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.
"Pawnee Commons" wasn't the type of Parks and Recreation episode that will make any Best Of lists, nor will it probably convert any people who aren't regular viewers into Pawnee fanatics, but it was satisfying, sweet and funny, and what I talk about when I talk about why I'd take an average Parks & Rec over most other sitcoms on TV right now. We knew from the second Leslie mentioned Eagleton what kind of people and places we were about to see, and I enjoyed every second of it... and felt quite empty knowing that I don't get to have a balloon-artisan-made Leslie and Ben at my desk.
I think "Leslie vs. April" may be my favorite episode of Parks and Recreation this season. I know I always go on about the character development on the show, but it is seriously delightfully to watch our Pawnee friends grow up and change and find new ways to be completely hilarious. I like April more and more every episode, and while there's some divide on whether Aziz Ansari can pull of a slightly dramatic plotline (I think he can, for the record), he's definitely capable of being funny while acting a bit more grown-up and serious. I'm slightly worried about the futures of Chris, Ron and Andy at the moment since their characters have felt a bit stagnant lately, but they each clearly have some big side plots going on off-camera from week-to-week, so that's a good sign.
Here's a bit of TV math: If Jonathan Banks plays both Ben Wyatt's dad on Parks and Recreation and Jay Pritchett's brother on Modern Family, then surely that means Ben's cousins are Claire and Mitchell which... would actually make a lot of sense, and would so be a crossover I'd watch in a heartbeat. In this totally falsified timeline, it also evens out that both Jay and his brother got divorced from uptight blonde women and are now dating much younger -- not to mention pregnant -- ladies. Though I guess this would also mean that Breaking Bad's Walter White basically ruins everything for both family which... also makes a lot of sense. But I digress.
Full disclosure: This episode was spoiled for me, so the whole time I watched "Halloween Surprise," I just wanted to get to the engagement already. It's frustrating, because this was supposed to be special. It was going to be my big night and it was completely ruined. Humph.
I laughed a lot during "Sex Education," but I wouldn't call it a great episode of Parks and Recreation. Season 5 has been off to a fairly slow start, and I'm wondering if sectioning off two major players of the cast to another city maybe wasn't the best idea in the world. I love Ben and April together, but aside from building a nice little friendship, I don't really see how far the plot of the show can be moved along with the two of them joking around in Washington... unless one (or both?) of them leaves their partner, something that I'm pretty positive isn't going to happen. (Though my research has led me to find a tiny community of Apren/Benpril shippers and apparently there's some pretty convincing fan fiction out there, though I sure as hell am not ever going to read it.)
"How a Bill Becomes a Law" did not feel like a standard Parks and Recreation episode -- and I mean that in a good way. The jokes were a little more advanced, and instead of relying on what we already know the characters do so well, the writing centered on the new roles and relationships we've been seeing in Season 5. Turns out, the episode was written by Dan Goor, who also penned such Parks & Rec greats like "Hunting Trip," "Freddy Spaghetti," "Harvest Festival," "Li'l Sebastian," and "The Trial of Leslie Knope," (to name a few), so they guy clearly knows what he's doing. The episode felt tight, the subplots hit their marks and we're actually starting to see some real character development play out on-screen. Let's get to grading. Please and thank you.
I've come to realize that my favorite Parks and Recreation episodes are the ones that are cartoonish in plot but realistic when it comes to the characters -- last year's "Pawnee Rangers" sticks out to me for doing just that, while last week's "Ms. Knope Goes to Washington" was disappointing because the Leslie-Ben plot was all too accurate while Ron's character was a caricature. Or, I don't know, maybe I just really enjoyed last night's "Soda Tax" because of clever writing and great acting. Either way.
How excited are you that Parks and Recreation is back for Season 5? How great was it to see the old gang again? How much did you think, "I really hope Amy Poehler is happy in her personal life!"? How disappointed were you by last night's episode?
It's been a very long summer without our favorite local government, but they're finally back. Parks and Recreation will return for its fifth season tomorrow, and we couldn't be more excited to catch up with the Pawnee gang -- even if a few of the members are out-of-town. We talked to Adam Scott and Aubrey Plaza about their characters, and in between cracking us up and bringing out our inner fangirls, we learned what to expect for the new season.
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