After sitting through a disappointing 30 Rock and the worst Office Christmas episode ever, it was really a relief to watch "Ron and Diane." I think I'm ready to admit that I'm in denial about this season of Parks and Recreation. The episodes make me laugh and I'd certainly still call Parks & Rec one of my favorite shows on TV, but my high expectations for it have officially been curbed. Our Pawnee friends feel like they're suffering from a lack of momentum, and even the episodes where nothing really happens in terms of development are just not as funny as they have been. I think Season 3's harvest festival arc spoiled me rotten in how swiftly Parks & Rec can potentially build a season-long storyline, and even though Season 4 dragged on just a little bit, Leslie winning the election was enough payoff for me. What's the big conceit this time around? Lesliben's wedding? I mean, if that's what it's going to be, of course I'll fangirl out about it and everything (obviously), but there's got to be more meat added to those bones. And given the series' gradually sinking numbers (last week's episode did especially bad), I'm not the only one not feeling the love.
But okay, enough with the downer critic talk. The grades below don't really reflect it, but I did think "Ron and Diane" was really funny and mostly just missed a few opportunities to be amazing. My biggest episode-centric complaint is that Christie Brinkley, who played Jerry's loving wife Gayle, had too much Botox (or something) in her face to function as an actress. I loved seeing that satisfying home life Jerry's always talking about, but would it have been so hard to find an actress who was able to express herself in a humanoid way? At one point, I thought Gayle was actually hitting on Chris because her face barely moved as she plucked a gray hair from his shoulder, and I'm pretty sure that wasn't the intention. Yeesh. Now, let's get to it.
Leslie, Ron Ulysses/Duke Silver, Diane and Tammy: B
Ron was terrific last night, and written exactly how he should have been written all season long -- passionate and true to character without being a caricature of himself. It was great to see him genuinely happy and giggle over the "stupid boring woodworking stuff," something that he would believably be passionate about. The Leslie and Diane stuff was interesting and I absolutely love that it led to Ron introducing Diane to Duke Silver, that lucky b... no I will also not use the b-word. And as much as seeing Tammy is always a delight, and the fact that Ron wasn't interested in her or her lack of panties was of course an important character development point, I just felt that this plotline should have been a lot funnier. Ron's acceptance speech, his secret about loving artichokes and plums, the continuity with his birthday and Baskin-Robbins and Tammy chasing Leslie with an axe were obviously the other highlights.
Leslie's Best Line of the Night: "Gryffindor. Seeker on the Quidditch team."
Ron's Best Line of the Night: [On making a chair and then entering it to the Woodworking Awards] "It's been a real whirlwind!"
Diane's Best Line of the Night: "I'm a middle school vice principal. I deal with hormonal psychopaths all the time"
Tammy's Best Line of the Night: "Oh my god, I am so turned on right now." (Did anyone else think that Leslie and Tammy car scene felt very Homeland at first?)
Chris and Gloomy Goose: C+
Chris and Ben were just bogged down with exposition we already know, in what could have been a much better subplot. On the bright side, Chris didn't crash at the end, Ben got to make some funny faces at the camera and now we know how many calories are in a cup of egg nog.
Chris's Best Line of the Night: "I just finished making an entry in my dream journal. This time, the giant spider got caught in my web. Progress!"
Ben's Best Line of the Night: "Wanna take off, grab some vegan fries?"
Andy, April, Tom, Donna and Man Perkins: C+
It's a pet peeve of mine when sitcoms add in beloved annual traditions that are completely new to us, despite the fact that we've already been watching it for years, so please excuse me for going especially hard on Jerry Dinner. And I promise I won't say this anymore here, but I'm so disappointed that this storyline wasn't absolutely hilarious. Thank goodness for Ann (and how awesome was her cat shirt by the way?), for holding everything together... though, I also didn't even know she knew Jerry. Also of note: the things Andy forgot to bring to dinner; the fact that April is really very weak; that the Jerry Filter was a plausible and satisfying explanation; Andy trying his high score on Snake; and the continuity with Jerry's hospital bills.
Andy's Best Line of the Night: "I'm allergic to sushi. Every time I eat more than 80 sushis, I barf."
April's Best Line of the Night: "I need a place to deliver this baby, Ann! It's coming out of me right now I'm pregnant." (Foreshadowing?!)
Donna's Best Line of the Night: "Mmm, look at that Gingerbread man." (That guy did kind of look like a beefed-up Blake Griffin.)
Tom's Best Line of the Night: [Watching Jerry spill coffee all over himself] "And that's $517... $518."
Ann's Best Line of the Night: [On how she should do stand-up] "If you're kidding, you suck. But if you're serious, I actually have been thinking about it."
Ironically, Jerry was the one person who did not disappoint last night. Seeing him sing with Gayle and the kids was the best. I only wish we got a flashback of that one time he ate a bowl of glue.
His Best Line of the Night: "Congratulations on your wedding, I'm rooting for you kids."
Honorable mentions: Christian Becksfort, the modern master of the shaker style, who probably gets swamped with attention all the time; Martin Howsley and his wooden "I" which made me laugher harder than I should admit in print; and the guy who threw down his napkin when he lost the chair award to Ron. Also, please, can we have a moment of silence for the woodworkers who are no longer with us and their beautiful coffins.
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