Tag Archives: Amy Poehler

Parks and Recreation – “Leslie’s House”

“Leslie’s House”

January 21st, 2010

One of the things that I find so interesting about Parks and Recreation’s second season comeback is that the show hasn’t fundamentally changed its stories. I can very much see how the show, in its infancy, might have brainstormed an idea about Leslie’s house looking like a crazy person’s garage, and the idea of Leslie trying to host a dinner party and using her connections with a city program in order to pull it off feels like something that could have gone horribly wrong in the first season.

I didn’t think “Leslie’s House” was amongst the best episodes of the season, as it felt as if there were just a few too many things going on at once, but the fact that the core of the episode didn’t implode with all of those elements present is a testament to the control the writers have over the universe right now. Despite technically presenting only a single story, the episode started to weave in a lot of recurring stories to complicate things, and it resulted in quite a few fun gags and just enough resonance to keep things from seeming overwhelming.

It’s a funny episode, and an impressive one considering the degree of difficulty, but I almost feel like there’s an extra ten minutes here that could have given some of the storylines a bit more time to breathe that would have really made the episode click.

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Parks and Recreation – “The Set Up”

“The Set Up”

January 14th, 2010

After just writing about Community’s handling of Jack Black’s guest spot by calling attention to how distracting it could be to have a recognizable guest star show up on your show, it’s interesting to turn our gaze to Parks and Recreation, where two “big name” guest stars (at least in my circles) debuted. While Community drew our attention to Black’s disruption in order to make a large meta-joke, Parks and Recreation does something similar but different in creating an extra layer of comedy for those who know that Will Arnett and Amy Poehler are married in real life.

It was a good example of how casting someone recognizable can help a storyline rather than hurt it, as Arnett was simply a fun casting choice: he’s funny, and the marriage added an extra layer to the scene, but it wasn’t dependent on a guest star, just as the show didn’t need to have Justin Theroux playing the aptly named Justin, a friend of Ann’s who Leslie takes a liking to. Both characters, despite being cast with recognizable faces (for me, at least), played roles which weren’t played as the “point” of the episode, but their performances gave them an added weight, which is especially helpful when Theroux might be sticking around for a while.

And so now we can look at the episode less in terms of who was in it, and more in terms of the episode built around them…okay, I’m going to talk some more about Arnett. Sue me.

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Parks and Recreation – “The Fourth Floor”

“The Fourth Floor”

December 3rd, 2009

That Parks and Recreation is a consistently funny comedy is no longer a surprise, and we’re also to the point in “The Fourth Floor” where we’re not even learning anything particularly new about these characters and their dynamics. Rather, the show has turned into what every good comedy should be: a showcase for these characters, these actors, and these writers to tell stories that make us laugh and enrich the universe without necessarily having to expand that universe.

The interactions found within “The Fourth Floor” are ones we’ve seen in the past, picking up on elements of “Greg Pikitis” in order to tell the story of Tom Haverford’s (not-so) loveless marriage coming to an end and how Leslie, and the rest of the office, react to the news. What makes it work so well is how carefully the writers control Leslie’s response to the crisis, and how use two and develop two separate locations (Jurassic Fork and the Glitter Factory) to house that drama in a way that allows the characters to learn what we already know in a way that is both funny and more resonant than it could have been.

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Saturday Night Live – “November 7th, 2009 – Taylor Swift”

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“Taylor Swift”

November 7th, 2009

There was one question on everyone’s mind when it comes to Taylor Swift’s hosting stint on Saturday Night Live: Kanye. It’s really the only thing of any note, and to be honest it’s probably the only reason that she was asked to host in the first place. There is no question that Swift is charming, and that her confidence behind the microphone is beyond her years, but she isn’t a comedienne. While she is the kind of musical artist who could easily be integrated into a single skit (or even two), she’s not the kind of artist who could go beyond the typical list of hosting gigs (playing a celebrity with vague resemblance, playing herself, etc.).

So, as such, what works about this week’s episode is when the show plays to Swift’s strengths, placing her behind a microphone or in settings which don’t have the pressure of live comedy. When the show asks her to do much more, the stilted cue card reading rears its head, and you realize that beneath the glossy exterior she really is a teenage girl with a beautiful voice but without acting training.

Which isn’t a huge problem if the show around her is even the least bit funny, but that’s asking a bit much of SNL these days.

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Parks and Recreation – “Ron and Tammy”

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“Ron and Tammy”

November 5th, 2009

“Now listen to one of mine.”

There’s nothing special about “Ron and Tammy,” except that it’s probably the funniest Parks and Recreation to date.

There’s a guest star, yes, but not one who feels overly forced into the story or on who the show relies too heavily. There’s no special event taking place in the context of the episode to make things more exciting than usual, and there’s even a B-Plot that has nothing to do with the A-Plot. And if you were to write down the plot of the episode without any context (which would read “Leslie and Ron feud with Library Services over an Empty Lot”), you would probably think this episode would be downright dreadful.

But what makes this episode so special is that this episode is less an aberration and more a sign that the momentum just isn’t going to go away, and that this sitcom has finally found its groove. The episode’s situation is one of the show’s funniest, and it features some of the best lines in the show’s short lifespan, but it feels like the show could have just as funny a scenario in the future without any trouble. It is an episode that not only convinces you that it is great, but also that the show behind the episode is just as strong if not stronger for having spawned it.

If you are for some reason still one of those people who never gave this show a chance, you need to watch this episode not because it is singularly great but because it is symptomatic of a broader greatness. You’ve been listening to the other guys, with their offices and sketch comedy shows, for long enough: tonight, listen to the genius of Ron F**kin’ Swanson.

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Parks and Recreation – “The Stakeout”

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“The Stakeout”

September 24th, 2009

Last night’s ratings report, in all of its complexity, has a lot of big stories. Some are positive: FlashForward won its timeslot, Bones held up well against the increased competition, Grey’s Anatomy grabbed what will be the week’s highest demo numbers, and The Vampire Diaries actually grew in a competitive timeslot on The CW. Others, however, are negative, like CSI plummeting to all-new lows while handicapping The Mentalist which struggled to match last year’s premiere numbers in a more high-profile time slot.

However, the real sadness is in the fall of two of NBC’s sitcoms, in particular Parks and Recreation. Community, with its Office lead-in, is in a somewhat safer position and put up solid but significantly lower numbers than last week’s sampling. But Parks, which struggled in the ratings in the Spring, dropped down to the same levels as The Vampire Diaries and is on a sort of ratings life support. In a month, these two shows are going to be sharing this timeslot, and if they’re already struggling that’s only going to get tougher as things move further into the season.

And this is kind of terrible for Parks and Recreation in particular, a show that not only deserves more viewers but deserves to earn back the viewership of those who bailed early in its uneven first season. “The Stakeout” is maybe not quite as laugh-out-loud funny as Community’s sophomore episode, but I’d argue that it was the best constructed of the three sitcom episodes on the evening, utilizing its characters to hilarious effect and confirming just how much better the show is this season. It may be struggling in the ratings, but it’s killing where it matters most (to us, if not to NBC).

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Season Premiere: Parks and Recreation – “Pawnee Zoo”

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“Pawnee Zoo”

September 17th, 2009

“Everyone is just who they are”

Leslie Knope was the problem, and Leslie Knope was the solution.

When Parks and Recreation struggled to get off the blocks in the Spring, there were plenty of excuses. The show was rushed to get into production before the season began, and had a strange road from would-be Office spinoff to a show unconnected to that universe but staffed by the same people and even featuring Rashida Jones, who spent time on Greg Daniels and Mike Schur’s other show. So, when the show took some time finding its footing, I was willing to give it plenty of chances because the show was confused about what precisely it was going to be.

It was a show that had some strong supporting performers (Nick Offerman, Aziz Ansari, Christ Pratt, Jones), and a promising premise, but it was really let down by its inability to pin down Leslie Knope, our central character. It wasn’t that Amy-Poehler wasn’t charming or engaging, or wasn’t up to the task of making us like this character. Instead, the writing just didn’t know what they wanted her to be, and as a result the show seemed to flit around aimlessly as it was content to coast on a pre-set storyline and let the character go with the flow.

But in the season’s final episode, “Rock Show,” and in “Pawnee Zoo,” Leslie Knope is a finely tuned character designed to entertain us as a viewer and, more importantly, to drive stories. The storyline from the premiere is driven by Leslie’s well-meaning mistake, but what comes afterwards is made funnier and more complicated by her desire for people to like her and also her unwillingness to back down. The character felt, as it did by the end of the first season, consistent in both the writing and in Poehler’s performance, a perfect harmony of script and performer which allows the show to move forward with its great supporting cast to provide a great half hour of comedy.

I won’t say that it’s reached its full potential yet, but this is a show where an initial identity crisis is ancient history, and where things are finally looking up in Pawnee.

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Predicting the 2009 Emmys: Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

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Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

Predicting the 2009 Emmys

And the nominees are…

  • Kristin Chenoweth (Pushing Daisies)
  • Amy Poehler (Saturday Night Live)
  • Kristen Wiig (Saturday Night Live)
  • Elizabeth Perkins (Weeds)
  • Jane Krakowski (30 Rock)
  • Vanessa Williams (Ugly Betty)

With last year’s winner Jean Smart out of the race, let us take a moment to remember that nobody in their right mind really predicted Jean Smart to win this award last year. This means that there is a definite air of unpredictability around this award that makes for an interesting battle.

I think that Perkins and Williams are out of the running at this point: I don’t think either of them have the material or the buzz factor to be able to successfully mount a competitive fight here. I’m also going to suggest that Wiig is probably not going to make it either. I like her, and I think that she was better overall on SNL this year, but I think her lack of name recognition will keep her out of the winners’ circle as known entities tend to do better in the Supporting categories.

That leaves Amy Poehler (favoured to win last year but shut out), Kristin Chenoweth (whose show is cancelled) and Jane Krakowski (whose show dominated the Emmy nominations). Part of me thinks that all have something working against them that could let one of the other sneak in. Poehler was supposed to win last year, but didn’t even when her profile (due to Baby Mama) was at an all-time high. This year, her profile wasn’t enough for her to sneak into Lead Actress Comedy for Parks and Recreation, and she’s been overshadowed by Tina Fey’s Sarah Palin performance in terms of SNL. That’s a tough situation to balance, but she’s well-liked and remains a major player.

Chenoweth and Krakowski have the exact opposite problem, really. In Krakowski’s case, I don’t think she had the same kind of strong material this year (when she and her co-stars picked up on the 30 Rock Emmy train with supporting nods) as she did last, with her fat period providing a lot of great comic material overall. Jenna was a bit more all over the place this season, but on a show with that much buzz it might not matter. Chenoweth’s Olive Snook, meanwhile, was in fine form on Pushing Daisies, in the midst of deeply personal but hilarious storylines played out in the show’s trademark zany and surrealistic environment. However, no one watched Pushing Daisies, and for all of her Tony-winning brilliance the cancelled show factor could weight heavily on her ability to win the award.

Predicted Winner: Kristin Chenoweth (Pushing Daisies)

All of that being said, going with my heart and my gut on this one: I think Emmy voters appreciated Pushing Daisies enough and find Chenoweth charming enough in a winning submission to give her and the show the sendoff they deserve.

Dark Horse: Jane Krakowski (30 Rock)

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2009 Emmy Nominations: And the Nominees Are…

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And the Nominees Are…

2009 Emmy Nominations

For analysis of the surprises, the snubs, and everything in between, check out:

Power to the People?: 2009 Emmy Nominations Analysis [Link]

However, in list form, the nominees for the 61st Annual Primetime Emmy Awards are…

Outstanding Drama Series

  • Big Love
  • Breaking Bad
  • Damages
  • Dexter
  • House
  • Lost
  • Mad Men

Lead Actress in a Drama Series

  • Glenn Close (Damages)
  • Mariska Hargitay (Law and Order: SVU)
  • Sally Field (Brothers & Sisters)
  • Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men)
  • Holly Hunter (Saving Grace)
  • Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer)

Lead Actor in a Drama Series

  • Gabriel Byrne (In Treatment)
  • Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad)
  • Michael C. Hall (Dexter)
  • Jon Hamm (Mad Men)
  • Hugh Laurie (House)
  • Simon Baker (The Mentalist)

Outstanding Comedy Series

  • Entourage
  • Family Guy
  • Flight of the Conchords
  • How I Met Your Mother
  • The Office
  • 30 Rock
  • Weeds

Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

  • Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords)
  • Alec Baldwin (30 Rock)
  • Steve Carell (The Office)
  • Charlie Sheen (Two and a Half Men)
  • Tony Shalhoub (Monk)
  • Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory)

Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

  • Christina Applegate (Samantha Who?)
  • Toni Colette (United States of Tara)
  • Tina Fey (30 Rock)
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus (New Adventures…Christine)
  • Mary-Louise Parker (Weeds)
  • Sarah Silverman (The Sarah Silverman Program)

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2009 Emmy Award Predictions: Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

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Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

Predictions

Like the Lead Actor race, Lead Actress in a Comedy Series category isn’t particularly deep, although it’s got a bit more room for surprise. Not too much will be different from last year, where the category was a runaway victory for Tina Fey, but there’s one new face and a few old faces that could theoretically enter into the Emmy scramble depending on how the popular vote turns out.

Fey is a lock to return, likely alongside Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Mary-Louise Parker who continue to give strong performance and continue to have a lot of pedigree with voters. The other three slots could be filled by other returning nominees Christina Applegate and America Ferrera, but Applegate’s show has been canceled and Ferrera’s show might as well have been with its anemic ratings. However, both actresses are integral to the appeal of their show, and past nominations can only help you in a popular vote driven system.

Very likely to take one of the spots is Toni Colette, whose multi-faceted performance as Tara and her three alternate personalities on United States of Tara is what makes the show possible – her supporting cast is strong, but the way she pulls off both a struggling wife and mother and a male Vietnam war veteran who won’t stop sexually harassing women is the show’s most valuable asset, and she stands a legitimate chance at taking this award.

Amy Poehler garnered a nomination last year in the Supporting Actress category for Saturday Night Live, so there’s a chance that she could be back for her role in Parks and Recreation. The question is whether or not the low-buzz comedy, that never quite caught on and which didn’t particularly know how to handle Poehler’s character, made enough of an impact for Poehler’s rising fame to bring her above other more seasoned competitors.

Waiting on the periphery, meanwhile, are the women of Wysteria Lane (absent from the category the last few years), plus voters could theoretically be swayed out of habit to choose Debra Messing and Megan Mullaly without realizing that their respective shows were, you know, The Starter Wife and In the Motherhood. There’s also the potential for Sarah Silverman to break into the category, although this happening in a year that doesn’t involve songs about fornicating with Matt Damon isn’t likely.

Predictions for Lead Actress in a Comedy

  • Christina Applegate (“Samantha Who”)
  • Toni Colette (“United States of Tara”)
  • Tina Fey (“30 Rock”)
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus (“The New Adventures of Old Christine”)
  • Mary-Louise Parker (“Weeds”)
  • Amy Poehler (“Parks and Recreation”)

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