Friday, March 12, 2010

Parks and Recreation, "The Possum": Do you respect wood?

Another terrific "Parks and Recreation" last night, and if you haven't yet seen the "Return of the Jedi"/"Parks & Rec" opening titles mash-up, you simply must. You will never be able to get the song out of your head, but it will be worth it; trust me.

A review of "The Possum" coming up just as soon as I tell a man he can't fart in his own car...

"The Possum" was "Parks & Rec" clicking on all levels: broad physical comedy (various bits with the possum), political satire (the possum case turning into a death penalty allegory), romantic tension (April falling even more for Andy, and Leslie finding out), and just the characters being themselves, whether it was Leslie practically shaking at the thought of being on a mayoral task force, Tom decking himself out in golf clothes or another vintage Ron F'ing Swanson diatribe about the evils of government.

I loved virtually every beat of the possum story, from small things like the Animal Control burn-outs playing "Stop hanging yourself!" to Andy bluntly recalling Shauna Malwae-Tweep's dalliance with Mark to Leslie and April hiding from the possum in Ann's bed. (And, of course, Leslie blurting out the truth to Ann and telling April to run for it.) It was a nice case of Leslie's ambition(*) coming into conflict with her strong morals, and Amy Poehler was again wonderful at getting laughs out of playing Leslie's internal struggle. She's also great at being completely deadpan while delivering lines like "Mr. Campo-Piano, those are photos of three different possums," and at getting frantic while listing all the "can't"s in her life right now ("can't make a good soup, can't do a handstand in a pool, can't spell the word 'lieutenant'").

(*) One issue I have, though, with Leslie's dreams: she thinks she'll one day be president, but she's in her mid-30s at least, and she's still an unelected civil servant in a small Indiana town. The character has evolved past the occasionally-delusional version we saw in season one, so she should know that every day that passes without her running for some kind of elected office to use as a stepping stone to another job, and another, and another, the more remote her dream is becoming. And she wasn't even planning to use the mayor's favor to help run for something, but to help get the pit/lot park finished.That becomes one of those status quo balancing acts a lot of shows have to deal with: you don't want to take Leslie out of the parks department (and away from Ron, April, Jerry and company), but her career complacency becomes hard to justify every time she talks about wanting to be the president - and to wear "a huge beautiful blue hat."

I'm also still really grooving on the Andy/April tensions, which works because Andy is both so oblivious (which we knew last season) and so sweet (which we've learned since Ann rightfully kicked him to the curb), and because April is so guarded and cynical that she's not the type to just come out and tell Andy how she feels. (And Leslie only found out because April was panicking about Fairway Frank.) There are some shows that feel like they're just dragging out the romantic tension because they can, but I completely buy that these two wouldn't be capable of making a move yet, and am enjoying them inch ever so slowly towards each other.

As for Ron Swanson, libertarian and building code violator? Well, aside from being another amusing play on Nick Offerman's own love of wood-work, it was an amusing reminder of the limits of Ron's competence and political philosophy, and the first good Mark story in a while. He was still largely the straight man, but placing him in that death trap of a wood shop to point out all the wrong things about it (the oily rags over the burning fire was my favorite) was a reminder that being the sane man in an insane situation can be a funny thing on its own.

Jabba the Hutt... Jabba the Hutt... Jabba the Hutt...

...sorry. It's catchy. Anyway, what did everybody else think?

41 comments:

LoopyChew said...

Jabba Jabba Jabba Jabba Jabba Jabba Ja bba Ja bba Ja bba I'm sorry, did you post a review?

CAPTCHA: "munki." Why not "posum?"

Alan Sepinwall said...

"Created by George Lucas & Jabba the Hutt."

Jobin said...

Love love love love love this show. Ron Swanson's "gift" to Mark (the canoe) and his subsequent thumbs up and smile just slayed me. And any time Andy's in a scene, I get giddy. He is such a whackjob yet completely harmless.

Detlet Schrempf next week?! He's a former Indiana Pacer!

Alan Sepinwall said...

I believe what Mike Schur said was that Detlef Schrempf (one of my favorite NBA names) is shooting an episode tomorrow, which means he'll turn up in one down the line.

LoopyChew said...

April and Ron F'ing Swanson never fail to entertain. April struggling to realize that she actually has some sort of...what's the opposite of apathy? Pathy?...towards Andy is fun and actually kind of genuinely cute to watch, and the way they cut to her "I hate Ann." TH in the middle of Ann's "And maybe--" "--we can be friends!" TH was sheer genius on behalf of the writers. Perfect, perfect timing.

As for Ron, the fire extinguisher killed me, as did his attempt at matching band-sawed pages in the guidebook.

CAPTCHA: humine -- what Leslie wanted to be toward the possum. Urinating on it? Ew.

Hollywoodaholic said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Alan Sepinwall said...

Idol discussion's to the left, Hollywoodaholic.

Greg said...

I almost fell off the couch when Andy tackled the possum. When he comes on the screen, you know you're going to laugh.

I like Leslie, but she usually doesn't provide a ton of laugh out loud moments. But this line crushed last night:

"Ma'am, the next time we speak, we shall be dancing on the grave of a possum."

Fantastic episode overall.

Teev said...

Hah I was totally singing the Jabba song during the opening credits! You can't unhear that.

So very awesome tonight. I can never believe how much they cram into every episode and how well they use the entire ensemble.

And I don't know but maybe tonight's episode kind of shows us why someone with Leslie's ambition is still at the parks department - she can be pretty nutso. The whole time with the possum I was thinking that shouldn't they be trapping and killing them all anyway whether or not they bit a dog? I didn't catch the whole death penalty thing I must admit, so she just seemed super nuts (I love her though). Maybe they could show her running for city council or something but having it all go cattywampus and then she would still be at P&R.

AJ said...

Wow, even before I saw Nick Offerman's woodshop site and learned that he actually can make all those things I was thinking how great a fake Ron Swanson Woodworking webisode would, now I want the real thing

Isaac, your bartender said...

Tom on Tiger Woods was classic.

Zack Smith said...

Seeing the reporter from last season reminded me of a key evolution of the show between now and then -- last year overemphasized Leslie's awkwardness and self-delusion, while this year shows her as someone who is genuinely good at her job and cares about doing it well, even when other government people are willing to coast by. She might take it too seriously, but I'm glad there are Leslie Knopes working for us.

April/Andy is a great pairing because it's opened up Aubrey Plaza's character and gives us more and more Chris Pratt. Agree with Alan on the pacing of it. This looks like something that will build to the end of the season, and it's a nice evolution of both characters.

No offense to Rashida Jones, but when Ann showed up at the end, my reaction was, "You were gone?"

They played the "Ron is dead-set in his self-destructive ways" a bit soon after the whisky ep (and used the wood shop again), but damned if they weren't able to get a laugh just out of Offerman staring silently while waiting to lie to Mark. Twice.

I remember I was in middle school when NBC started "Must-See TV." But it was only really all "Must-See" shows for about one season, and one of those "Must-See"s was WINGS, which was cute but a B show at best. Then it was years and years of THE SINGLE GUY and its ilk between genuinely good shows.

What we have now? THIS is the real "Must-See TV."

Ryan said...

Best part of the episode: Jerry licking the ketchup off Leslie's wrist. Hilarious.

Ors said...

This episode's major flaw was Aubrey Plaza. It really showed her limitations as an actress. She may be able to do deadpan really well, but she doesn't have a lot of range.

Bryan said...

Hilarious - Ron Swanson's my new hero and role model.

Robin said...

Thanks Alan. I'm never going to get that song out of my head!!

Great episode. I'm so happy that I trusted your posts early this season and gave this show a second chance.

James said...

No offense to Rashida Jones, but when Ann showed up at the end, my reaction was, "You were gone?"

I had the same thought. Given that Anne was absent an entire episode a little while back and didn't miss a beat, I wonder what they are going to do going forward with the character. She does serve a role as Leslie's best friend, but recent episodes have pushed Ron further into becoming someone Leslie can talk to. She's not funny on her own (practice date aside) and the show has plenty of straight people (Jerry, April, Mark and whomever Adam Scoctt is soon to be playing). So where does that leave Anne?

Goggles Paisano said...

"One issue I have, though, with Leslie's dreams..."

Maybe she's just in denial that this is where she actually belongs.

Anonymous said...

I know you love Ron Swanson, but I have to say that April is quickly becoming my favorite character on the show and maybe one of my favorite characters on TV.

I'm a little worried about the Ann character. She wasn't in last week's episode at all and she was barely in this week's. I realize she's hard to work in sometimes since she doesn't work for the Parks Dept. but it seems like they've given up lately. And with the addition of Rob Lowe and Adam Scott I imagine she'll be getting that much less screen time.

Bryan said...

the only issue i did have with this show is opossums are nocturnal. Now maybe you big city folk didn't know that but down here in Ky it's well known. (Not that you never see one during the day but you're certainly not going to see them running around golf courses during the day. Especially with people around - they are very shy.)

Bryan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I have missed Ann the past two episodes, but
I'm glad that has provided a chance to integrate Mark more. (Does this mean there some secret shared quota for Mark and Ann?) I have a feeling that the writers are already beginning to set the groundwork for whatever new dynamic Adam Scott will provide.

Hatfield said...

I have watched the Jabba spoof roughly 83 times. Damn you, random YouTube users/geniuses!

Adam said...

Ron's delivery of the line "Let me build you a canoe" just left me rolling once again.

Anonymous said...

I thought the same thing about the possum. That, and how did they get them to be so active? My dog used to catch them and they'd immediately Play Possum. Plus, they don't seem that agile, so when Leslie saw the second possum walking around, why not just grab that one too?

LA said...

Parks wins the night yet again!

Anonymous said...

Possums hiss and bite. I sure would never just grab one, and I think Chris Pratt might have been genuinely freaked that the possum was climbing all over him. Obviously a well-trained actor possum. Kudos to it.

The pictured moment definitely got a laugh from me. "Do you know those guys?"

Matthew said...

I would have to disagree with the point about Leslie's dreams. I actually think that her continuous dream of becoming president makes her seem real. We all have dreams that we really know will never happen. I'm never going to be a time traveling scientist with a pet dog named Einstein but if dreaming that gets me through my day then let me be a dreamer. The point is, i think the character knows her true calling is the job she has and "getting things done" as the mayors assistant so nicely put it and the presidential dream is just that a dream...

tribalism said...

I loved how April's crushed soda bottle mosaic portrait from "Galentine's Day" was resting on the window behind her desk. It's great to see the interaction amongst different depts. in the Pawnee civic government. The rival librarians are definitely the best, but Brett & Harris would be more than welcome to make more appearances: "Stop hanging yourself, stop hanging yourself."

Favourite line of the night:

"Does he want to have sex with a dead possum?"

If anyone is interested, more of my thoughts on this episode--including my change of heart on a possible Andy-April relationship as well as my favourite exchange of the night--are available at my blog. Click my username for the link.

Anonymous said...

I thought the "coming up" line would be "as soon as I leave little flecks of pee on a stuffed possum".

GabbyD said...

haha... i love this show...

i think the premise of the mayor wanting to kill a possum is so ridiculous! hahaha...

Greg said...

I've been trained by mediocre sitcoms to expect that the episode would become a long madcap attempt to catch the possum. It's great that they dispensed with that in a minute in a really funny way and took the episode in another direction.

Dan said...

Aubrey Plaza is the female Michael Cera. I am greatly entertained by the awkwardness of their characters.

Also, the return of Alison Becker reminds me of the "Mayne Street" webisode with Aubrey Plaza. Hilarious.

http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=4660869&categoryid=4609424

Anonymous said...

Aubrey Plaza is the female Michael Cera.

That's a bit of a creepy notion, given the circumstances. It's also selling her a bit short, in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

I noticed in the beginning of the episode that Tom referred to Ann as Ann Logan. I thought her name was Ann Perkins. That's what's on NBC's website: http://www.nbc.com/parks-and-recreation/about/bios/rashida-jones/)

Andrew said...

Given that P&R has been renewed for a 3rd season, and will hopefully continue on beyond that, I think it's far too early to complain about Leslie being complacent about her position at the Parks Dept. before the show's even finished its first full season. I'm sure that going forward, Leslie could run for City Council or Mayor of Pawnee-- which could both work to involve Ann more directly with Leslie's campaign and to change the dynamics of Leslie's relationship with Ron. Plus, a campaign/election arc could have tremendous opportunities for satire of the actual midterm Congressional elections coming this fall. But to worry about stagnation in the midst of the show's first season -- especially when it's been the most consistent and funniest comedy on all of television -- seems awfully premature.

Word verification: oveger. When one is so overeager they can't even get the whole word out. Example in use: see Liz Lemon trying to say Oprah on the airplane. Borpoh!

amyp3 said...

My only nit to pick:
That Leslie the hunter would be afraid of a possum.

Snacktime said...

I've never watched this show before, it's always been the whole in my Thursday night TiVo and NBC schedule. I happened to catch it live this week, and was pleasantly surprised. I'm sure we will see the possum again!

But, really, I'm most amused by the Jabba the Hut opening video that you posted, Alan. It's now stuck in my head, and I laughed at that the end of the credits reads: "Created by George Lucas & Jabba the Hut".

DolphinFan said...

There's a report online saying that Paul Schneider is leaving the show for good. If it's true, then I think it's not going have much of an impact on P&R because the rest of the ensemble is so strong. I also wonder that (again if it's true) this might mean Adam Scott and/or Rob Lowe will have fairly long runs on the show. And whatever else happens, Schneider is a good actor who is deservedly establishing a strong overall career, and good future luck to him.

Josh M. said...

Paul is definitely leaving.

Anonymous said...

"the oily rags over the burning fire was my favorite"
Wasn't there also a propane tank?