I like mini golf as much as the next person with a soul and warm blood, but "Swing Vote" didn't work for me. The characters didn't do anything particularly interesting, the storylines were contrived, the conceit of the episode was in most cases, literally, "Well, I guess none of this really mattered," and it generally just felt like the writers went on vacation and left outlines to a bunch of substitutes about what each Pawnee friend is like and how plots usually go for a group. I wouldn't say that Parks and Recreation has run its course, nor do I think next week's Season 5 finale should also be the series finale, but episodes like this do make me wonder how much farther the show can take these characters without feeling like it's spinning its wheels each week. In any event, I hope that this is the last we see of Jenny Slate's Mona-Lisa, who is unfortunately the poster child of why "Swing Vote" wasn't very good.
Parks and Recreation dipped into its usual hat of tricks, callbacks and beloved townspeople for "Animal Control" to produce a slightly formulaic episode... not that I'm complaining. Last night's episode cracked me up and made me happy while propelling some hard-earned character development, which is more than I can say about any other TV comedy currently airing right this moment, except for maybe New Girl. I'm not sure if you read my Modern Family reviews, but for a while (maybe an entire season or two, gulp) they became about me pointing out every single awful thing about that show followed by our commenters asking me to please stop being an awful grouch about a sitcom, to which I say: "If you just watched Parks & Rec and read my reviews of that, there'd be no issues here! You'd know I do have a sense of humor, Internet strangers!" But I digress. I'm just trying to say that "Animal Control" was good, dammit, and I'll start writing fangirl-y things about other shows once they put at least ten percent of the effort that this show puts in. Okay let's grade everyone yay!
I'll admit right now that I was already pretty biased going into "Bailout" -- Jason Schwartzman was my longtime high school crush (I wish I could tell you it was because of Rushmore or even Freaks and Geeks, but it actually spawned after Slackers) and I've been a fan of Jenny Slate's since before she was on Saturday Night Live. Also, hello: "Time After Time." I could totally understand an argument on why this installment could have felt repetitive or even like a filler episode (outside of Chris's dad-cision), but come on... we got two Sappersteins in one sitting. Let's get to grading.
There's a debate at the TWoP offices about whether Parks and Recreation is too nice, too pleasant and just plain obnoxious in that "Kumbaya" naively optimistic kind of way. If you've read anything I've ever written about this show and my unceasing love for it, you'll know which side I stand on, but I think it's an interesting point, especially without absurdist 30 Rock and often-dark Community (if last night's premiere is any indication) airing alongside the series. Our Pawnee friends go through waves of highs and lows -- my fellow LesliBen shippers will agree -- and right now, things are just very good for the group of characters we've come to know, love and root for. Parks & Rec has no intention of being like Breaking Bad in trying to get us to root against the protagonist, but instead tells a story of an odd collection of people navigating themselves through an even stranger small city. The surprises aren't in everything working out okay in the end, but rather, in how the gang is going to solve their problems and who they're going to pass along the way. It's almost like a legal procedural (hence all of the West Wing comparisons last season), but with way more calzones.
Half of Two Parties was so good -- like, series-highlight, disappointed-in-the-middle-of-the-episode-that-there-were-only-so-many-minutes-left, waiting-for-this-premise-to-turn-into-a-feature-length-movie good. The other half felt oversaturated, rushed and disorganized, and a waste of Donna with a male stripper and Leslie, Ann and April surrounded by penises and alcohol.
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.
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?
I know I should probably be stressing out over Parks and Recreation still being in limbo for a Season 5 (at least as of this writing) while deciding whether "Win, Lose, or Draw" was better than last year's Season 3 finale, "Li'l Sebastian," but honestly, all I want to do right now is sit in a high-quality leather chair and reflect on a season of television that made me happy.
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