Whenever people wonder what makes Parks and Recreation the best comedy on television (for reals!), episodes like these serve as a great starting point for discussion. The episode was simple in its use of the show’s comedic pairings (Ron and Andy never fail to deliver), and its ability to be beautifully human in a genre that is often prone to caricatures.
Leslie’s descent into the seedy underbelly of elected government continued with a different partner in crime this week (a very game Tom), and sporting an aborted half-perm that never ceased to be funny anytime it popped up on the screen. What’s becoming clearer and clearer is that the plan is to explore exactly how far Leslie is willing to go in service of her ideals. Idealistic people often fall pray to people of opportunity. This week, it’s just an office with a private bathroom, but what comes after that? These are not normally things that matter in a half hour comedy, but Parks does such a great job of developing these storylines, that you genuinely want Leslie to succeed in her role as city councilwoman. We want the city council to bend to her will because she has earned that respect from us.
While Leslie and Tom explored cigar club memberships and racist salad, the April and Ben road trip turned out to be a comedic success. In the first three episodes of the season, we have proved over and over again that this is a pairing that really works. Tonight’s story didn’t have any of the more serious beats from last week (or the melon ball death threats!), but it did offer Aubrey Plaza multiple opportunities to do what she does best: react hilariously to the dumb things going on around her. Whether it was “Benji’s Summer Jamz” (with “Shoop” leading off!) or Ben’s Star Trek fan fiction, Plaza was hilarious with each moment. She definitely played it well, but the show has really figured out the best ways to shoot these various expressions. Often, her expressions are far funnier when she’s not facing the camera. I know I went on about her outstanding work last week, but it can’t be overstated how exceptional Aubrey Plaza has been this season.
Finally, we got to enjoy the work of Andy and Ron as they worked together (sort of) to fix the pothole in front of the house of a middle school vice principal played by Lucy Lawless. From the very moment she appeared on screen, it was clear that Diane was a woman modeled after Ron’s own heart. There were many funny bits throughout this storyline, but I appreciated Ron’s commentary on the “mild success” of the Pawnee 311 program. While Ron Swanson may be the most awesome human being on the planet, the sweet smile on his face at the end of the commentary proves that he is indeed human. Everyone gets excited about finding someone new, even the immortally stoic Ron Swanson.
That’s what makes Parks better than your average comedy. Other comedies wouldn’t bother to humanize a character like Ron. Parks not only takes the time to do it, but does it masterfully. We (read: I) care about these people. I want Leslie to have success in the city government, and I want Ron to find happiness with a woman that can match his level of awesomeness. It’s a huge feat to execute from a show that doesn’t really have to do things like that because it’s so funny without those moments. However, aspiration is nothing without the talent to execute it. Parks proved once again this week that it has the requisite comedic talent in spades.
What did everyone else think?