(For the next several days, some of our writers will be swapping duties on some of our most popular shows. Some of them will like what they see, but for different reasons. Some of them will have vastly different opinions from the regular reviewers. And some of them won't be all that different. It's Second Opinions Week at TV Club.)
So what’s my Parks and Recreation second opinion? It’s that I just can’t buy Leslie and Ben as a couple, so I find that storyline to be a slight drag on the season. I don’t sense any chemistry between Adam Scott and Amy Poehler, so the seemingly foregone conclusion that they’ll get together, and grim march towards that eventuality, holds no interest for me. Poehler and Louis CK had a believable relationship earlier in the series because both had a similar sweet awkwardness and earnestness. She and Scott, however, just seem like two people written together: I don’t see them flirting, I don’t feel much sexual tension. At best the two characters have mutual respect for each other, which is hardly the stuff of TV magic.
So, tonight I was grateful that I didn’t get the episode where Leslie and Ben finally come together. While the episode was about the fact that they currently can’t be together due to government rules and Chris’ meddling, we all know eventually it’s going to happen. I was just grateful it was a background storyline.
The episode revisited a comfortable plot, where Leslie handles cranky constituents. For a government art show, Jerry paints a mythological allegory featuring a topless female centaur inadvertently modeled after Leslie (and a fat cherub modeled on Tom.) Instead of feeling mortified, Leslie, who had felt so impotent in regards to her personal life, finds power in the rendering. Unfortunately, some are offended by the painting’s adult nature, so Leslie has to fight to keep it from being destroyed. Her campaign includes an episode of “‘Ya Heard? With Perd,” one of my favorite shows within a show. I would gladly utilize one of those Perd mugs. Perd got several of my favorite lines of the episode, including “Are centaurs real? Are you absolutely sure?” and “Also joining us today is a different person.”
In the meantime, Ben moves in with April and Andy, who had recently found themselves newly roommate- and furniture- and dish- and silverware-less. April and Andy are the exception to the TV trope that will-they-won’t-they couples lose their steam once they get together (although who knows, maybe Leslie and Ben as a couple would be adorable and it’s just their wooing I find tedious.) Together, they’re even stranger than they were as individuals in a way that’s annoying and gross and creepy and funny and adorable. For instance: April offers to spit her gum into Andy’s mouth and he agrees. Predictably, Ben plays the Felix to April and Andy’s Oscar and his attempts to civilize them are met with mixed results. April fears that maturing will mean growing old and boring, but Andy reassures her at Bed, Bath and Beyond that if she doesn’t think he's not going to buy a marshmallow gun to shoot her in the face while she’s sleeping, then she’s the dumbest woman he knows. It was actually pretty romantic.
It was a pretty simple episode that got funnier and more quotable as the episode rolled on. I loved all the great reaction shots in the episode, too: I particularly enjoyed the awkward silence after Brandi Maxxx, on "‘Ya Heard?," defined pornography as “For me it’s when the penis goes in,” as well as the arts commission’s overly-generous laughter at Leslie’s greeting of “Good morning and good art.”
I also found Adam Scott to have some funnier lines this episode than most. Up until recently I thought he was being underutilized on the show, getting stuck too much with being the straight man, but I think the writers are figuring out how to keep him straitlaced while also actually giving him funny things to say. He had good reaction shots to the camera when Leslie brought the painting home, I liked the way he responded to Chris’ attempts to set him up, and of course that one tiny final marshmallow falling out of his collar after Andy shoots him with his new toy was just lovely.
Like I said, my only issue is the inevitable coupling of Leslie and Ben. If I had my choice I’d rather see more of an attempt to figure out how Ann is still relevant to the show. She’s becoming Parks and Recs’ Celia Hodes of Weeds.
-- Every speech should begin with “Shut up! And look at me.”
--Was the lady who hated the painting the same lady who hated the penguin marriage? Or was that a different lady?
--“There’s a 30% chance they’ll both die.”
--I liked that Andy picked up on the fact that there’s something going on between Ben and Leslie, but figured that it was because Leslie stole money from him.
--“Yeah, where’s your penis?”