Thursday, November 12, 2009

Parks and Recreation, "The Camel": Creativity by committee

Spoilers for tonight's "Parks and Recreation" - once again the highlight of NBC's Thursday comedies - coming up just as soon as I go to Arby's and watch "Frontline"...

First, I have to say that the scene pictured above, in which Ron "emitted a noise" that horrified both himself and Andy, nearly caused a medical crisis in the Sepinwall household, as it sent me into a laughing fit that gave me a case of the hiccups so extreme I briefly became worried that my throat was closing up. The combination of Nick Offerman's usual deadpan minimalism with Chris Pratt's goofy exuberance with an incredibly disturbing situation led to something that made me laugh as hard as I have in a very long time. Profoundly, profoundly silly comedy, that was.

And the rest of "The Camel" wasn't too shabby, either, as it offered an at times sweet, at times ridiculous look at the creative process being undertaken by a group of very uncreative people. Everyone got a moment to shine, whether it was Tom falling in love with his shapes or poor Jerry's beautiful (and perfect for the purposes of the project) painting being laughed at because he made the mistake of saying "murinal" (and because he's Jerry, the office punching bag).

The entire thing felt like what I imagine the group writing process on certain sitcoms can be: everyone pushing for their own joke, even if no one else gets it, and the most inoffensive, non-specific idea (in this case, Mark's painting of the man on the park bench) having the best chance at succeeding, because it's the safest bet. (In this case, Mark's writing in anticipation of the network notes.)

The ensemble is really gelling right now (it was nice to see the entire staff bond over how ridiculous the camel turned out to be), and "Parks and Rec" is becoming the kind of show where I imagine I'll enjoy even the less-funny episodes just because I enjoy the characters. But an episode like "Camel" had people I like to spend time with, and it had laughs, including a few huge ones in and around Andy's shoeshine stand.

What did everybody else think?

42 comments:

Mark said...

I laughed the hardes after Ron did the point and said, "forget about what?"

Stewart said...

Everything about April's mural - everything, the human hamster wheel, the dead rats - had me trying to hold back from puking my stomach out from laughing. God I love this show.

Anonymous said...

I like this show very much but you seem to like it so much that I feel like I'm missing out on something. I guess different strokes for different folks. Ron Swanson is gold.

Tom said...

I had my own medical crisis: a coughing fit brought on by Ron talking about his bunion:

"Normally the pain howls through my loafers like a banshee on the moors."

Ryan said...

Tom stole the show - from his commissioning of the paintings to his reaction to Jerry's "murinal" to his comments about Ann. Aziz Ansari is the breakout star of this show for me.

ScottyG said...

Parks and Rec turns out to be the best out of the other Thursday night comedies once again

the only thing I found weird was that on the preview it showed Ron getting his shoes shined, and he said "ooooo paul" to which andy said "you name your bunion?" and then ron said "....paul bunyan"

It was crazy hilarious and I was pissed since I thought NBC had ruined a funny part of the episode, but it was no where to be found, cutting room floor i guess?

jason said...

Two things...

Ron Swanson has the best deadpan delivery since Bob Newhart.

This whole episode, especially April's artistic vision, gave me flashbacks of my college art class critiques.

amyp3 said...

I am starting to be seriously amazed at how good this show is, week after week. And as someone whose jobs have included work at both an art museum and a parks and rec, you can imagine how I loved this episode. All of the art was hilarious. It's been brilliant idea to open the show up to mock other areas of city government and culture.

And then to throw the bizarre little bunion story into the mix - I laughed so hard at Ron's inappropriate moan.

I heart you, P & R.

Anonymous said...

yes!
i finally convinced my mom and brother to sit down and give this show a second chance, and they were laughing so loud that my a neighbor even called!

he he he!

~Girly

Kathryn said...

For some reason, I flashed to an alternate version of this episode written by Studio 60-esque Aaron Sorkin, where the art critiques would have been painfully obvious allegories of television process, and everyone involved would have been self-serving caricatures of people he disliked. It just leaves me all the more impressed that this whole episode was funny, and warm, and self-deprecating.

Matt said...

The stuff with Jerry was so brutal and so funny. I loved the Police's camel and Michael Jackson and Greg Kinnear-Jesus Moonwalking AWAY from the burning building (BTW, was he ever on ER?)

What I like about this show is that it's a real ensemble - this is two weeks in a row that Leslie almost felt like she was in the background.

Kenrick said...

I was heartbroken when Jerry's murinal got brutally rejected, because how perfect and beautiful it was.

Tom in love with his shapes was freaking hilarious.

Anonymous said...

"Parks and Rec" is becoming the kind of show where I imagine I'll enjoy even the less-funny episodes just because I enjoy the characters.

I haven't gotten there, yet. It's a good thing it's been so funny. My favorite comedy on television right now.

WondrousHippo said...

It's amazing how quickly this show has turned around. It's like a talented baseball prospect who gets a cup of coffee with the big league team, shows flashes of brilliance but largely struggles. Then, the next season, he completely breaks out and shows why he was a highly-regarded prospect in the first place. Given the Fire Joe Morgan team at the helm of show, it's an apt metaphor.

The characters have dramatically improved, the show is becoming consistently hilarious, Ron Effing Swanson! It's gone from being the 3rd best NBC comedy last season (given the great divide between The Office and 30 Rock and everything else) to being the absolute highlight of the night for NBC to a point where I feel like I can't judge The Office and 30 Rock's quality properly because Parks and Recreation is so good.

What NBC might want to do is to maybe give the show a shot behind The Office - that show is entrenched at 9/8, and as Community has shown, it provides a sizable lead-in, and Parks & Recreation maybe deserves a shot from Office viewers to see how good it is. It may be worth a shot to go 30 Rock, Community, The Office, and then Parks & Recreation at some point to help Community and P&R, which are both deserving of far better ratings fates.

At least what we have right now is a consistently good night of NBC comedy for once. Kath and Kim was an abomination minus John Michael Higgins. My Name is Earl was never the same post-strike and deserved its cancellation. Scrubs got on my nerves, and the show's lack of HD annoyed me as well. Now, we have 2 hours of comedy that are really really good, and the only complaint that I have is that the tag scene for 30 Rock leads into the first few seconds of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. It's a good time to be a fan of NBC comedies, and with all the shows safe for the season, we can at least enjoy them before the axe likely gets brought down on P&R and Community at the end of the season.

Jeff said...

@does a cup of coffee count as a food metaphor?

Anonymous said...

I have never commented here but I can't resist saying how much I love the theme music that starts Parks and also the Office one. They are both really spectacular in their perfection.

Anonymous said...

Was the laughing during the camel presentation scripted? The "sorry" heard in the background makes me suspect it wasn't. Not that I'd fault anyone for laughing at Jesus Greg Kinnear.

Rahim said...

big fan of your writing alan!

Just wanted to note that this reminded me of a newsradio episode when joe and beth have to paint a mural, i believe it was called stinkbutt.

Jordan said...

Hi-larious.

I practically woke up the neighbors bursting out in laughter at the moan. And with what is the highest praise in these dvr times, I immeditately rewound and re-watched that scene.

Totally agree that the cast is really gelling. As well as how it's becoming one of those shows where even when it's not at the top of it's game, it's enjoyable. Like HIMYM and Curb for me. I just smile getting to re-visit the world within the show.

LoopyChew said...

The moan, plus the must've-been-about-five-seconds-but-felt-like-an-eternity pause of silence immediately afterward killed. I enjoy a good awkward silence as much as anyone else, but this one is probably in the top ten awkward silences ever (probably slotting above the drummer's outburst in Almost Famous).

Alan Sepinwall said...

Watching it again this morning, the Ron/Andy bit still kills. I particularly love the look of complete shame on Ron's face as he slowly hands Andy the money to pay for what just happened.

Col Bat Guano said...

I have to mention the mural that was the point of the contest. Every one of those have been hilarious and last night's was no exception. Offensive racial stereotypes and poorly executed? Check and check.

The improvement of this show and Community has really made NBC Thursday the best night of TV for me.

Andrew said...

Parks and Rec has been the comedy highlght of Thursdays, by far. And that's with 3 other very good comedies, including the best 30 Rock of the season to date. Matching Nick Offerman's minimalist Ron F'ing Swanson with Chris Pratt's overly exuberant Andy is a wonderfully hilarious pairing.

Mike said...

I'm really trying Alan to get on the same level as everyone else with P&R. Tonight was a another good episode I just still have P&R behind Community and The Office.

Poor Jerry, once again his brilliancy gets "flushed down the murinal" so to speak.

P&R is growing on me for sure!

LA said...

Tom's growing love of the shapes did me in. Add to that Ron F'ing Swanson's scenes with Andy, and video of knee surgery in April's art piece, and I was dying the whole episode.

Parks is King. Long live the King.

gladly said...

I'm starting to find Ron F'ing Swason attractive, and I don't know quite what to do with that.

Jen said...

I'm still laughing about the inappropriate moan and MJ and Jesus Greg Kinnear moonwalking away from the building. Hilarious. I do wonder if the cast's laughter in that scene, particularly Amy Poehler's was the result of some improv-ing because it felt so authentic.

Well done, P&R.

Anonymous said...

Just to respond to ScottyG way up top: This is the second time I've seen an ad with an "alternative" version of a scene from the episode. The Halloween episode commercials had Ron making a joke about Almond Joys that wasn't in the actual episode. I like that they're basically using Deleted Scenes to provide funny but non-joke-spoiling ads for the show.

Jeff B. said...

I totally agree on the theme music and I find myself whistling it all the time.

Another line that really cracked me up was the one about the whole town smelling like toast when the bread factory burned down.

Anonymous said...

Gave this series 1st, 2nd, 3rd chances. It is NOT funny. Bad show!

Abby G said...

Gladly, I'm starting to find him attractive too and it's upsetting me. Last season I really didn't like him but he's just been killing me this season.

Anonymous said...

I eat at Arby's, and watch Frontline. Does that say something about me? I've never come across an Arby's where I could do both, though.

DolphinFan said...

Like Jim Parsons on Big Bang Theory, Nick Offerman is right at the point where almost everything his character does is funny and a lot of what he does is downright inspired. I knew that Amy Poehler and Aziz Ansari were terrific but didn't really know much about Offerman except that he was married to Megan Mullaly. Now he's the best actor on a terrific show.

Anonymous said...

I'm inspired... I think I'll dig up my wife's knee surgery DVD and set it to music.

Robin said...

Finally! I have persisted and I finally have seen an episode that lives up to Alan's love for this show. THAT was genuinely funny.

And I totally want to go to the Art Institute's new modern wing and find a painting so I can say "it looks like a lizard threw up skittles."

word verification: karlin

Mike said...

My favorite part, which no one mentioned:

Leslie: You can have two legacies. Look at Madonna; great singer, amazing arms.

Tom: Look at O.J. Simpson: Heisman Trophy winner, "Naked Gun."

Tracy said...

Some other good lines:

Ron: Child labor laws are ruining this country.

Anne: Sounds like you're exploiting the tragedy.
Leslie: See, Anne gets it!

Tom: This one's racist!

par3182 said...

i'm surprised the evil library department didn't have a mural in contention

Tyler said...

How are the ratings doing on this show now? I would hate to see it not return next season as I predicted after last year's awkward run. Is there a good site to see show-specific ratings?

Tim said...

I'm sorry, I don't find this show the least bit funny. It really is like they've taken the best bits of the Office and chucked them out the window. And also included a number of unlikeable characters.

Chris S. said...

Great line -

Leslie: We need better security. And better, less offensive, history.

JERRY said...

A week late in posting, but I also need to mention some things.
--Still love Chris Pratt. HILARIOUS.
--I TOO find myself whistling the Theme music. LOVE IT.
--I like that I believe that these people are actually working and going through the motions of what an actual department does. I've never felt that from The Office.