Parks and Recreation – “Media Blitz”

“Media Blitz”

February 17th, 2011

When he first arrived, Adam Scott appeared to have been hired to play the new straight man. Ben Wyatt seemed a replacement for Mark Brendanowitz, someone who could react to the madness around him. Just take the moment in “Time Capsule” when Ben reacts to the idea of someone handcuffing himself to a pipe in order to get Twilight into a time capsule: it’s funny, but it’s funny because it’s a sane response to an insane situation.

“Media Blitz” is the moment when Ben Wyatt becomes subsumed into Pawnee culture. It is the moment where Ben Wyatt is let loose, where he leaves the confines of City Hall and steps into the spotlight. The result is a really tremendous showcase for Adam Scott, allowed to dig deeper into the character’s past while simultaneously tying him into what appears to be the character’s future.

It’s also the most concerted effort yet to set the table for Ben’s relationship with Leslie.

That last statement is probably strange to some: after all, outside of a pretty overt attempt to demonstrate some of Leslie’s feelings about a potential relationship, there was no scene comparable to their scene at the bar in “Go Big or Go Home” or even that final scene at the end of “Ron and Tammy: Part Two.” However, what the episodes does it reframe moments towards the end of last season as well as early this season in a new light. Given the anxiety that Ben’s mayoral past causes him, it says something that the character is willing to openly talk to Leslie about the project.

Of course, talking to Leslie in a bar (twice) about the project is not exactly the same as being on local radio or television. But Ben’s struggles with the legacy of Ice Town are something that he has clearly tried to put behind him, something that his new role as a budget specialist is meant to offset in some way. The “secret” has always been the connection between Leslie and Ben, something that was more or less their secret, but its emergence in this episode makes that connection even more powerful. She was the person that he told, and that gained more traction here when his past rose up to the surface – they’re still not at the point where they’re close to starting a relationship, but the show is clearly laying the groundwork for something (even if it doesn’t end up being romantic in nature).

I was surprised we didn’t see more of the Parks employees discussing the revelation, which makes me wonder if it wasn’t actually a secret, but the real value was in Ben Wyatt: Man of the Media. The early scene with Crazy Ira and the Douche were delightfully awkward, and nicely captured in Leslie and Tom’s over-hearing of his attempt at small talk with Crazy Ira, but the real value was in that video recording of Ya’ Heard with Perd. It’s a scene very reminiscent of the outtakes from Jack’s Product Integration video in 30 Rock’s “Jack-Tor” (the show’s first truly great episode), but it’s just absolutely hysterical. Adam Scott is tremendous, the actual lines are wonderful when viewed in such small clips, but more importantly the choice to have us watch it solely through the DVD. It’s a small thing, but it really put us in the room versus making us into a separate audience member, which transitioned wonderfully into Ron nailing April’s photography assignment.

As for the other end of the episode, as Ron breaks his rule of helping people in order to ensure that he keeps an assistant who will continue to help him not help people, is just charming. Look, there’s nothing groundbreaking about Andy and April: the characters are pretty clearly defined, their relationship has been pretty easily choreographed all season, and we knew they were going to get together eventually. However, it just made me smile at the end of the day, which is all I’m really looking for. Loved Ron’s involvement, enjoyed the foot massage interlude, and I thought it made Andy just sadsack enough to bring it all across.

Cultural Observations

  • Switching to bullets since I’m running out of time, Chris and Ann stuff was…we’ll wait until next week to comment on that, shall we?
  • It’s really tough writing these having seen “Media Blitz” like five times over the course of two months – I’ll have a bit more to say about “Indianapolis” next week, I hope.
  • Absolutely loved the “Altavista” runner, and Ben for calling it out, but note Ron’s use of “ElectronicBay.com” in the (funny) cold open as well – the internet comes to Pawnee, ladies and gentlemen!
  • “More like Turd Crapley.”
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