A review of tonight’s “Parks and Recreation” coming up just as soon as I change my Britta filter…
“I cannot emphasize how little we thought about this.” -Andy
First, we interrupt this review to bring you a message from “Parks and Rec” co-creator Mike Schur (whom you might also know by the names Mose Schrute and Ken Tremendous):
“The promo that aired after ‘Ron and Tammy Part 2,’ which inadvertently gave away the upcoming wedding between Andy and April, was a simple human error on the part of some very apologetic NBC employees. In an effort to undo the spoiler, we publicly stated, in a number of interviews, that NBC had just accidentally gotten the character names wrong, and that there was no upcoming Andy-April wedding. We sincerely hope that fans of the show are cool with us gently lying to them, in an effort to maintain the surprise nuptials as much as we could. Now if you’ll excuse us, we have to go shoot the season finale surprise Jerry-Donna wedding scene.”
So… yeah. That’s unfortunate that the promo people confused the two surprise wedding storylines. But I’ll say this: because of that promo mix-up, I wasn’t shocked about the revelation of what April and Andy were doing with their party. But nor did it take away from my joy at watching one of the funniest, sweetest, just plain best episodes of this season of this great comedy.
There was no surprise factor, but there was still that usual complicated, intoxicating mix of laughs and sweetness that “Parks and Rec” consistently nails. Looked at from one perspective (Leslie at the start of the party), what Andy and April are doing here is ridiculous: the speed with which they did it, Andy opting for his Reggie Wayne jersey instead of a tux, the multiple best men, wedding vows with lines like April’s “I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Is that cool?” Looked at from another perspective (Leslie late in the episode), it’s oddly beautiful, really romantic and wholly appropriate for these two. A wedding with black tie, with flowery declarations of love, with any band other than Mouse Rat(*) would not have felt like a wedding that Andy Dwyer and April Roberta Ludgate would actually be a part of.
(*) Playing one of their more lyrically complex songs, no less.
Aubrey Plaza and Chris Pratt were terrific, but what really sold it all was Amy Poehler’s performance, and the way that – after hearing Simon & Garfunkel’s “April Come She Will” on the stereo, and seeing the blissful looks on April and Andy’s faces as they high-fived each other, Leslie – buttoned-down, uptight, superhumanly anal retentive uber-planner Leslie – gave herself over to this madness and let herself see that while this felt crazy, it also felt right. And Leslie’s acceptance in turn made April’s rare declaration of love to her former boss feel all the more poignant. Great stuff.
Beyond that, “April and Andy’s Fancy Party” was simply a reminder that when we follow these characters outside of Pawnee City Hall and just let them hang out together, great, hilarious things tend to happen: Jerry in his new party shirt, the douche-tastic return of Jean-Ralphio(**), Rob Lowe doing a hilarious break dance to “Jump Around,” Tom being overly competitive about the “baller position” of best man, Ron being horrified by Chris’ vegetable loaf (“Not only does that thing exist, but now you have deprived everyone of cake!” ), etc. The party even allowed the introduction of a great new character: April’s creepy, conversation-dominating friend Oren, who gets his just comeuppance when he’s trapped in a chat with super-positive Chris.
(**) Three Jean-Ralphio thoughts: 1)Thanks, NBC, for cancelling “Undercovers” early enough that Ben Schwartz was free to come back to where he belongs! 2)I about died when Tom was asking for Vince Vaughn movie suggestions and Jean-Ralphio says, confidently, Fred Claus.” 3)Does Tom actually look like less of a d-bag in comparison to his BFF, or does the very fact of that friendship automatically diminish him?
And the sense of overflowing, goofy love from Andy and April helped move the Ben/Leslie thing from something the show has been strongly hinting at to something it’s now pointing big neon signs at. Chris gives Ben a practical reason to stay, and Leslie gives him an emotional one. And if those two crazy kids can get married and make it seem vaguely rational, why can’t their older role model types find happiness with each other?
A few other thoughts:
• The Donna/Ann pairing in “Harvest Festival” was so funny that the show goes to it again in the B-story, with Ann making such a fool of herself at a singles mixer (in a fine comic showcase for Rashida Jones) that even overly-competitive Donna takes pity on her (“Are you Nell? From the movie ‘Nell’?”) and helps her out. The Donna/Ann and Tom/Ben pairings are good examples of how you can take two characters (Ann and Ben) who ordinarily function as straight men and actually make them into the joke with very little work.
• Loved the pre-credits scene with Ron pretending to pull his tooth out to freak out the others, resulting in Ben running screaming from the room and Tom fainting.
• Of course Ron only knows Julia Roberts as “That toothy girl from ‘Mystic Pizza.'” And I’m guessing Ron only saw because it had “Pizza” in the title.
• Just to clarify, when Ron refers to having been married three times, he’s only referring to two women, as he married the second (Megan Mullally) Tammy twice, the second time briefly earlier this season. There is no third ex-Mrs. Swanson floating around. (And I’m still waiting for more details on the first Tammy.)
What did everybody else think?