December 23, 2013

Parks and Recreation: The Pawnee Wedding

Parks Leslie and Ben
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The Knope/Wyatt wedding showcases the very best of Parks and Recreation. The two episodes Emergency Response and Leslie and Ben were, at one time, written to be the finale of Parks and Recreation.  Had this been the last we saw of the wonderful cast of characters in Pawnee, I think we all would have walked away with a happy reminder of the heart and humor that Parks is consistently able to provide.  (Luckily, the show was eventually ordered for a full season.)  NBC was unable to schedule the episodes in one Thursday night double header and so Leslie and Ben was shoehorned in with another episode creating a very disjointed combination instead of an excellent two-part wedding (just another example of why NBC’s ratings continue to plummet).

In Emergency Response an attack of the avian flu forces Leslie to choose between saving the people of Pawnee (simulated) or saving her park.  On any ordinary day, the Leslie Knope we know would crush any test thrown at her, (I mean just look at that Mission ImPawneeable binder!) but she soon figures out Councilman Jamm’s true agenda and switches gears opting to give birds CPR instead of people.  Meanwhile, her crack team uses their individual strengths to band together and save the park.  Jerry (Gary?) is off saving his wife and daughters (again, simulated, unbeknownst to him), Tommy Timberlake rallies Paunch Burger’s true enemies, and, in the funniest segment of the night, Ron “F’ing” Swanson simultaneously spreads the word about the gala and helps people deal with problems like loneliness masquerading as a haunted house.

Calamezzo and Swanson

In the end, Leslie makes it on time, the gala goes off without a hitch, and we’re left with the hanging promise of the Wyatt/Knope wedding 2013. One week later we would finally be served back to back Parks and Rec episodes… that had nothing to do with each other! Great job NBC! Leslie and Ben is able to hit hilarious highs while digging even deeper into the emotional core of the show.  These people have become a family and this episode highlights just how well they know each other and how much they’ve grown.  The April Ludgate (Dwyer) of past seasons would’ve eye-rolled her way through the wedding preparation, but a more mature April is able to join forces with her Special Agent husband to obtain a marriage certificate from her new adopted grandmother.  At one time, Tom Haverford may have actually gone with Will Smith’s opening monologue to Hitch (stealing this idea for my wedding by the way) but a now self-aware Tom Haverford is able to realize it doesn’t fit this couple and gets out of his own way.  Chris Traegor gives Ben the perfect wedding gift, Donna shows off her pipes, and Anne Perkins uses her years of training to make the Knopiest wedding dress of all time.

It is a rarity in the half-hour comedy format for characters to show true change.  Typically, at the end of 30 minutes everything is reset to the status quo in an effort to extend the life of a show while recycling tired jokes for tired characters (hello Big Bang Theory!) so when a show like Parks and Rec comes along it’s a great reminder of how much laughter and happiness can still be found on network TV.  As the episode closes, we’re treated to a stirring rendition of “Bye Bye Lil Sebastian” (stuck in my head all week) and had this been the last we saw of the Parks Department we could have walked away with that perfect image still fresh in our minds.

Quick Hitters:

  • I’m still sad that Bert Macklin didn’t make an appearance.  He must still be off hunting down Osama Bin Laden.
  • I would pay a large amount of money to watch 24 hours of a Ron Swanson call in show.
  • Joan Callamezzo – single-handedly bringing back planking.
  • Li’l Sebastian is a good name for my next dog, right?
  • If Parks isn’t picked up for another season (unlikely at this point) it would be great to see a spin off of Andy Dwyer as a cop with Champion as a sidekick.  Mike Shur is already working on a cop script after all…

Do NOT watch this if you don’t want to spoil the wedding before having watched the episode!

By Alec Bugg

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