Thursday, October 08, 2009

Parks and Recreation, "The Practice Date": Dig a hole, fill it up

Quick spoilers for tonight's episode of the obvious frontrunner for this season's Most Improved Series award, "Parks and Recreation," coming up just as soon as I breach a Jaeger secret...

There were times in the brief, steep learning curve first season of "Parks and Rec" where Chris Pratt felt like the only reason to watch the show. Yet here we get an entire episode with no Andy, and yet the episode was completely satisfying - funny when it needed to be, sweet when it wanted to be, and a nice use of the rest of the cast, and of guest characters like Dave and minor players like poor Jerry.

It's a mark of how well the writers and Nick Offerman have established Ron (Bleeping) Swanson in a very small amount of screen time that it would be so funny to see his alternate persona as laid-back jazz cat Duke Silver, who just wanted to "make sonic love" to his audience. And the constant one-upsmanship between Ron and Tom was good for both Offerman and Aziz Ansari.

As I mentioned once or twice during the first season, I keep wondering if Rashida Jones is inherently funny or if she's just a really good straight woman with impeccable taste in material. But she was absolutely funny here, role-playing as the worst first date of Leslie's life. And where some of the "We'll let Amy improv for 10 minutes and cut together the best material into one long run" scenes from the first season felt out of character, Leslie's list of dating disasters worked here, because she's become ever-so-slightly more self-aware.

Though "The Office" was, with Jim and Pam's wedding and the one-hour length, a more memorable episode tonight, "Parks and Rec" has, on average, been the best part of NBC's Thursday lineup since this season began. Based on the two underwhelming "30 Rock" season four episodes I've seen, I'm expecting that streak to continue for at least another few weeks.

They figured the show out. And it's really good. And I hope like hell that the ratings improve, soon.

What did everybody else think?

35 comments:

Greg said...

Couldn't agree more. I can't really speak for last year as I only watched the pilot and the finale, but I am thoroughly enjoying the season so far.

Best moment: Aubrey Plaza's "Buuurn."

Jpop said...

It has been awesome this year, but Community is the best of NBC's Thursdays.

Brandon said...

I was wondering when we'd at least get a taste of how you felt about 30 Rock this year. Sad, but I'm definitely looking forward to it.

And I'm pleased to see you say that Parks has been the best part of the NBC Thursdays mostly this year. I completely agree.

Tyroc said...

Getting better.

Laura R. said...

I was overseas when P&R premiered last spring, but have been tuning in this season just to see what's up. I definitely haven't had a proper introduction to the characters yet, but I'm really, really digging what I've seen of the show so far. LOVED the "I didn't know I was adopted" bit tonight, especially. Fingers crossed it won't be prematurely canceled!

amyp3 said...

Uh-oh, I was looking forward to the P & R post, but now I'm slightly deflated by your 30 Rock comment.

Well, what really made this episode for me was the Leslie/Ann/Dave storyline. I laughed so hard at the phone-throw, at Leslie's list of previous bad experiences, at the Practice Date itself and Leslie's inebriated non-booty call. Really a funny episode.

btw During Ann and Leslie's whole "you're awesome, no you're awesome" bit I thought of the TWOP posters who are (I hate this word) "shippers" for Ann and Leslie.

Would like to know if the showrunners are deliberately teasing those fans.

Chrissie said...

Totally agree it's been the most consistently funny Thursday show so far this season.

Louis C.K. is a fantastic addition. Loved his delivery on "You like dancin'? I, uh...I don't like dancin'."

Dave Sandell said...

Loving it. Agreed that it's the most improved series of the season and that it's been the most consistently funny show on NBC Thursday so far (although The Office remains the first thing played on my TiVO from the Friday night lineup).

Hopefully the NBC ratings abyss will allow Parks & Rec to hang for awhile.

SR said...

I'm hoping NBC takes a lesson from the way they nurtured The Office and give P&R the time and space for it to find its audience.

John said...

Wow. This was the first time this show had me in stitches. The bit about all the bad first dates was too much.

Definitely most improved show of the year.

I loved the news part in the beging:

"More breaking news for a story that just won't stop unfolding."

Alan, I used to live in NJ and now that I don't, I am happy to have found this awesome TV blog to remind me of home.

Anonymous said...

It must be The Year of John Deere -in inappropiate places...

Puff

belinda said...

Hee, Anonymous.

I completely agree! It's been surprisingly satisfying and just really great comedy. It doesn't sound surprising that it would eclipse 30 Rock though - I think they generally start terribly.

Compared to The Office S1/early S2, is P&R that far off from the ratings? And, it took a while for some critics warm up to The Office, US too.

Ryan W said...

Alan,

Your comment that P&R has been the best of the Thursday comedies is right on. I have enjoyed The Office more than my fiance this season, but the wedding episode was the first time the show really measured up to past work. Given the improvement in P&R and a small but noticeable decline in The Office this season, do you think the latter misses Mike Schur, and not just when he dons the Mose beard?

Anonymous said...

I think you are out of your mind.

Parks and Rec is awful.

Alan Sepinwall said...

The official Duke Silver website.

Anonymous said...

This was Rashida Jones' best episode ever... in anything. I had to rewind my DVR a few times just to watch her scenes over and over again. I was very much down on this show last season but it has won me over. Maybe not as much as Community... but I am a fan.

Anonymous said...

As soon as they "jaeger secret" thing came up I KNEW it would be the "coming up as..." line. And I'm far too proud of myself for guessing right.

Otherwise, this is by far the highlight of NBC Thursdays this season. Community feels a bit off (I'm giving it time, but they really need to have something else to center the show around other than the Jeff-Britta drama), The Office, while strong, feels a bit...off somehow? And I'm honestly just not looking forward to 30 Rock, and your comments here confirm what I suspected.

Also, the sex scandal drama they were watching on tv in this episode? Classic. Very weird, but not weird enough to be out of place in the P&R universe. In fact, I figured if you didn't use the Jaeger secret line the coming up line would have been "right after I have a four way in a cave..."

Really hoping NBC lets this one develop. It just keeps getting better.

Sherman said...

I haven't watched this episode yet -- such a bounty of DVR'ing on Thursday nights -- but I just wanted to echo the best improved show sentiments AND thank Alan for the shout-out to "Life" (as in starred Damian Lewis and Sarah Shahi).

CB said...

This show seems to really have found its groove. The supporting cast is great (Ansari and Offerman both have great comedic styles) and Amy Poehler is just genuinely likeable, much like Tina Fey before she became the most popular and sought-after woman in Hollywood. I was worried that Leslie Knope and Michael Scott would be too similarly oblivious, but it's nice to see Leslie reign it in sometimes and become aware of her surroundings.

Matt said...

If they cut everybody but Ansari and Offerman, I'd feel a lot better about the show. Those two carry the comedy. Amy Poehler just isn't doing it for me.

Robin said...

I gave up on P&R last season, and decided to watch it last night because most of the blogs I read have said it was much improved.

I agree it is improved (the find-the-dirt game was hilarious and creepy at the same time), but I made the realization last night that I really can't stand Leslie Knope. I love Amy Poehler, but the character seems totally one dimensional. Or maybe two dimensional, those dimensions being boring and idiotic. Her lack of self-awareness isn't charming, or even motifyingly funny.

Alan mentioned in his PB&J post that while the Office spent the first couple of seasons figuring out how to write Michael Scott the Jim/Pam story took center stage and became the hook for the show. P&R seems to lack that secondary hook. So the focus continues to fall back on Leslie, and I don't think the character is ready for that spotlight.

Andrew said...

Parks and Rec is certainly a candidate for the Chuck Bartowski most improved from season 1 to 2 award for this year, in part because they're translating real world political events (like say Mark Sanford) to the fictional world of Pawnee. It gives the show a little more grounding in the real world.

Duke Silver!

Tobey said...

I think I have the hots for Duke Silver.

Nancy said...

Add me to the list of those who think it's much improved.

Favorite part - First date topics: Whales. Parades. Electricity.

J-bone said...

Ron may be my favorite character on TV now. "Ten is tennis legend Steffi Graf" and "I'll have your wife tonight" absolutely killed me.

Imamarilyn said...

I didn't care for Parks and Recreation last season. Love it now. It was very cute how bummed April was that no one could find dirt on her. You just haven't lived long enough, Dear.

Jack Gibbs said...

Excellent episode. No surprise that P & R has far surpassed The Office in hilarity and consistency given the presence in the former of Ken Tremendous and the lack of said writer in the later (last nights episode of The Office I found extremely underwhelming, veering down the path of cruelty the show tends to do at times ((and I couldn't stand the youtube thing, though perhaps that has do with finding the original clip abhorrent, though yes I understand these characters may be understood to enjoy it, its mere presence led to the feeling of a deep, repulsed groan...anyways)))

P&R has found a way to delve into character's nuances and flaws without an air of derision, finding comedy in the nuance and persistence of personality while maintaning a sense of a fundamental humanity.

The one day return of the Fire Joe Morgan crew at Deadspin was welcome and all to brief, it is nice to see that genius has hit its stride on P&R.

So Cal said...

Didn't really like this show last year. Now, incredible. I was laughing out loud the entire show, and the game the staff played was hysterical the entire time. What an improvement over last year.

Considering the story from Finke about the garbage that NBC has in the pipeline, hopefully the VERY mediocre ratings it has had so far won't affect its cancellation. Cuz with 30 Rock coming back next week (!), this is the best block of great comedies i can remember in my lifetime (born in '82). Even in the hayday with friends and seinfeld, there was always one show wasn;t really up to snuff. But all 4 of the Thursday shows are fantastic.

JMR said...

Best part was the title of Duke Silver's new album, "Memories of Now."

Genius.

annesays said...

Yes! I adore P&R now and look forward to it as much as I do the Office. Like the Office, every member of the supporting cast gets to have moments of genius -- Donna nodding vigorously when Tom is talking about how freaky sex gets in caves? Amazing.

Jessica said...

***LOVE*** the Duke Silver Website!!! Thanks for the link!

Bobman said...

Finally got around to this. Laughed so much. One of the more consistently funny 30 mins of tv I've seen in a long time. I was all but ready to give up on p&r but this ep sealed me as a fan.

Jungle Orangeman said...

I'm a bit baffled you said Andy is your (favorite part of the show). I'm a new reader thanks to your BS Report...and I was primed for this 2nd season, due to strong Aziz loyalty, Amy support, and an instantaneous appreciation for Ron f#$%ing Swanson. This episode really seemed to show a lot of Aubrey Plaza, a minor character whose youth and cuteness are possibly a showcase used to reel in the younger demo...did you ever see her in the webisodes of the Jeannie Tate show? I look forward to watching her character grow. Maybe a three dimensional affair with Tom, or the Boss-man. Does (producer) Morgan Sackett read this blog?

Future Man said...

Finally catching up on this series on DVD. I just have one question -- what the heck is a "jaeger secret"? I'm completely stumped.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Future Man, presumably it's a secret agreed to over a shot of Jaeger.