First off, thanks to Scott for filling in for me last week while I jet-setted. My heart swelled in appreciation as I toured the best of Rome and Tuscany. Well, not really. In fact, I’m not sure I thought of this show once while abroad. But I caught last week’s episode when I got back and I have to say that I liked it better than Scott. Not a lot. But it felt solid and… I guess the word is “pleasant.” I’d say the same for tonight’s episode. While I don’t think anything has quite matched the potential I saw in the show’s pilot—and the second episode really let me down—the show has enough funny moments and endearing characters to keep me tuning in even if I weren’t covering here.
Lowered expectations? Maybe. And while the cold open of Leslie battling local teens with bags of dog poop wasn’t an incredibly inspired bit of business—apart from Tom’s characteristically unapologetic refusal to engage with the problem—the rest of the episode proved a little more inspired. The plot spins out of character traits we’ve seen in Leslie before: Her unhealthily overdeveloped superego and her commitment to fighting sexism, real, imagined, and otherwise. (Also seen before and contributing to the episode’s tiny disaster: Her love of a drink and her fixation on Mark.)
But while Leslie’s personality was the engine that drove the episode, she didn’t necessarily provide that many laughs, most of which came from Tom, Ron, and especially “guest star” Chris Pratt as Ann’s boyfriend. (Who, if the show sticks around, definitely deserves an upgrade.) I have to echo elements of Scott’s post last week. I think Amy Poehler is really funny, but there’s something not quite fully formed about this character and her performance here. I suspect that given time—and I hope the show gets some time—both will grow stronger. But the best part of this episode came from other quarters. I loved both Ron’s shutdown of Leslie’s hearing and his subsequent monologue about his ideal government. (“One guy, who sits in a small room at a desk. And the only thing he’s allowed to decide is who to nuke.” Etc.) I also continue to marvel at how Rashida Jones conveys so much with her understated line readings.
And it’s not like Poehler’s bad, either. Witness her scene with Aziz Ansari’s Tom this week where he walks her through a terrifying mock deposition filled with inappropriately probing questions. But the show seems to have too much space for her to turn the character up to 11, especially during her confessions to the documentary crew, which have too many residual SNL instincts. It’s too much to ask for her to do now what Steve Carrell has grown so well into doing over at The Office, making us care about a character without filing off any of her eccentric edges. Let’s hope P&R shows a little more evidence of heading in that direction.
- So is Ann flirting with Mark? Or does she really think he’s sleazy? At any rate, there’s something Leslie’s not seeing.
- Nice to see the pit has already been put to good use.
- “…The man is chosen based on some kind of IQ test and maybe also some kind of physical tournament, like a decathalon. And women are brought to him. Maybe. When he desires them.”