Tag Archives: Tom Haverford

Parks and Recreation – “The Master Plan”

“The Master Plan”

May 13th, 2010

I hate to keep driving my “Parks: It’s the New Office!” comparisons into the ground, but I want you to think back to the start of The Office’s third season (which, not entirely coincidentally, picks up right after “Casino Night,” which I compared with last week’s “Telethon”). The show took a pretty considerable risk in introducing an entirely new workplace with Jim’s move to the Stamford branch, and the idea of introducing entirely new characters and “disrupting” the show seemed like a huge risk.

However, while these new characters (Andy and Karen, in particular) were brought into the picture to help emphasize the division within the show, the Stamford branch was comically consistent with the show as a whole. While it was a different environment, and their arrival in Scranton later in the season created plenty of conflicts, we accepted the characters because they fit in with what the show was trying to accomplish on the whole.

What Parks and Recreation did tonight, however, was perhaps even more impressive: they managed to not only humanize a character who is introduced as a point of conflict, but they managed to completely integrate a fairly big star into an existing comedy ensemble with remarkable proficiency. The credit at the start of “The Master Plan” may have jokingly read as “Introducing Rob Lowe,” but both the show and Lowe do such an amazing job of introducing these new characters into this existing group that any sense of conflict within the series’ actual narrative is non-existent, and we’re left to enjoy a pretty fantastic ramping up of both new and existing storylines without seeming distracted or chaotic.

Basically, I’m deep in the pot at this point, so if you’re at all not feeling the love I suggest you leave now before I lose all objectivity.

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Parks and Recreation – “Telethon”

“Telethon”

May 6th, 2010

The last time a Greg Daniels-produced series was ending its second season, the series’ star took a crack at writing an episode; the result was Steve Carell’s “Casino Night,” an episode largely comprised of a group of small moments for each character mixed in with some major developments with the two love triangles (Michael/Jan/Carol, and Jim/Pam/Roy) which were ongoing at the time.

“Telethon,” written by Amy Poehler and one of the final episodes of another Greg Daniels-produced show’s second season, is more or less the Parks and Recreation equivalent. You have a lot of small moments for all of the show’s supporting characters, you have movement on the two main relationships currently working their way through the series, and the end result (like “Casino Night”) is a really strong half-hour of television which embodies the series’ strength this year: it’s wonderfully odd, surprisingly sweet, and nicely balancing the line between awkward and hilarious.

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Parks and Recreation – “94 Meetings”

“94 Meetings”

April 29th, 2010

At the heart of Parks and Recreation are relationships which tend to swing between mutual tolerance and undying admiration. There is no relationship in the show that is entirely without complication, but there are also few relationships on the show which are outright hostile. The show has given just about every character on the show a chance to interact with another character in a sobering fashion, showing them something that goes beyond their comic persona to their true humanity. And yet, at the same time, their personalities continue to clash, which allows the show’s comedy to keep going even with a certain level of respect between the various people involved.

“94 Meetings” is an episode filled with tension, including continued tension in the show’s two romantic couplings, and when it overflows into something more than just your usual workplace personality clashes the show acknowledges it. There’s a point where characters go too far, and so long as the episode is willing to back them away from that cliff, and as long as we understand why they were there in the first place, then the show can continue balancing heartwarming friendships with undeniable conflicts for the foreseeable future.

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Parks and Recreation – “Woman of the Year”

“Woman of the Year”

March 4th, 2010

In “Woman of the Year,” we learn that Leslie Knope was a member of the Indiana Order of Women at the age of nine.

This is, just to be clear, not a surprising fact: we’ve always known that Leslie was a strong believer in organizations like the IOW, so the idea that she had been this way since an early age (especially considering her mother’s commitment to civil service). What this establishes, however, is that this is something which means something to Leslie, something which she values at a level which someone like Ron Swanson is not completely able to understand.

However, what has Parks and Recreation in such a good place right now is that it is unwilling to sacrifice things important to these characters just for the sake of comedy: stories like those in “Woman of the Year” are driven by people who care rather than people who don’t understand, and while there is quite a lot of humour in the episode it all comes from a place of good-natured ribbing more than spite or something similarly unpleasant.

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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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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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