Friday, March 19, 2010

Parks and Recreation, "Park Safety": Schlemiel! Schlemazel! Jerry!

A review of "Parks and Recreation" coming up just as soon as I attack a criminal's beanbag...
"Yay! Making fun of Jerry's back!" -Leslie
Big guys farting in public? Played-out.

Big guys splitting their pants in public? Played-out.

Big guys farting and splitting their pants in public? While in a situation where everyone else in the room is desperate to not laugh at the guy? Brilliant!

Jerry's biggest moment of shame in an episode full of them was not only an explosively funny moment, but a reminder of how well "Parks and Rec" has built up its world and characters. Just as "The Office" season two began giving personalities to Stanley, Angela and Creed, this show has turned Jerry and Donna from glorified extras into characters who occupy their own specific space in the fabric of the show's humor.

I would say the funniest moment of "The Camel" that didn't involve Ron's shoeshine was when Jerry didn't get to make a presentation for his absolutely beautiful mural because everyone was too busy laughing at how he accidentally said "murinal." And everyone's treatment of Jerry as the office joke has continued to be a valuable running gag. But there comes a point where it starts to seem cruel, so an episode like "Park Safety" becomes necessary - and cleverly manages to both have its cake and eat it, by giving us so many opportunities to laugh at Jerry even as Leslie is thinking we shouldn't. I don't know that the tag at the end (where Jerry tells the documentary crew that he really doesn't care, because his mind's already on his glorious, peaceful retirement two years from now) entirely tracks with Mark's point that Jerry was so afraid of his co-workers mockery that he lied about being mugged, but if the show wants us to be okay with it, I can go along, because... the pants... with the fart... etc.

(Also, that story did a nice job of pointing out that, while Jerry's often unlucky, he does bring some of the mockery on himself. Mostly, though, like Leslie, I'm a generally-good person who just enjoys laughing at the guy, so I'll justify it however I need to.)

Jerry's misfortune in turn led to the spectacle of Ron F'ing Swanson speaking Yiddish (and correctly explaining the difference between "schlemiel" and "schlemazel"), and then to him teaching a self-defense class to everybody. Of course Ron would be a black belt in something (my money's on a martial art he invented himself, but is no less effective for having done so), and the class became a nice big pot for the tension between Ann and April to simmer, while Andy remains as clueless as ever. Going into the season, I never would have thought it possible that I'd believe Ann would ever want Andy back, but the show has done such a good job of rehabilitating Andy under Leslie's tutelage, and then April's friendship, that I buy it. This Andy is not the giant anchor who was dragging Ann's life down last spring, and while he's still an idiot, he's a sweet idiot. And we saw in the conversation about the ever-changing band names(*) that there are parts of Andy's world that still really appeal to Ann.

(*) Speaking of which, what happened to Tackle Shaft? Mouse Rat remains a better name, but Andy did act like it was gone when this subject last came up.

Rashida Jones was absent for most of the last two episodes because she was filming a movie, and with Paul Schneider leaving the show at season's end (see below), I know there's sentiment among some of you that Rashida's not really necessary anymore, either. But while Ann isn't the funniest character on the show, she can be funny when needed (the practice date, or here getting excited at the phrase "baby in a straightjacket"), she provides a necessary breath of sanity into this world (the problem with Mark and Ann is that we probably don't need both of them) and a friend for Leslie, and here a romantic foil for April. So I'm not ready to say goodbye to her.

Andy Samberg's park ranger character was a little too broad for this show's buttoned-down style - either make him an idiot or make him have no inside voice, but not both - but his part of the story led to a few very funny moments, like the Rule of 3's variation about which golf cart they were using, or Pawnee Today reluctantly putting up an "Avatar: Did it exceed the hype?" chyron after Leslie and Carl successfully hijacked the planned topic. And I'll always welcome an appearance by Mo Collins as big-fish-in-a-tiny-pond Joan Callamezzo.

In other "Parks" news, Paul Schneider is leaving the show after this season (which I suspected would happen when Adam Scott was hired), albeit in a way that will allow him to come back later. And Amy Poehler is pregnant again, which led to a good discussion on the blog the other day about how the show might hide it. Best suggestion, by far, courtesy of Rob S.: "They can always hide her behind Jabba the Hutt."

(If nothing else, that gives me an excuse to once again link to this, as well as a side-by-side comparison of it with the real credits.)

What did everybody else think?

52 comments:

HarrySTruman2 said...

I had a lousy day yesterday.. but Jerry splitting his pants cheered me up.

Matt Wilstein said...

the highlight of this episode for me was Jerry's presentation where nobody was allowed to make jokes:
http://bit.ly/cDZaMZ

Josh M. said...

Last night marked the official changing of the guard for me.

I made sure I was in front of the TV for "Community" and "Parks and Recreation," half paid attention to "The Office," and was watching basketball by 9:25.

Would never have believed that possible at the beginning of this season (after Park and Rec's iffy first season and Community's mediocre start). All hail the new kings.

boobaJONES said...

When Jerry explains to Leslie why he fakes the mugging, because he was worried about Tom's comments, then Leslie impersonates Tom - best part of the show! It was spot on!

Also, I CANNOT stop singing Jabba the Hutt.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Booba, Leslie's Tom impersonation was, indeed, great. (I was just coming back to post a comment about how I wish I could have found a place for it in the review, when I saw yours.) I imagine Poehler can also do a very good Ron F'ing Swanson.

David Thiel said...

I have grown to love "Parks and Rec" in its second season, but the running gag about Jerry has always made me very uncomfortable. This show doesn't need the cringe comedy that (for me, anyway) makes "The Office" unbearable.

I'm glad that they at least addressed the issue. All season I was puzzled as to why a good-hearted person such as Leslie would be oblivious to the obvious pain she was inflicting on a benign target. And the hummingbird lottery took her well past mindless humiliation to deliberate bullying.

I'm not convinced by the explanation. Jerry's klutziness was exaggerated for this episode. Most of the abuse heaped on him in previous outings seemed entirely unmotivated.

What I'm saying is that it's one thing to be cruel to a character like Tom. Making him run alongside the raccoon piss cart was funny because Tom has earned the punishment through previous actions. And besides, we know that Tom is perfectly capable of protecting himself.

But when the target is someone as sad and inoffensive (and, for goodness' sake, soulful) as Jerry, it seems uncharacteristically vicious.

Anonymous said...

Jerry's kind of like the Toby Flenderson of Pawnee.

Zach said...

Good episode. "You have a time share in Muncie Indiana?!"

Curious how they write Schneider out of the show. Assuming its the season finale, along with April finally making a move on Andy. Gonna be an interesting next few eps to watch

olucy said...

And we saw in the conversation about the ever-changing band names(*) that there are parts of Andy's world that still really appeal to April.

Did you mean Ann instead of April here?

Alan Sepinwall said...

So I did, Olucy.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Too many A names in this triangle.

padawansguide said...

I'm with you, David Thiel. There's a definite difference between mocking Tom and Jerry (wait, Tom and Jerry? That sounds funny!). Jerry just seems so sad sack and such an easy target that at some point it just feels like kicking a puppy dog. I just feel bad for him. It really struck me the wrong way.

And I really dislike Ann/Andy. I don't mind her sort of wanting what's not hers anymore in an abstract way, but he is just as wrong for her as he was before, and I don't buy them as a couple. April/Andy make way more sense.

MC said...

Man, oh man what a frakkin' hilarious ep last night!

Jerry splitting his pants was perfect, and then to give the fart a backstory?!!?!!?! GENIUS! So many super great moments that most have you have already mentioned.

Last night was my first live experience of singing "Jabba the Hutt" along with the opening title sequence. I didn't think it was possible to make an already awesome opening title sequence better but alas, it has happened.

One thing that I've been thinking about this year is how much The Office has seemed off at times. Now obviously, there are things going on that aren't as good as previous seasons. However, I can't help but think that part of the reason has to be, atleast for me anyways, that I always watch the comedies in order so I've basically been seeing the greatness that is Community and P&R and then watching The Office, and it just isn't on the same comedic level as the others, especially P&R, most weeks.

Matthew said...

How does "Paul Schneider is leaving the show" not fall under the site's no spoiler policy?

JimBriggs said...

"Scrotation marks"

Alan Sepinwall said...

How does "Paul Schneider is leaving the show" not fall under the site's no spoiler policy?

Casting news (whether people are coming or going) is different. It's a thing that's out there in the real world.

Anonymous said...

I actually thought this was one of the weaker episodes, just because all the humor seemed so broad. The reason why the old jokes on Jerry worked so well was because they were really jokes about the rest of the office, and Jerry was a pretty normal guy. Like, the mural Jerry does is clearly the best idea and well crafted, but everyone fixates on the slip-up of "murinal" instead of "mural" and just becomes oblivious to the artwork. Or when they try to dig up dirt on each other and Jerry doesn't want to play, but then people keep inadvertently telling him things about his life he didn't know.

This episode made it clear that there are reasons people would mock and make fun of Jerry, and it didn't really work for me.

Plus, Andy Samberg is just not funny and I think I automatically shut down the possibility of laughing whenever he's on screen.

Marc said...

Agree completely with David Thiel. The whole mocking of Jerry was just cruel and its probably why i dont like the Tom charcter (i'm probably the only one). It's the whole "we're the cool guys in the room and lets destroy the not cool guy". it wasn't light ribbing. It was cruel behavior and if I worked with people that behaved as such, I'd say so. This probably typifies what irks me about the show (and many of the snark coms on NBC). There are parts that are defitiely funny, but then there's the snark and in weeks like this, what I deem as cruel. I don't enjoy that. It's not funny to make fun of the slow kid at school. It's not funny to make funny to make fun of the "Schlemiel" if you will, especially when he's a good hearted, hard working person. Im sure many of you think I'm over sensitive, but you can be funny with heart and less snark. It's possible. Modern Family or even the Middle do it regularly.

George said...

Okay, Jerry splitting his trousers and farting simultaneously was hilarious, but apart from that I was just felt sorry for the guy.

Samberg on the other hand was funny; I was laughing at how he pronounced Avatar, it was like Av - At - Ar, emphasising every A, I have no idea why, but I was rolling around laughing.

Pretty substandard episode this week, but funny enough

srpad said...

I felt this was a pretty weak episode because I guess I missed the point of Jerry. I always though Jerry was like that girl in the episode of Seinfeld that everyone treated like a loser for no reason.

Admittedly I have never seen season 1 so I may have missed something but always seemed to me the joke of the Jerry hatred in the office was because it was undeserved and random but in this episode Jerry became the loser the office made him out to be which is less funny.

I came into this show late and then caught up so I have seen all of season 2 and this was the first meh episode I have seen.

CorpJay said...

Besides the pants splitting/fart the funniest part of the night for me was when they made Tom run along side the golf cart. I don't know why I found it so hilariuos but I couldn't stop laughing.

Steve said...

srpad,

I couldn't agree more. I love the Jerry mockery all season because it seemed to come out of nowhere. Sure, he has had some slip-ups, but it always seemed like the mockery was completely over-the-top and that was why it was funny to me.

Josh M,

Absolutely. I never would have thought that I would be far more excited for the 8-9pm hour than the 9-10pm hour. I love The Office, and I want it to be great, but I have started to expect mild entertainment from it. I jsut think the characters have gotten stale. Either the show has run its course, or Michael Schur is even more of a genius than I thought originally.

Aziz Ansari is the new Nard-Dog. He is my favorite character on television right now and everything he does makes me laugh.

Amy Poehler's impression of Tom was perfect as well.

And Ron, F'n Swanson... what more can you say about The Duke?

Michael said...

By promoting that video, you have completely ruined the opening credits. There's no way I can ever un-hear "Jabba the Hutt" now.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Michael, I agree that it's impossible to unhear Jabba, but "ruined" is not the word I would use (nor the word many people who work on the show would use). To me, it adds an extra layer of enjoyment, that I may now sing "Jabba the Hutt" as it goes along.

Michael said...

Sorry, poor choice of word in "ruined".

I meant that I will never be able to hear the P&R theme without hearing "Jabba the Hutt", in the way that I can never hear Michael Jackson's "Beat It" without thinking of Weird Al's "Eat It".

Scott said...

I love the Jabba the Hutt video. I only watched it once, but for the last 2 weeks it's been in my head every time during the theme. This was a good episode, even though Andy Samberg was a little too broad as others have said. I think he's funny, but this didn't really work. Like Steve and others have said, I have come to look forward to the 8 pm shows more than the 9 pm shows. Especially Parks and Rec. This show has made me laugh all season, and has kinda rewarded the faith for watching the bad season 1.

Berko said...

when Jerry said "my marbles are full of mouth" April's reaction was golden. I don't recall ever seeing her so animated on the show before!

SaneN85 said...

CorpJay,

I completely agree. In fact, Tom running alongside the cart was pretty much the only thing I laughed out loud at all night. Well, expect for Jeff singing on Community.

Kathleen Taylor said...

I somehow missed Jabba the Hutt before this morning, now I can't stop singing it.

tribalism said...

I loved Ron's self-defence class. Not only did it reveal Andy to be a pervert in his own hypothetical scenarios, but we finally got to see Ann expressing some affection for his old boyfriend. It's been four episodes since "Galentine's Day" when her lingering feelings were made somewhat apparent, so it was good to see some progress in this storyline.

That said, I think we also need to figure out where Ann and Mark truly stand. We haven't seen them as a couple since "Galentine's Day" either, so it's difficult to gauge where she stands on that relationship. It was made clear in "GD" that there wasn't a lot of excitement--something that definitely contrasts with life with Andy--but I think after four episodes, we need a but of an acknowledgement other than a phone call that the two are still a pair.

If anyone is interested, more of my thoughts on this episode are available on my blog where I share my favourite lines of the night and go into detail about the workplace bullying that Jerry has endured. Click my username for the link.

SR said...

I too was really disappointed with this episode. They took what was interesting about Jerry's character - nice guy who was the butt of office jokes for no real reason - and threw it away for a handful of cheap "clumsy fat slob" jokes. I'm guessing they wanted to give the actor a showcase episode, but this wasn't how they should have done it.

I also thought it was kind of hack to drag out the old "schlemiel" bit. Why would Ron Effin' Swanson be pulling out a reference used almost exclusively by Jewish comedy writers?

On the other hand, thanks for the link to that side-by-side Jabba video. I had no idea they did such an amazing job picking shots that the original credits so well.

JMJE said...

My favorite part was definitely Tom continuing to run along side the golf cart the whole time. Awesome. I love this show

Ryan said...

Love the show, but this episode did nothing for me. Andy Samberg is not one of my favorites, and his role in the show was terrible. Jerry was pretty funny though, as was Leslie/Ron/Tom. I really wish Rashida Jones would go away, comedy is not her thing. Probably the weakest show of the season, or in the top 3, but even the best shows of off nights. No biggie.

Steve said...

There were enough high points to make the ep worthwhile, but I deteest the notion of needing to be be told why it's okay to laugh at Jerry.

The only thing that kills a gag deader than explaining it is apologizing for it.

It was reminiscent of the overwrought Season 4 episode of NYPD Blue ("Where's 'Swaldo") in which it was deemed necessary to provide a comic-book-simple "origin" for Sipowicz's racism. Yuck.

SaneN85 said...

Oh, and am I crazy or was that Nick Offerman in a small part of The Men Who Stare At Goats?

Michael said...

I can't believe that "schlemiel" and "schlemazel" were mentioned and nobody thought to say "Hassenpfeffer incorporated".

Anonymous said...

@Michael: Why'd you have to do that? By explaining it, you have completely ruined the joke. Nice job, Jerry. ;)

Kim said...

@David Thiel: The bullying of Jerry has always made me squirm a bit, too. But really what I'm here to say is that you coined an AWESOME band name: Raccoon Piss Cart!

Ian C. said...

Jerry splitting his pants and farting sent me into a breathless laughing fit that turned into a coughing fit that briefly made me wonder if my life was in danger. But it was worth it because it was that funny.

It's never felt right to me that Leslie joins in on bullying Jerry. But as Alan said, Jerry brings it on himself so often that it becomes more believable.

Alf said...

Twout! Twout! Twout!

Henry said...

I can see where people might be annoyed by Andy Samberg's character constantly shouting, but I thought it was the best part of the episode.

Really sad that Jerry is shown as the "schlimiel" and "schlimazel" of the entire staff, though hilarious how Ron F'ing Swanson explained it.

Henry said...

Oh, crap. Now the "Jabba-the-Hutt" song is stuck in my head.

"Jabba-the-Hutt, Jabba-the-Hutt, Jabba-the-Hutt, Jabba-the-Hutt, Jabba-the-Hutt..."

belinda said...

I absolutely died laughing at Donna's expression on her face right after Jerry's pants split fart. Yeah, I suppose that whole scene is a bit cliche, but it was hilarious. And while one could interpret the whole thing as being really mean and cruel to Jerry, I like it when the show shows Leslie having fun and bonding with her co workers (and vice versa).

I also hope that Rashida Jones stays with the show , because I think she provides a good way of keeping Leslie be grounded in her zaniness as her friend, should Jones leave the show. (Thinking about that, I will miss Mark after all, because I like his advice talks with Leslie - though I suppose other characters can take pick up the slack.) And they're handling the AAA 'love triangle' really well, so Ann has to stay!

I now sing along with the theme song every time I watch this show. I want to blame Alan, but then again it might actually be enhancing my viewing experience. Gets me in the mood for Pawnee!

Anonymous said...

Paul Schneider is one of the most talented actors working today. I hope he gets a spotlight episode before leaving the show.

Withnail said...

twout! twout! Twout!

Anonymous said...

I agree with your assessment of Andy Samberg's character -- I think it would have been HILARIOUS if he was normal-intelligent, but just had that crazy speaking voice (kind of like Will Ferrell's voice immodulation guy from SNL). The way he was played, I felt like I was watching a Samberg character from an SNL digital short, which just has too absurd a tone for this show.

Rob S. said...

Thanks for the shout-out! I feel like a superstar!

I have to admit, I'm just about ready to get the Jabba song out of my head for a little while... it loops!

Tyroc said...

Paul Schneider was really good in "Lars and the Real Girl" (as the brother of Lars.) Hope he does well.

The big fart joke did not work for me at all, but glad others liked it.

I did love Leslie doing Tom though. Amazing. Maybe my favorite joke the show has done so far.

JABBA THE HUT / JABBA THE HUT /
JABBA THE HUT / JABBA THE HUT /
JABBA THE HUT / JABBA THE HUT / JABBA THE HUT / JABBA THE HUT /JABBA THE HUT !

Dennis said...

I watched this series first two shows and I really didn't like them so I quit but then I came back three eps ago because of all the glowing reviews.

It was worth the trip back and the same thing happened to me with 30 Rock where I hated the opening attempts but eventually it joined the rotation.

I checked out the link to the interview that explained Schenider's departure and the arc that the creators have planned is ingenious.

Shutup "Marc" said...

I could not stop laughing during the presentation scene. I totally lost it when Jerry's pants split and he farted followed by Donna's reaction. This could have been a truly superb episode if not for Adam Samfuck's character. Just a terrible job by the writers/production team for allowing that to air especially if it was not ad-libbed by the actor. Oh, we were supposed to find it clever when his last line was delivered quietly after listening to the retard's vapid yelling whenever he was on camera.. Fucking fail, production team. Go fuck yourselves at least once for making me watch that shit.

Out of the three shows that night:
Best scene: Jerry's presentation
Best episode: Community
The not as terrible as usual: The Office

*And please get better, CHUCK. We still have love for you.

3333/afa said...

The production team has never forcibly made me watch anything, so I guess I should consider myself lucky.

Geoff said...

"Chyron"?

Jeez, Mr. Fancy Terms, we just said "throw a super in the lower third" at film school. Okay, STATE school film program, but still.