‘Parks and Recreation’ – ‘Jerry’s Painting’: Centaur of attention

Senior Television Writer
04.28.11 71 Comments


A review of tonight’s “Parks and Recreation” coming up just as soon as I speak to you in Spanish with the formal “usted”…

“Get out of my way unless you want an arrow in your ass, Marcia.” -Leslie

Though “Parks and Rec” hasn’t had fantastic retention of its “Office” lead-in audience, it’s been fairly consistent percentage-wise. So if you assume a very big audience tunes in for Steve Carell’s goodbye, then “Parks and Rec” should be up a lot proportionally. And as luck would have it, what I’m guessing is the show’s biggest audience ever got to see a damned funny (and fairly raunchy) episode.

I know I complained last week about the contrived nature of Chris’ dating policy being used to keep Ben and Leslie apart, but the show put it to good use tonight. Not only did it drop Amy Poehler and Adam Scott into two separate but equally funny storylines, but virtually all of Leslie’s behavior this week was motivated by that policy. She felt both romantically adrift and weak thanks to Chris, and Jerry’s painting of her as a topless, majestic centaur made her feel sexy and powerful again. I could see Leslie fighting Marcia Langman over this even in a better week, as Leslie has no patience for Marcia’s intolerance and bullying tactics, but I also think there might have come a point where she recognized that putting an illustrated version of her breasts on display in a government building was probably not the wisest idea. She’d have fought a few rounds, then yielded to take the painting home with her or something.

But because she did fight as long and as hard as she did, we got a bunch of great scenes about government in inaction, and (one of the show’s sweet spots) the media frenzy that can arise over any small thing.

Leslie’s appearance on “Ya’ Heard? With Perd” was like a version of the classic “Simpsons” episode “Itchy & Scratchy & Marge” in miniature, with Leslie taking a stand for one thing (artistic expression), then being horrified when her fight gets conflated with someone else’s (Brandi’s passionate defense fo pornography). As Brandee bluntly defined pornography, and as Perd tried to get Leslie to reassure him that centaurs aren’t real, Amy Poehler put on a clinic of priceless reaction shots.

And, of course, puzzled and/or horrified reactions are a particular specialty of Adam Scott’s, and he got to trot out both faces early and often as Ben found himself living with April and Andy and trying to teach these two lovestruck fools the barest fundamentals of adulthood.

That story was a great example of how to make your straight man funny with an unexpected sort of role reversal. Ben is the sane one in this situation, but Andy and April continually act like their behavior is normal and justifiable, which only increases Ben’s incredulity with it all. (“Do you have any idea what ‘cute’ means?”) And yet there were still moments where Scott got to do his pure deadpan thing, like when he sends them out to run errands on their own and suggests, “There’s, like, a 30 percent chance they’ll both die.”

And what was terrific about that story was how it demonstrated that marrying off April and Andy hasn’t in any way changed who they are, how they interact with each other and the strange logic with which they tackle the world. They love each other, and their relationship works on that level, but they have no idea what they’re doing, and all of that was wrapped up in Andy’s simultaneously sweet and ridiculous speech about the marshmallow gun.

There are times when it seems like “Parks and Rec” understandably leans on Ron like a crutch, but he was barely in this one (other than his typically honest, disapproving speech at the art gallery) and it was still hysterical.

Some other thoughts:

• Leslie is, for the most part, her own character and not a carryover of stuff Poehler’s done elsewhere, but the scene where Leslie badgers Ron into giving the introduction really reminded me of Kaitlin, her “SNL” character who was always doing the same to her stepdad Rick.

• The Leslie story offered an amusing running gag about Tom’s embarrassment at being the cherub – when of course he clearly looks like Taye Diggs, right? – which in turn gave Ann a rare but welcome opportunity to pick on him.

• Though Jerry’s name was in the title, it actually wasn’t a particularly Jerry-centric episode. Still, I liked the moment where Jerry inspires Leslie to keep fighting because giving in sounds like something he would do.

• Rob Lowe’s did the predictable good job of playing Chris’ over-enthusiasm at fixing people up. Loved how he described his strategy (finding two people with compatible qualities and putting them together) as if he were the literally the first person to ever think of that.

What did everybody else think?

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