If there’s a character that Parks And Recreation has consistently struggled to come up with good stories for, it’s Ann Perkins. So why not give her a baby? She’s been saddled with every romantic partner available; she’s shuttled from one job to another, always playing the game straight man, so I guess it’s about time for her to go to the sperm bank. I don’t even really mean this sarcastically—I like Ann Perkins just fine, but I think this out-of-nowhere twist was just another in a long line of Ann plots being thrown at the wall.
No matter. “Ann’s Decision” was a really fun half-hour, and not just because it contained a B-plot featuring some truly spectacular physical comedy from Nick Offerman, Adam Scott, and Rob Lowe. Everything unfolded in a very predictable manner, but all the jokes hit their marks perfectly, and there was a cavalcade of guest stars perfectly suited to a podcast nerd like myself. It’s almost like the Parks writers knew I’d be covering for Steve on this one, so they rounded up Nick Kroll, Matt Besser, and Harris Wittels to get their beautiful Jewish mugs on screen.
Ann’s sperm bank plans come as part of a larger self-worth project that she calls “dating herself,” but after a couple of flat jokes in the cold open, it’s all sperm, all the time. As she often does, Ann quickly blends into the background of her own storyline, which is too bad, but since every character on this show goes a hell of a lot bigger than her, especially Leslie, it’s hard for Ann not to get sidelined. She’s suddenly hell-bent on getting pregnant, and Leslie is equally hell-bent on slowing the whole thing down, which actually seems pretty reasonable, considering some of Leslie’s schemes over the years.
First, Ann visits a sperm bank and is skeeved out by the class of gentleman making the deposits (Sewage Joe makes a welcome appearance). Then she tries to go after people she knows, settling on shock-jock the Douche, also known as Howard, in a welcome return for Kroll, who gets a chance to establish a little more of a character this time around (Besser is also back as Crazy Ira, but he’s just in-studio again).
Turns out Howard has a degree in semiotics from Northwestern University and has a pleasant intellectual personality—at least half of the time. He insists the Douche is a fictional persona of his own creation, but he seems unable to stop it from taking over his body pretty much half the time. I’m not even sure if that was supposed to be the joke, but that’s how Kroll played it and how I took it, and it was all the funnier for it. Of course, Leslie manages to shut the whole thing down (I don’t see Ann getting pregnant that quickly after the concept is introduced) but even she felt like a side attraction to Kroll’s antics.
April’s efforts to mimic Leslie in town hall meetings in her attempts to gather signatures for a new park were equally predictable—it was always clear she’d triumph once she reverted to her real personality, and in between there was just a solid sprinkling of gags about Andy’s overriding love for her (he even thinks she’d look good naked) and Leslie’s bizarro wardrobe (one pantsuit has a “Team Aniston” patch sewed into it). But the silly townspeople of Parks are always a joy to behold, and staff writer Wittels (creator of Humblebrag and Analyze Phish and a zillion other wonderful things) got to showcase his weirdo energy for what was his longest appearance to date, I believe. I’m assuming he’s still playing Harris the animal control guy, but this time, he was outfitted in a Phish shirt, so maybe he’s out of a job.
By far the funniest part of the episode, though, was Ben, Ron and Chris’ bout of food poisoning as they seek out a caterer for the wedding. Mini calzones are their downfall (perhaps finally severing Ben’s love affair with the item), but who really cares? It’s all about watching them crawl around in abject misery, working as a team to perform simple tasks in the silliest, most unorthodox ways possible. At one point, Ron knocks a phone off the desk so that Ben can dial Tom’s extension with his nose, and it’s just about the funniest thing I’d ever seen, at least until I saw Chris cradling himself on a table. Again, this thing ends in the most predictable fashion—just have JJ’s Diner cater the wedding, especially since Leslie’s in an ongoing love affair with their waffles. But the punchline wasn’t really the point for any of the plots this time around.
- Ron knows how to order at a diner. “12 eggs and part of a dead animal. Dealer’s choice, please and thank you.”
- Ann is put off by the Pawnee sperm bank. “Is there a better sperm bank in Eagleton or something?” “Eh, we don’t want a demon baby.”
- Chris states his current health status: “I was dying earlier today. Then I died. Now I’m dead.”
- Ron is initially worried Tom was struck down too. “I have voided more than Tom’s body weight in the last 12 hours alone. He might have just disappeared off the face of the earth.”
- April nails the Leslie-style introduction. “As Eleanor Roosevelt once said to Betty Ford, Hillary Clinton is great.”
- Shout-out to Jean-Ralphio, who now has a catering company but is unavailable. “Granted, he is currently standing trial for counterfeiting Euros. But the trial’s going to be over soon, he’s definitely guilty.”
- The Bill Cosby sound effects from Ira and the Douche’s unblinking, stone-faced Asian man? Genius. I hope Jon Daly contributed there.