‘Parks and Recreation’ – ‘Bowling for Votes’: The perfect game

Senior Television Writer
01.26.12 72 Comments


A review of tonight’s “Parks and Recreation” coming up just as soon as I find an octagonal house…

“I’ve never been very good at letting things go.” -Leslie

Because both the positives and negatives of Leslie’s hyper-enthusiasm can be so extreme, there can be a danger of her overwhelming the supporting characters when she gets on a crusade like her ridiculous quest to make the focus group jerk like her. But among the best things about the addition of Adam Scott to the ensemble, and Ben to Leslie’s life, is that he’s not a pushover. Ben has gotten to know Leslie, in addition to loving her, and so he knows when she’s going crazy, and he can push back, and at times he can even enjoy pushing her buttons when she gets this way. (“Is there anyone I could ask?”)

So Leslie-goes-insane stories feel nicely balanced when Ben’s involved, especially since this one built to Ben losing his mind a bit and punching out the jerk when he called Leslie every woman’s second least-favorite word. Leslie’s unbridled joy at Ben getting violent on her behalf was even funnier than Leslie’s attempts to both bond with the guy and seem mediocre at bowling. And the way the scandal ultimately turned into a boon for Leslie’s campaign felt very true to life; without violating my own No Politics rule, I can think of a number of scandals on both sides of the aisle in recent years that wound up galvanizing the implicated politican’s support, rather than dooming them. We are a weird citizenry, America is.

The Chris story was also a good example of the value of having a proper foil for an outsized character. I haven’t been crazy about most of the Chris/Millicent scenes to this point, because it seems out of character for Chris to be so oblivious to how he’s making Jerry feel, making their scenes feel even more one-sided than most Jerry moments. But the end of that relationship wasn’t really about Jerry at all, but about April running a gamut of emotions in reaction to her temperamental opposite in Chris. He understandably has always rubbed her the wrong way, and we know that hate is the easiest way to motivate April Roberta Ludgate into working hard (here trying on a variety of guises, accents and tactics to raise more funds than Chris). But April is also human, and she can feel sympathy for Chris – especially if she believes that her vow is what took his happiness away – so she makes the nice gesture to give him the movie tickets and go with him and Andy so he can have company in his time of loneliness. 

A few other thoughts:

* Ron’s trip to the bowling alley was the slightest of the episode’s three stories, but the one I laughed the most at, whether it was Ron’s enjoyment of the no-frills snack bar (“When I eat, it is the food that is scared.”), Ron’s horror at Tom bowling granny-style (“Son, people can see you!”) or his self-loathing at trying that approach himself – and succeeding with it – in the final scene.

* Not an especially manly episode for Tom in general, even with the scorpion jacket. I could have watched several more minutes of him whining to Ann about his finger injury.

* The focus groups, like the various open community meetings, were a rich source of absurd opinions, like the women who disliked Leslie for being too short (“It’s like she’s throwing it in my face!”) or the man who just hates all women named Leslie. 

* The name of the bowling alley manager? Bob Manager. Apparently, one of the great time-wasters in the “Parks and Rec” writers room is Mike Schur’s obsession with not only naming every minor character, but with giving them the most ridiculous names possible. Among other names you have never heard, but were debated for a long time before being put in a script: Zamber Grelf, Eleanor Puntrupple and Officer Tracy Skorggel.

* Not related to this episode, but to Aubrey Plaza, most of Team HitFix is at Sundance this week, and my boss Greg Ellwood really liked Plaza and the rest of “Safety Not Guaranteed.” I’ll be looking forward to it when it eventually gets released.

What did everybody else think?

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