When Parks and Recreation first debuted, I remember the attitude surrounding it was that the series what basically The Office with Amy Poehler... especially considering it was originally conceived as a spin-off. The similarities were there, and The Office was still good enough at that point that a new show with a cast of mostly-unfamiliar faces seemed pretty much vestigial.
Now, however, even if you put aside your feelings toward the The Office (in my case, they're mostly negative), our little Parks & Rec has become an entirely different series. Instead of the zaniness and all-too-comfortable routine that The Office has fallen into, the writers of Parks & Rec have created this wonderful, happy/silly/believable universe full of lovable characters, not unlike how The Simpsons staff nailed Springfield in the show's first few seasons (let's just say up until the Frank Grimes episode in Season 8). In my opinion, I'd rather spend time with the fine folks of Pawnee, Indiana than those in Scranton, Pennsylvania any day of the week.
The reason I bring this up now is because last night's "Bowling For Votes" highlighted just how great this cast is. In any combination, the Parks & Rec crew is basically guaranteed to crack me up while slightly warming my heart. The mere fact that I get excited to see Donna every week (a minor character who at most has a few shared scenes every few episodes), that I know how Leslie will react to criticism and a lack of whipped cream and that I would totally buy that April is finally ready to be nice to someone all just goes to show how well-crafted and developed the series and its characters are. And on top of that, it is downright hilarious.
Let's go on to grading everyone! I should warn you, though: My notes on this episode are basically every single thing that came out of every character's mouth, so apologies in advance for glossing over anything.
Leslie and Ben: A
Didn't think Ben fans could possibly love him any more than they already do? Let him punch a jerk in the face to defend Leslie, and then transform into the anxious stress-case he becomes under pressure. Maybe the fact that Leslie wasn't going to apologize and the voters were going to like it was a little obvious, but Leslie made up for it with the line about making out with her campaign manager... and her attempt at a laid-back posture.
Leslie's Best Line of the Night: "You are so down with strikes, they should call you 'Norma Rae.'"
Ben's Best Line of the Night: [In his first attempt at intervening between Leslie and Derek, her bowling rival] "Hey Leslie, I'd like to introduce you to my good friend... anyone else."
Best Collective Moment of the Night: As much as I loved the face-punching, the last scene they had together in front of the focus group where Leslie dryly asked Ben to beat up a guy for not liking her earrings, and Ben dryly said okay was my favorite. I also liked everything about Leslie's Bowling Comment folder.
Jerry, Donna, Chris, April and Andy: A+
The cold calling B-plot made great use of the show's minor characters, especially since it gave Jerry a taste of power without him monumentally screwing anything up. Not only did we get to see the juxtaposition of each character's persuasion skills; we actually got pretty big character development from April, as well as the chance to see Andy adorably pick up Champion. Also, I'm really glad that the Chris-Millicent storylines will finally be over.
Jerry's Best Line of the Night: "Well, I don't really know why you would need my Social Security number... but, well, yeah, no. You're right. I guess it couldn't hurt to give it to you. It's 210..."
Donna's Best Line of the Night: [At Jerry spilling the news about Milly breaking up with Chris] "SHUT UP!"
Chris's Best Line of the Night: [At his feeling post-breakup] "Here's why it may be the best thing that ever happened..." [Silence.]
April's Best Line of the Night: "I wished for his happiness to go away... I might be a wizard."
Andy's Best Line of the Night: [On the sudden need to take Champ outside] "What, Champion? You need to go outside now? Come one. Atta boy. Sorry, he... hates awkward situations."
Best Collective Moment of the Night: Both montage scenes of the group making calls. Honestly, that's probably where all of these character's best lines were, but I'm trying to cover as much ground as possible. My favorite was the earlier of the two, and here it is in .gif form.
Ann, Ron and Tom: B+
My biggest complaint with this episode, and Parks & Rec in general, is definitely highlighted in this C-plot. As funny as Ann, Ron and Tom were, there's been almost no character development with any of them all season. There's only so many times that Tom can make up ridiculous names for things, Ron can be a tough man and Ann can just... be. That's not to say this wasn't funny or that I didn't enjoy it -- but I'd like to see more risks with these three.
Ann's Best Line of the Night: [To Tom] "Are you a female bird?"
Ron's Best Line of the Night: "This bowling alley has my favorite restaurant in Pawnee." [Cut to board: HOT DOGS $1.00, HAMBURGERS: $1.35.]
Tom's Best Line of the Night: [To Ben] "Wow, you and me, huh? Hurt fingies!"
Best Collective Moment of the Night: Ron yelling at Tom was great and everything, but who hasn't experienced the "Make a fun name for me!" moment at a bowling alley? Tom's name ideas were complimented nicely by Ron just naming Ann "GIRL."
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