"Stakeout," in addition to being another funny episode to start the second season, was interesting to me for the way it divided up the cast into clear stylistic pairings. We got Leslie and Tom, played by two high-energy comics in Amy Poehler and Aziz Ansari, hiding in the van together; Ann and Mark, the two relatively normal, straight men characters on a date; and, in my favorite combo, Nick Offerman and Aubrey Plaza in an epic duel of comic minimalism as April offered to help Ron deal with his crippling hernia. Andy, meanwhile, remains the wildcard as he lives in the pit, out of some pathetic hope that Ann will take him back and he can move back in within seconds.
The Ron/April stuff was the funniest - Ron flinging the burger at his mouth is the funniest food-related thing to happen on NBC Thursday since Kevin brought his famous chili to work - but the Tom/Leslie scenes had their moments, and they were important from a long-term perspective. It's one thing for Jim to be constantly mocking Dwight on "The Office," since Jim is our hero (sort of) and Dwight is a broadly-drawn and obnoxious supporting character. But this show's writers are making a clear and understandable push to make Leslie seem more human and sympathetic. So for Tom to hate and/or mock Leslie 24/7, while Leslie's too sweet and oblivious to fight back, might be a bit much, so it was good to see an occasional moment where Tom recognizes that she's not so bad all the time.
That storyline was notable for three other things. First, it added back in a joke that got cut from the pilot script explaining why Aziz Ansari is playing a character named Tom Haverford.
Second, for the second week in a row, and more directly here, we got a story playing off of recent political headlines, with Tom's encounter with the cops turning into a Skip Gates parody. (He even says "I'll step into your mama's van!" in lieu of "I'll speak to your mama outside!") When I talked with co-creator Mike Schur for last week's interview, he said the writers are making an effort to be more topical this year. I'm curious how you feel this one worked out; does coming this close to the details of an actual event take you out of the story?
Third, the main cop was played by comedian Louis CK. My only previous exposure to him was his HBO sitcom "Lucky Louie," which I panned (and which unexpectedly led to Jim Norton yelling at me on Opie & Anthony for a few minutes), but I liked him a lot here, particularly his talking head at the end - "I was attracted to her in a sexual manner that was appropriate" - which Schur said CK improvised.
In fact, one of the key stylistic differences between "Parks and Rec" and "The Office" so far is that Schur and Greg Daniels have let their actors improvise more often than "The Office" cast gets to. I asked Schur about this, in something that wound up getting cut from the actual interview piece, and this is what he wrote:
I think it may just be because Amy and Aziz (and Aubrey too -- all the "A"s) are so comfortable improvising, we just allowed for more time for them to do it. I knew Amy as an improviser first, and I think she's the best improviser I've ever seen, so it would be silly of us not to take advantage of that. Offerman is great too. They all are, really.So what did everybody else think?