Friday, May 08, 2009

Parks and Recreation, "The Banquet": Leslie's trophy wife

Quick spoilers for last night's "Parks and Recreation" coming up just as soon as I pretend to be a zoning board member...

I've had two issues with "Parks and Recreation" to date: first, that the writers really don't have a handle on Amy Poehler's character yet, and second, that it hasn't made me laugh all that much.

The former problem is still in effect -- or, at least, Leslie is still too much the female Michael Scott -- but the last two episodes have seen some movement on the latter. Last week (which I didn't review here) had some nice physical comedy involving Leslie and the beer bottles, plus Andy's naked crutch chase. "The Banquet," meanwhile, offered up a great joke at the end of the teaser about how the Indians used "every part of the pioneer," Tom riffing all the awful things Leslie could say in her speech(*), the former councilman who assumed Leslie and Ann were a couple and was so concerned about making them feel accepted, and Ron (easily the show's best creation so far) refusing to kiss up to Marlene and giving a "factually accurate" speech ("It is true that you have won this award").

(*) This worked better than a similar scene in the reporter episode, which also seemed like an excuse to let one of the actors just improv for a bit, in that I believed Tom would do this, and in that it works better involving a supporting character as opposed to the lead.

I know a lot of people have already given up, but I really feel like the show is a summer's worth of tweaking away from being good. It's not there yet, but I see glimmers.

What did everybody else think?

30 comments:

Doug Norrie said...

I thought the episode was good, but agree that Parks and Rec needs a few tweaks in order to distance itself from The Office.

I disagree about the humor in the councilman assuming Leslie and Ann were lovers. I thought the joke was obvious and unneeded. The implication was funny on its own.

The development of the side characters has added so much more to the show and I would like to see some Ron or Tom - centric episodes. I like the format (poached from The Office) where some characters are the joke (Leslie) while others just know they are part of it (Tom and Mark).

For some reasons Tom, even when over the top, has me laughing almost any time he is on camera.

Bryan said...

Really? for me there were maybe a couple very minor laughs but honestly I found nothing remotely redeeming about this episode. What a waste of enourmous comedic talent. Not funny at all, a terrible premise - I mean, where can they go with this?

Rachel said...

I liked this episode too. I am going to stick with it and give it until at least 3 episodes in next season. I think they are finding their footing and working out the kinks with each episode.

amy said...

In my house we were discussing getting rid of the the talking heads. I am not sure it adds enough to this show, and I think if we could see more of the private lives of these characters it might make them more accessible. I think they have already done a few scenes that are shot in a way that isn't realistic as a "documentary" and they might excel by just getting away from it.

Thoughts?

Doug Norrie said...

I kind of like the idea of not having the talking heads. The characters are funny enough on their own most times. I would also like to see Leslie be a little less clueless. It comes off wrong.

Gloucil said...

I'm still giving this show a chance even though my wife has pretty much bailed.

However, I LOVE the opening credits. The scenery and especially the music where there's a minor chord when you least expect it.

One of the few opening credit scenes I steadfastly refuse to FF through.

Mike said...

I don't understand why people are already giving up on the show. Remember how weak The Office was in season 1. I still think this show has tons of potential.

LA said...

I'm with Gloucil and Mike. I think the show picks up a little traction each week as we learn a little more about the characters, and I think the potential is obvious.

Last week, we were given a little glimpse into why Ann is with the D-bag boyfriend. This week, we learned a little more about Tom and Mark. (I loved that Mark went back to the banquet looking for Leslie.)

That said, I DO agree with those who contend that the Leslie character needs to differentiate from Michael Scott.

Sarah said...

This episode won me over. I laughed more than I expected to, especially @ the trophy wife gag--it was obvious but still really funny. I loved Tom's speech...he could so effortlessly be what Leslie tries so hard to be. Also, Leslie's complete f up of the DUI blackmail situation: "Does your husband like to drive?"

I was listening to a Fresh Air interview with Amy Poehler, and she mentioned that she had to stop watching The Office completely because she felt it was influencing her character and the show too much. I'd love to see Leslie become less Michael Scott, so I'm kind of excited to see where this show can/will go.

olucy said...

ita that Leslie is too much like Michael Scott. They *really* need to fix that.

I was going to bail on this a couple weeks ago, but decided to stick it out. If they were painting themselves into a corner, I was interested to see how--from a writing perspective--they might free themselves.

It's starting to come around, a little. A couple weeks ago I was wondering if the focus of the show was too narrow. I couldn't imagine them finishing a short season with the topic week after week being that hole in the ground, let along an extended 22-ep season. I thought maybe they should have made Leslie an aide to the mayor of this small town and allow her to interact/react to a lot of small-town political issues, not just this hole. Sort of like a Pawnee Spin City.

But I think they're more successful when they start to focus on other people in the office and other comedic issues rather than just getting the park built. Just like it's not particularly funny/interesting to watch people sell paper, The Office gets its humor from general human interaction, not the business itself. Parks & Rec needs to find that balance.

And I have to take issue with everyone who thinks The Office got off to a slow start. Sure, it got even better as it grew, but the early eps gave us Diversity Day, Healthcare, Basketball...it was a solid early season.

The Critic said...

I enjoy this show. However, this was the first time this season I can really say i "loved" an episode. I cracked up way more than normal last night. Im curious how they are gonna handle the mark/leslie/ann triangle.

Tom was awesome last night. The peacock hat was great. Is he really married? Or does he just say that?

Eldo Owens said...

If any one is interested, here's the link to the Fresh Air with Amy Poehler that Sarah mentioned in her comment above:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=103879842

lar said...

I am sticking with it--I think it's gotten funnier every week. And while Michael Scott can be mean sometimes, Leslie is not--witness how she quickly backed up and apologized to the zoning board member.

Tom is my absolute favorite--he makes me laugh almost every time he opens his mouth.

Ryan Vanasse said...

I'm with Gloucil; the opening credits are FANTASTIC. Great animation, font choice, and music.

rspad said...

I'm trying really hard to give this show a chance because I love all the talent/crew involved, but it's just not working for me so far. I barely laugh and I am not liking any of the characters except for Leslie and Ann. I'll keep giving it a chance, but I'm out if things don't turn in the new season.

I try not to compare it to The Office, but that show had me laughing and relating to the characters by the second episode. This one? Not so much.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting that it's taken this show only a handful of episodes to reach an issue that The Office didn't really address until its 5th season: how does someone who is fundamentally an ingenue (Leslie/Michael) succeed in fields (politics/business) that often embrace underhanded, nasty, and cruel behavior.

If they keep putting Leslie in situations where her do-gooder ideas come into contast with the harsh reality of government work, then we'll have a winner of a show even if it ends up not always being a laugh riot.

Two other great bits last night shed some terrific detail light on Ron and Tom. Ron, because we see that he will not bend his principles even when it's clearly detrimental for himm to do so (like, say, Bobby Knight?). Tom, because he obviously styles himself as a rogue, but he's so bad at it that he has to regard a fake interview that shocks clueless Leslie as a "victory."

It's not a terrific show yet. But it's starting to gain altitude.

flem snopes said...

Am I the only one that thought the former council member was a closeted gay who kept reinserting himself with supportive remarks to the "out" couple, reeking of envy and the lack of courage to come out himself?

Give this show time. Amy Poehler is one of the two funniest women in comedy today, Tina Fey being the other.

olucy said...

@flem

no, you're not alone. i absolutely thought the former councilman was being so supportive because he's gay.

christy said...

I quite enjoyed the this episode and the last one. I agree that the Leslie character isn't quite there yet, but really all the other characters are very well drawn for something so new. I just laugh and smile quite a bit watching it, but I'm not overly invested yet, which is actually a nice place to be with a show.

Q Ball said...

And I have to take issue with everyone who thinks The Office got off to a slow start. Sure, it got even better as it grew, but the early eps gave us Diversity Day, Healthcare, Basketball...it was a solid early season.Don't forget "The Alliance," which I thought was the best episode of that weak first season.

I agree with the others that think Parks and Recreation is putting itself in a hole because of the documentary angle. That style only increases the "knock-off" Office image that paints the show in a bad light.

The show itself has been good the last couple of weeks, Tom (and Aziz Ansari in general) steals every scene he's in.

Anonymous said...

Totally agree with Flem about the councilman. Watch how at the beginning of the ep where he talks about how he wishes "others" were as brave as those two ladies.

belinda said...

I do like the show (especially Tom, who does indeed make me laugh the most), although it is miles and miles away from being a top comedy by any standards. I do hope that in getting a second season, they could tweak it and make it better.

Though, I still have trouble as why (and how) would they film in Ann and her boyfriend's apartment, when neither of them work for the department?(I realize that they do it sometimes too in The Office, where it would make no sense for a film crew to be in, but this is even more jarring here when it really takes it out of the mockumentary style)

Anonymous said...

Mm, I agree with a lot of comments, mainly that the opening credits are great and that tom and the boss are the funniest. But my problem is, that while I would love to stick with it with fingers crossed I feel like I'm burnt out on the style by the time I get to the office. Which I cherish. I think I agree that they should get rid of the talking heads... Good idea.

Linda said...

It's so interesting, because by now, I don't see Leslie as Michael Scott at all. She's clueless, that's true. But she has far, far less capacity for destruction than Michael.

She lacks Michael's delusional belief that he is sexy and cool and all-powerful. She would NEVER do the fake-firing thing; she's much, much too concerned about other people's feelings.

I can't imagine Leslie ever having the kind of exploitive relationship with a subordinate that Michael has had with Dwight (forcing him to hand over clean urine, etc.). I can't imagine her saying horrible things like the things Michael says about Phyllis's weight and Oscar needing to wear leather pants. I can't imagine her being the reason they have to hold diversity training.

Leslie is sort of...delusionally chipper, but Michael has more of a tendency to be ethically clueless and not to understand why things are wrong to do. Leslie knows instantly why things are wrong to do; that's why she was so uncomfortable with the blackmail scheme.

Leslie's cluelessness doesn't really extend to doing anything hurtful, and that makes her really different, to me. I think she's genuinely in her job to be a public servant and has motives beyond being liked, and Michael has a hard time getting beyond being liked.

Aaaaanyway, just a voice in the wilderness.

Number Five said...

I also love the credits/theme song. Hopefully it will live up to Arrested Development/30 Rock, which also have great credit sequences.

What's interesting about the documentary style is that they've had characters react directly to the camera outside of the talking heads fairly often. The Office does that pretty rarely. I think Greg Daniels is right when he says it's a flexible format that could be used for plenty of shows, not just The Office. Plenty of shows already use narration, so it's just the next step.

Loren said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Loren said...

"Am I the only one that thought the former council member was a closeted gay who kept reinserting himself with supportive remarks to the "out" couple, reeking of envy and the lack of courage to come out himself?"

I thought that was pretty obvious. He said "I wish I had your courage."

scott said...

i agree with most of you about this show. i find amy poehler annoying most of the time though. i expected more to be honest. i hope it finds it's footing next year

Anonymous said...

Last week, we were given a little glimpse into why Ann is with the D-bag boyfriend. This week, we learned a little more about Tom and Mark. (I loved that Mark went back to the banquet looking for Leslie.


LA,

Mark went back for Ann, not Leslie...

olucy said...

Exactly. He was definitely looking for Ann. He's funny, but I thought he was going to be a more sympathetic character. Instead, he's a d-bag.