‘Parks and Recreation’ – ‘Born & Raised’: Gotcha!

Senior Television Writer
10.06.11 80 Comments


A review of tonight’s “Parks and Recreation” coming up just as soon as I introduce a lesbian Afro-Norwegian funk duo…

You can look at the combination of “Born & Raised” and Leslie’s book – which was released in real-life bookstores this week – in one of two ways: either the episode is one long plug for a tie-in book, or the book is one of the more elaborate bonus features ever made. But the motivation doesn’t much matter when both the book(*) and the episode are so damn funny, and warm, and happy in that way that “Parks and Recreation” is at its best.

(*) I got a review copy of the book along with the episode, and it’s been providing me with steady, frequent, at times explosive laughter as I’ve read it. Highlights include an exhaustive list of previous names for Mouse Rat (as well as a handful of Andy Dwyer solo projects), Ron’s attempt to describe a month alone in his cabin in the woods, Jerry’s account of Crazy Ira & The Douche prank-calling Ron, a baroque history of the town’s founder, the Sweetums corporation, all the famous Pawnee fires and a whole lot more. It’s so nerdy that the last page even has Leslie discussing the “Prairie Strong” typeface they used, as well as accusations that “Prairie Strong” is just a rip-off of Times New Roman. The voice of the show and its writers is clear on every page. Highly-recommended for fans.  

The Leslie story was a blatant parody of the Birther movement, but with a few twists. First, in this case the Birthers were correct, and Leslie’s discovery that she was a native Eagletonian gave Amy Poehler some good moments to show Leslie’s optimism being crushed for once. The second is that, despite the usual irrationality of the average Pawnee citizen, Leslie is able to turn the angry mob back to her side with the whole “You can’t choose where you were born, but you can choose where you live” speech on Joan’s show. There’s obviously a difference between this and the real Birther situation(**), in that Leslie being from Eagleton wouldn’t legally disqualify her from running for office in Pawnee, but it’s still the kind of sweet, hopeful moment that happens far more often in this show’s sunny worldview than it does in the actual world.

(**) And let me remind you, once again, that this blog has a No Politics rule. We are not going to discuss the actual Birther movement, positively, negatively or otherwise. Keep it to the show, or comments get deleted.

Leslie’s book tour, and then scandal recovery, also gave the show an opportunity for her to make the media rounds, including our first – but goodness, do I hope it’s not the last – trip to Pawnee’s local public radio station, with Dan Castellaneta doing his impression of KCRW’s Michael Silverblatt (with what sounded like a hint of Marlon Brando thrown in, just ’cause), with the expected but amusing nods to political correctness (“Oh yes, they’re quite awful. But they are lesbians, so…”) as well as a funny but appropriate reference to TV critic/public radio host David Bianculli.

In addition to cementing Joan’s position as Pawnee’s version of Oprah by giving her a book club, the writers also humanized Ms. Callamezzo – or, at least, gave Mo Collins a good chance to play sloppy, sloppy drunk (and, in turn, gave Aziz Ansari and Adam Scott good opportunities to show their disgust and confusion). It turns out there are limits to how far Tom Haverford will take his flirting (but only after he’s spritzed himself to death with cologne). And the book story also brought Bert Macklin, FBI back from the dead, gave us another wonderful Pratt-fall, let Chris(***) be completely helpful for once as he gave Leslie the confidence to stand behind the truth.

(***) You’ll note that Rob Lowe’s hair is a bit better here than in the previous two episodes. The problem is that the start of this season overlapped with the filming of that Lifetime movie where he’s playing Drew Peterson, with very different hair, and apparently the Full Traeger hairstyle is a more delicate organism that can’t be easily shuffled back and forth from when Lowe looks like this. Once we get past that overlap period, things should get back to normal.

Ann’s misguided attempt to get Ron and April to make small talk with her (“And it will be casual! And it will be amicable!”) felt a little forced, in that Ann knows April doesn’t like her (and has a not illegitimate reason for that) and that Ron doesn’t make small talk with anybody. That said, I did enjoy the payoff, both with Ann finding that gross medical stories are the universal language, and then Ron ruining the moment with his tried-and-true tactic for getting people to back off from attempts at friendship. In particular, Ron’s microscopic smirk when April called him “Lester” – she’s the daughter he’ll never have – was a thing of beauty.

What did everybody else think?

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