Friday, November 20, 2009

Parks and Recreation, "Hunting Trip": The good wound

Spoilers for "Parks and Recreation" - and if you missed it earlier, go check out Amy Poehler's favorite moments so far (complete with clips) - coming up just as soon as I peg you as a user of mouth tobacco...
"Guys love it when you can show them you're better than they are at something they love." -Leslie
In this very good LA Times story, Mike Schur and Greg Daniels talk at length about the series' growing pains, and the ways in which they feel "Parks and Rec" is different from "The Office." Watching the very entertaining "Hunting Trip," another difference came to mind:

Leslie is very good at what she does.

Now, obviously, Michael Scott is a brilliant salesman, and can occasionally back his way into some clever managerial strategy, but for the most part, he's all hat and no cattle. He talks about being great at things that he's absolutely awful at (comedy, most notably), and the difference between his perceptions and the reality of the situation drives a lot of that show's humor.

Leslie has her own moments of self-deception (the quote above, to name one), but at the same time, she doesn't mess around. She says she's a good hunter, and she is. She can out-shoot, out-drink and out-anecdote any man on that trip - so much so that it starts to become annoying to Ron. And when Tom the unlicensed hunter turns out to be the one who shot Ron, Leslie immediately knows she has to take all the blame, and manages to play into the park ranger's sexism (in one of the better Let's Watch Amy Improvise For Multiple Takes sequences they've done) until the guy buys her story and goes away. And in doing so, she again wins Ron Effing Swanson's respect.

That's another key "Office"/"P&R" split. Ron could very easily be the Dwight stand-in, as they share a knack for saying insane things with conviction, but he's also sensible, and popular, and a good judge of character. He's his own man, incredibly funny at times - as we see when Ron is loopy on a scotch/painkiller combo and refusing to let Leslie and Ann make him puke - but also very likable.

Ron's hallucinatory freak-out was one of several bits of great physical comedy in "Hunting Trip," an episode that also saw Donna tackling Leslie for allegedly wounding her beloved Mercedes, Andy giving piggyback rides around City Hall, and Andy stumbling around the office while playing Marco Polo with April. (And kudos to whoever came up with the inspired idea of making April interested in Andy.)

There was nothing this week quite as hiccup-inducing as Ron's shoeshine or Ron talking of his love of pretty dark-haired women with breakfast food, but overall "Hunting Trip" was another strong entry in this great second season of "Parks and Rec."

What did everybody else think?


J said...

The spit-take scene may have been one of the funniest things I have ever seen.

greentara said...

Chris Pratt has made himself indispensable to this show. I loves it!

greentara said...

"They're probably making out, over a dead deer. Super romantic."

Tom said...

I wasn't really into this one until the end. Leslie's multiple excuses, Ron's litany of "maybe you could shoot me in head"s and that final shot of his wound all came together to close the deal.

CEK said...

I thought Ron's litany of "you shot me in the head" was by far the bet thing of this one, and funnier than his dark-haired women and breakfast comment.

ej said...

Agree with J. The spit-take scene was hilarious. The feel was very spontaneous.

And I agree with Alan -- inspired idea to make April interested in Andy.

And maybe it's just because she got to break out of her glum, bored, dispirited mold, but Aubrey Plaza pretty much stole the show.

Laura said...

Loved so much about this episode - the bit where Andy ran into the table, got caught in the chair and flung his leg back to get it off? Hysterical!

Great season so far. Actually, the only problem I have with the show is how hard I have to work to get my friends to watch it. Most of them can't get over its similarities to "The Office".

Sebastian Dangerfield said...

Much of those first paragraphs detail what it is that a) make this show different from "The Office" and b) make it superior. That is, this show has a respect for its characters and the audience that "The Office" often lacks. All too often "The Office" stoops to easy jokes that traffic in cruelty, they cease being funny and become all too much about laughing at. This is both easier and less satisfying as a type of comedy to do. My problems with "The Office" stem from its unnecessary cruelty and its relying on primetime hour-long drama, two things that are not needed at all. "Parks and Recreation" has managed to take the elements that are funny in "The Office" and jettison those that are simplistic and simple minded. It is now the far superior show, largely because of those things you made clear in your review.

"Parks and Recreation" is a show based on character that doesn't continually stoop to condescending towards those very characters. Far too often "The Office" goes for the cruel, easy, cheap gag that steps back and begs the audience to laugh with the writers whereas "Parks and Rec" is far more similar to a show like "NewsRadio" in its comedy that while based upon idiosyncracies and at times flaws in its characters never stoops to simple taunting.

Again, no surprise given the genius of one Ken Tremendous. Bring back Fire joe Morgan.

Jeff Polman said...

I like these people more and more each week, and Aubrey Plaza has quickly become one of the biggest crack-ups. The expression on her face while sitting there listening to the horrible "hold music" on the phone was worth the price of free admission.

Tyler said...

My favorite episode of the year so far. I love how the characters are more believable than The Office and how the viewer can see the positive qualities that exist in each character like most people in the world unlike The Office where maybe two or three actually have likable qualities.

Marie said...

Agree with the difference between The Office and P & R: I think the only likeable character left on The Office, Oscar? The crew on Parks is one part annoying, one part mean, one part sneaky but six parts likeable. If that makes any sense.

Who know Chris Pratt would end up being the most talented alumni from Everwood?

Lastly, just give the Female Comedy Emmy to Amy. NOW. And hopefully this show (and Modern Family) means we will never have to see Three and a Half Men in the Best Comedy Show catagory again.

lap said...

The past 3 episodes have made me love Ron Swanson more than Jack Donaghy. Which speaks volumes I think.

Anonymous said...

Parks & Rec has a very interesting business plan.

1. Be an over-hyped spinoff/hybrid of the only successful sitcom on the network.
2. Be painfully bad in year one.
3. Be on a network so bad you avoid being cancelled.
4. Improve to a mediocre show in year two.
5. Now you are an "improved" sitcom, instead of mediocre or average.

The show is better than last year. But everybody involved (network, producers, writers, cast, and fans) had to think this was going to be something bigger and better.

Chalmers said...

I enjoyed this episode, but I'm not sure it lived up to the last three weeks (admittedly a tough task).

Until Amy Poehler's amazing improv run, I spent the hunting scenes hoping they'd switch back to April and Andy.

I agree with the "Office" and "NewsRadio" comparisons. Like "NewsRadio," I think "P&R" works best off of the work mini-dramas (abusing the suggestion box, the office fascniation with "Dilbert"), rather than the outrageous stuff like Ron getting shot.

Steve said...

P+R is an enjoyable show but I don't think comparisons to the current state of The Office are fair.

The second season of The Office absolutely blows away P+R in terms of comedy. Granted, The Office has struggled this season, but back in the first 3-4 seasons, it was absolutely brilliant.

Kelly said...

Like some of the other commenters, I wasn't really feeling the show until the very end with Leslie's improv excuses, Ron's refusal to puke (Leslie's line about how she hopes he has some memory loss just cracked both my husband and I up) and the last shot of the back of Ron's head. All brilliant scenes.

And I loved the little grin April gets when Andy says he's going to go sterilize his neck and then she looks at the camera all "what?" Hee!

And Ann's reaction to the hickies on Andy's neck? Priceless!

Anonymous said...

I thought Allan would have that quote at the top of his blog. It was hilarious. My wife and I cracked up. I also liked when Andy was giving someone a piggy back ride and ran past Mark's office and said "Mark" at one door and then "Brandanawitz" at the other.

2nd season has been much better than the first. I actually look forward to watching this year as opposed to this show just being something to watch before The Office.

belinda said...

I had a crazy laughing fit during Leslie's "It's because I'm a woman" multiple takes that was comparable to Ron's ooohs over his bunion. That was fabulous. Solid episode, my fave for this thursday.

As for the P+R / The Office debate:- I love both shows, so I'm just happy that both are airing. I mean, you have people writing about how P+R's inferior to The Office, but at the same time I remember way back when people (me included) feeling the exact way when The Office first aired- because they find it to be inferior to ITS parent show, The Office UK. But ultimately, the writing and the actors on The Office made it their own, and I can see the same happening to P+R as well, given what we've seen the writing and actors can do this season so far. Sure, there's very little that could ever top The Office UK, which started this whole new genre of comedy in a way, but that is why we have The Office US and P+R to watch now.

Sister T said...

My favorite line and delivery: "Is this not rap?"

barefootjim said...

My wife did not want to try this show again after we stopped watching it during the middle of the first season, but it was getting such good buzz (from all the TV crits talking about it on Twitter), I persuaded her to try it again this season.

Last night, she made me rewind the TiVo three times just to see Ron Freakin Swanson say "I'm sorry I lost my temper before. It's because I was shot in the head by a moron."

Anonymous said...

Though I'm not sure they've quite figured it out, I like the looser style they're going for in Parks. The time compression of Leslie's excuses and April's "What?" to the camera are things I couldn't see working on The Office, which works more rigidly within the documentary conceit.

Jenn said...

"B*tches be crazy!"

Unknown said...

Holy Brendanawicz! When did April become the funniest character on this show?

ShayDetta said...

I love the show but am I the only who doesn't find Amy Poehler funny at all?

Anonymous said...

April getting a genuine smile is as rare and wonderful a treat as getting one from Cedric Daniels.

Stewart said...

I was worried at first that the whodunit plot would end up like MILF Island, but it turned out the best way possible. Thank you, writers.

Rob said...

Straight up hilarious. In it's own league now, not even Modern Family can keep up. So many great lines.

We can only pray Pratt and April become an item. Inspired pairing. But really, there's so many great pairings of characters on this show, Ron and Pratt, Ron and Leslie, Leslie and Aziz, Aziz and Ron, Louis CK and Leslie.

Frankly, I think it's better than the Office ever was. I'm guessing that's probably because 1) the writers are more experienced now and 2) the show is their own and 3) you like rather than pity the characters

Tyroc said...

Shay, I agree with you. I don't find her particularly funny in general (her Sarah Palin rap while nine-months pregnant on SNL being the one giant exception. That was tremendous.)

And in this show only find her funny when she's at her most insane (like the line about guys quoted above. But that's just good writing.) Even the big "improv" scene fell quite flat for me.

I find her quite dull in general. And don't find the Ron Swanson character particularly funny either.

Maybe I just like broader characters on my comedies, but the only reasons to tune in are Andy (a very funny character) and Aziz's character (who is sometimes funny, sometimes quite tiresome) and the beautiful and completely charming Rashida Jones (who makes a wonderful straight peson.)

Maybe we can get a show with Andy, April, Rashida Jones, Aziz and Louis C.K. and lose the rest?


Oh, and to those who say no one on The Office is likable. I strongly disagree. I find myself rooting for everyone except maybe Ryan and Angela and Dwight (although there have been times when I rooted for him as well, in his relationship with Angela.)

Susan said...

Audrey and the hold music. Priceless!

The comparisons to The Office are interesting. Neither Steve Carell nor Amy Poehler are brilliant comedians, in my opinion. Good, but not brilliant. Neither one could carry the show. The people who surround there is the real brilliance.

Kirk said...

Alan - thanks for talking up this show! After reading your posts, I started watching, and before I knew it, I had burned through all of the eps on hulu, laughing my ass off the whole time. It's excellent.

Really seems to be the year of the network comedy, huh?

I'm watching the fearsome five at the moment (Office, 30 Rock, Modern Family, Community, and now Parks and Rec), and I can't believe that I was once worried that so many hour-long shows I like wouldn't be airing in the fall.

Unknown said...

jason said... "Holy Brendanawicz! When did April become the funniest character on this show?"

Anonymous said... "April getting a genuine smile is as rare and wonderful a treat as getting one from Cedric Daniels."

Agreed. Every second of Aubrey Plaza vs Chris Pratt was pure gold. My favorite was her failed turn at the spit-take. It seemed to me that the actors were genuinely cracking each other up.

I loved Leslie being a really good hunter and stand-up guy.

I also liked Jerry not being the punching-bag for once. It's nice to see him be able to be one of the guys. Though of course in his "peeing standing up" comments, he painted a picture of being almost as put-upon at home as he is at work. Poor Jerry.

I love P&R. Right now it's my favorite of the four.

LA said...

I think the Comedy category at the Emmy's is going to look very different in 2010. This show gets better every week, and I've been telling everyone I know it's the best Thursday night comedy for weeks now (don't know if they are listening, though, based on the ratings). Ron's "shoot me in the head" riff was as good as Leslie's misogyny riff.

Anonymous said...

April is the only character i literally cant stand, her attitude is monotone the entirety of the show shows her being a useless bitch to everyone. The entire show rocks but her presence makes it completely unfunny.

I love Aziz and Amy due to their actual comedic prowess and they crack me up. Ron is also indispensable. I hope they cut her character soon