Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Parks And Recreation: "Sweetums"

Illustration for article titled Parks And Recreation: "Sweetums"

A lot of the fun of recent Parks & Rec episodes is learning more about the twisted world of its characters, and how well those new details fit in with what we already know. But what I loved about "Sweetums" is that just like the show did in "Ron And Tammy", it taught us all a bit more about Pawnee itself. Namely, that they 100 percent buy the propaganda of local mainstay Sweetums—a candy company shadily trying to get into the health food market. Even though their new "health" bars contain plenty of high fructose corn syrup for fattening up our nation's fourth most obese city, everyone is more excited to meet Nick Newport Jr., his two kids, and dog Shoelace. He's this town's version of a bonafide celebrity, and has a weird pull on the residents of Pawnee. They've all had a sip of the Kool-Aid (very sweet): "If Jesus didn't want us to have sugar, why did he make it taste so good?"

I often forget that the action on this show takes place in such a small town. It's a progressive town, sure, but it's moments like this where you realize its residents are still very stuck in their ways, preferring loyalty over new facts and common sense. Thus it makes total sense that when Sweetums strikes a deal to take over the town's concession stands, and the parks department figures out what's really in those Nutri Yum bars, that not everyone would be on board. Leslie and Ann, of course, but not Ron. He's the man of least resistance, perhaps the best embodiment of a typical Pawnee resident of anyone else on staff. Even though Leslie cares more about the citizens of the town, she comes off looking like the anti-Pawnee one. It's no wonder she and Ron bicker throughout—Ron upset with Leslie's meddling ways (drinking, stopping him from eating a "turf & turf" combo, etc.); Leslie upset that Ron's acting like a stubborn child.

Other characters are having big moments of their own. Tom's finally moving out of Wendy's house and into his GQ/Sharper Image catalogue of a bachelor pad, so he asks Mark about his pick-up truck with absolutely no ulterior motive, and of course Mark kindly offers to help Tom move. Andy barely has to be asked to be convinced, and this means of course that April is in. The ensuing trip to Tom's house is enlightening, sure (that iPod-wielding Roomba is genius), but I'm more interested in that final moment with Wendy, where Tom recites the perfect pizza order for the last time, she smiles and leaves, and Tom sits there completely silent, truly alone with his pocket squares for the first time. He's in a tight spot—and so is April, whose boyfriend and his gay boyfriend are teasing her relentlessly about how much of a "brah" Andy is. It's amazing to me how in such a short time, Parks & Rec has taken the most one-note characters and made them truly three-dimensional.

I also love just how deep the mythology apparently runs in this town—and not just the origins of murals. Given the other video Leslie and Ann find starring Nick Newport Sr., it seems the Sweetums family has been around for quite some time. And in a nice complement to "Ron And Tammy," Leslie finds herself in the middle of the longstanding parks dept. vs. library feud, complete with library worker shouting the title of Leslie's long overdue book, The Truth About The Female Orgasm, at the top of her lungs. That's just like a punk-ass book jockey—and much like the rest of this episode, very entertaining all the same.

Stray observations:

  • "I think it's really sweet that your grandparents still make love."
  • You guys think Nick Offerman made that harp himself? Been to offermanwoodshop.com lately?
  • "How 'bout your email?"
  • "For a gay couple, you're being really gay."
  • More dance parties, please.