s a story about how they got that way. Ever the good sport, Leslie tries to placate Kellie by holding a town meeting, where Pawnee’s most cantankerous stars come out to shimmer and the bureau’s withstand some tumult basically to free themselves from blame—and also to allow everyone else to make their own recommendations as to what should also be included (“For the last time, no cats and no human remains!”).
Things go as well as expected, and Leslie only begins to lose her cool well after making a concession to add seven additional time capsules to cover the rest of Pawnee’s requests. The punchline is that Leslie compromises by just putting a recording of the town meeting in the capsule, so the future can get the real flavor of Pawnee however many years it takes them to dig it up. It’s kind of lackluster humor-wise, but, honestly, it’s a pretty ingenious solution.
The subplot involves Andy and Chris in a mutual bonding over their “girlfriends,” Chris with Andy’s ex, Ann, and Andy finally addressing the mutual crush between he and April. (Another running theme of the show is every guy in the office having a relationship with every girl.) Chris, ever the big help (and Rob Lowe playing the up-and-coming version of his character from Thank You for Smoking), wants to help Andy steal April away from her rebound Eduardo, so he asks Andy to outline his best qualities, which run the gamut from “Nice” to “Band.” But Eduardo goes back to Venezuela, so the whole thing kind of resolves itself. Not much to that subplot, really, but Rob Lowe’s over-the-top cheeriness meshed pretty well with Andy’s aw-shucks goodness. So there you go.
In all, another win for Parks, and if I haven’t mentioned the show’s name enough, well, go back and reread the recap—and have a great weekend!