Parks And Recreation: "Media Blitz"
B+

Parks And Recreation: "Media Blitz"

You learn a lot about characters when you see them at their weakest, especially in comedies. "The Flu" a few weeks ago allowed us a glimpse of Chris as a raving lunatic, and in the process, endeared Ann to him—the microchip can't always be perfect. And while Andy wasn't affected by the flu directly, the sadness over April's radio silence drove Ron to go against everything he normally stands by and give the guy relationship advice. A lot of those things were entertaining but not entirely unexpected (Rob Lowe's "Stop. Pooping" excepted). What I liked best about "Media Blitz" wasn't simply that it was Ben Wyatt's turn in the shitty spotlight but that the show led us down the dark path of Ben's crazy, then took it way over-the-top.

Adam Scott's introduction to Pawnee came with a ticking time bomb of a personality trait: When Ben was 18, he ran for mayor of his small Minnesota town—and, to the shock of everyone, including him, won. It's first brought up when Leslie, who knows everything about every local government, recognizes Ben and sees it as a humanizing characteristic. Then, for the most part, it hasn't been brought up since. Fitting that during a round of interviews to promote the Harvest Festival, Leslie would inadvertently lead Ben into a situation where the time bomb would explode. Leslie's often blind to the gumption of Pawnee's residents and thinks she's able to manipulate the media in whatever way she sees fit. After all, she's the one who picks up the tape recorder every time Shauna comes around. ("Harvest Festival? More like Harvest Best-ival!")

Her foil comes in the form of Crazy Ira and The Douche, played by Matt Besser and Nick Kroll respectively. They host Pawnee's best talk radio program, and by best, I mean they use a lot of fart sounds and employ a sound guy who shoots dirty looks their way. They also shoehorn Ben into the conversation just so they can ask him about Ice Town, the ice skating rink that bankrupted Ben's home town and got him removed from office. Ben stammers through a nonsensical response; it seems he freezes up entirely every time his past is brought up.

Or so we're led to believe, because his appearance on "Ya Heard? With Perd!" is one of the best scenes Parks & Rec has ever done. It's so weird, random, and outrageous. And in a deft writing move, it's not even a scene we see. Mostly. Tom and Ben sit down to appear on Perd Hapley's show, Perd asks a question, Tom responds, Ben nods, and we cut back to Leslie's office much later in the day. "How'd it go?" Leslie asks. Ben thinks it was fine. Tom disagrees and has the tape to prove it.

Parks & Rec often says more by what it doesn't reveal than what it does. It's a show that totally trusts its audience and plays to the top of their intelligence. We see a few of Ben's rants from the show, and it's enough to convince us that the whole interview was a disaster. Yet I'm left wondering how long it went on and just how uncomfortable the perpetually happy, worm-dance enthusiast Perd Hapley was. Parks & Rec tells its jokes well, and knows when to back off for maximum comic effect.

It's the same principle that applies to Andy's story this week. In an effort to dissuade April from moving to Indianapolis, he offers to do all her chores for a month. We see only a select few of those chores, including working the permit desk when a guy says, "There's no time—he can fly!" and getting clubbed in the nuggets by a little boy. Later, Ron offers to help by photographing a sad desk and a sad wall, to encapsulate "melancholy" for April's photography project. The jokes are over almost before they begin, and their rapid-fire weirdness—sans much explanation—makes "Media Blitz" an enjoyably brisk episode.

The one fault I had with the episode came from Ann and Chris, who spent the entire time dancing around Chris' inevitable Pawnee departure while Ann dropped hints—getting less subtle by the minute—that she wants to go too. The two finally talk at the end, but we don't see the conversation. After so much time spent winding up to something, this was one time I'd have liked to see what transpired (aka, we'll see next week). Much of the time spent with this couple could have been used watching Andy squirm as he massages Donna's feet. Not Jerry's though. Some things are probably best left unseen.

Stray observations:

  • Another great non sequitur: "I stole my gym teacher's husband."
  • It was nice that Ron yet again got involved with April and Andy's relationship. Goes to show that the whole "don't bother me with your personal business" thing is all a front.
  • "Enjoy the Mouse Rat CD… he is deaf."

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