NBC is seriously in the shitter, so it’s looking more and more likely that Parks And Recreation is going to get a sixth season. Which is wonderful, of course, because I’d love to see Ron Swanson celebrate by drinking one shelf of alcohol. But the potential series finale a few months ago wrapped up a whole lot of the personal storylines of the core cast, and that includes Jerry, Donna, and other peripheral gang members. For Parks to continue to thrive, it has to look outside its department walls into the greater Pawnee community. Planting Ben in Sweetums was a great first step, and “Animal Control” makes me hopeful that there’s plenty more to be mined from Pawnee in the coming weeks.
Written by Megan Amram, Twitter user extraordinaire and all-around nice/funny person, “Animal Control” is fittingly full of jokes. There’s plenty of plot and personal drama to take care of another time; this is just a chance to have some fun. And for the most part, it delivers. Jason Mantzoukas returns as scent mogul Dennis Feinstein, appropriately playing up every line as if it was the most important line of all time and it was delivered from inside his undriveable Rolexus. Harris Wittels appears as “Harris”—the part he was born to play—a stoner Phish fan who wants nothing more than to be in the animal control office naming things Bark Obama. There are some very funny supporting players in “Animal Control,” and Amram uses them wisely, pushing the major characters to the background so they can better service these utility infielders and their plethora of crossbows.
This is a pretty straightforward episode of Parks—Leslie goes to bat for April; Ron refuses to take medical advice from Ann—but it’s heightened by the fact that the ensemble is incredibly gifted. Thus even simple moments like Ron listing his medical information, like how exercise is love-making and woodworking, is not just another point in the mythos of Swanson, it’s a dreadfully serious line worthy of respect. Jon Glaser, back as the non-punched Councilman Jamm, is particularly adept at playing the villainous man with questionable motives, willing to forego the “dibs” system of department head appointments if it means dragging Leslie through some mud in the process.
April has an eleventh-hour idea that saves the animal control department and gives her a boost in the process. But I’m almost not as interested in seeing April succeed anymore. She’s already proven that. Instead, I’m impressed with the fact that I see it as an inevitability rather than a triumph. She’s come a long way since the beginning of the show—from a lowly intern into someone who will invariably have good ideas and anchor a successful relationship with a man who isn’t afraid to tell a Rolexus owner that he’s a fuckin’ dick. The question is no longer will April do well; it’s a matter of how she’s going to do it. She’s seen enough Dwyer Showers to know that there’s no real future in sitting around acting apathetic—that genuine engagement is always more appealing than pretending not to care. She’s the anti-hipster stereotype, learning that hiding behind a facade isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Maybe she spent too much time looking at Ron, who is as facade-less as they come. I mean, it takes him at least 45 minutes to eat that banana, and only after stuffing it into a Paunch Burger. There isn’t much more mythos to explore in Ron Swanson, and there’s becoming much less to explore with April. I’m glad to see these other character coming to the forefront, be them Jerry or Donna, or weirdos from the past like Councilman Dexhart.
Still, I’m starting to notice a lot more of The Office’s DNA in Parks, which is odd considering the show began as an Office clone, distanced itself as much as possible, and is now coming back around. The Office is flailing because it became complacent and had to go to the outer reaches of its reality to find drama, like having the sound guy fall in love with Pam. Parks doesn’t have to do that because Pawnee is much more robust than Scranton, and as long as it doesn’t become a mere hangout show, it’ll do just fine.