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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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The Good Wife – “Crash”

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“Crash”

October 20th, 2009

One of the things which makes any legal show somewhat interesting is when it largely evades the law. At the heart of The Good Wife is less a question of what is legal or moral, but rather what is just. The central premise is such that Alicia is forced to consider whether or not her husband committed a crime, and whether or not that even matters to a broader question of justice. It’s one thing to say whether Peter broke any rules, but it’s another to say whether he was unjust to his family.

And because “Crash” focuses on a story where the goal is to actually avoid the legal system, where the crime being committed is a moving target while the injustice is staring everyone right in the face, it really brings this type of story to the forefront. Mixing that case, which on its own was interesting, with a couple of interesting sidenotes, some more work on the ongoing storyline with Peter, and even some acknowledgement of the tension between Will and Alicia, and you have yet another solid hour for the series.

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