Parks and Rec follows up its fantastic one-hour premiere with one of the worst episodes in the show's history.
I know, I know, that is very dramatic, but I honestly barely cracked a smile and felt the strain of the writing at every turn. The only potentially good thing to come out of the episode is the merging of Pawnee and Eagleton, but the rivalry between the two cities was put to the max this week and was unable to keep the gag going strong through the first commercial break. The Pawnee/Eagleton rivalry has always been a highlight of the show, but it has also always been used in small doses. The opening scene with Leslie doing some Eagleton stand up comedy was very funny and fit the show's mold for a good Eagleton jab, but by the end of the episode Leslie came off like a crazy person and the joke was like beating a dead horse. Yes, Leslie hates Eagleton, but she would have listened to Ben’s rationality much sooner. Plus, the show cheats by allowing Leslie to be a part of these budgeting meetings, she wouldn’t be allowed anywhere near them. I know that is nitpicky, but when the show is sucking as bad as this episode is it’s hard to overlook. Just as blatantly false was Leslie going from an insane person to a rational human being in the blink of an eye at the sight of some neighborly help on the Tip Off Classic floor. Amy Poehler couldn’t even save the terrible gimmick and this wasn’t even the worst plotline of the week.
Anne and April are just as terrible this week as well, but again, they didn’t find the bottom. Sending the two off together to anything makes no sense in the first place, but what really bothered me was the fact that they decided to betray April’s growing into adulthood just so she could act like an asshole for an episode. Moving April’s character forward by trying to enter adulthood through veterinary school seemed like it was going to be a really interesting place to take the character, but instead the show blows all of that up by just having her go with a gut feeling that she isn’t going to go to school to be a vet anymore. It doesn’t help that April’s evil nature isn’t remotely funny either and she is so far over the top that there is no way Anne would ever cheerfully go along with it. The “gut feeling” also shows itself to be just a forced piece to motivate Anne to have an even more forced “gut feeling” about moving from Pawnee so they can start laying the groundwork for her and Chris to leave the show. Rashida Jones isn’t given a single good line either in the episode and I would have smacked the writer if I were her.
Last, and certainly least, is somehow Mr. Swanson and his attempt to get off the grid. Problem number one, Ron has already been practically off the grid. Problem number two, a Swanson certainly wouldn’t need the help of Tom and Donna. Problem number three, nothing in this storyline was funny outside Nick Offerman’s amazing trembling hand when he kicks out the mailman from his office. Every beat falls flat here as this trio just doesn’t gel together at all. Ron making fun of Tom’s girly nature, great! Tom making fun of Ron not being able to do something we definitely know he would be on top of, not good. All of the episodes pairing felt off actually, as none of the combinations of characters played towards the way that they work best. I guess I can appreciate the writer, Alan Yang, trying to mix things up and try some new things, but the script feels like it doesn’t understand the characters in the slightest; nor the dynamics that work so well on the show. Everything comes across forced in the episode, but worst of all none of it was funny. Panicked Ron can be funny, but I think we need to see him interacting with his new daughters and not freaking over something we know he would be perfectly prepared for.
Parks and Rec can’t be great every time out, but this really feels like it was one of the worst entries on the show. Hopefully the Pawnee/Eagleton merger goes better than this going forward.
-"That's the sexiest thing you've ever said to me."
-"Yes, because Eagleton sucks."
-Leslie's got the mic.
-"Who or what is Pennysaver?"
-"It ended up being an interesting year of reading."
-"It doesn't have a name."
-"A picture of Patrick Ewing on a roller coaster."
-"Now that is the sexiest thing you've ever said to me."
-"Lead free pacifiers."
-Chris Bosh cameo!