A review of tonight’s “Parks and Recreation” coming up just as soon as I’m checking myself for scoliosis…
“I didn’t shave it off. It rubbed off… from friction.” -Ron
One of my favorite sitcoms growing up (and one of “Parks and Rec” co-creator Mike Schur’s, as well) was “Cheers,” and one of my favorite aspects of that show’s later years was the annual “Bar Wars” episode, always written by friend of the blog Ken Levine and his partner David Isaacs, in which Cheers would wage some kind of prank war with their arch-rivals at Gary’s Old Towne Tavern. The episodes were almost always pure silliness, usually one of the best episodes of their respective seasons and something that fans anticipated because the “Cheers” producers wisely limited it to once a year. A couple didn’t work, but overall the batting average was very high.
If “Parks and Rec” is lucky enough to have a run even vaguely as long as “Cheers,” I hope to God that we get a “Ron and Tammy” every year – and only once a year. Because based on the first two, these things are hilarious insanity, but also special precisely because they’re only an occasional thing.
It would be hard to top the first “Ron and Tammy,” which not only featured my favorite Ron Swanson talking head ever but just one disgusting display of love and flaming desire after another.(*) The surprise of it, and the abandon with which real-life spouses Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally attacked each other, was so much fun that “Ron and Tammy II” had a lot to live up to.
(*) Because this episode has been in the can for nearly a year, it’s a complete coincidence that it wound up airing right after an episode of “The Office” that was also loaded with gross PDAs. (And was also the funniest “Office” in quite a while.) I watched this episode a few weeks ago, and “The Office” ep a few days ago. For those of you who watched them back-to-back tonight, I’m curious how they played together. Was anyone already burnt out on this particular style of joke by the time Ron and Tammy started rubbing up against each other.
But the sequel did several very smart things. First, it upped the ante by putting Ron even deeper in thrall to Tammy than the last time. The image of Ron Effing Swanson sporting cornrows and a filthy kimono was the sight gag that kept on giving, and the idea that Ron was in so deep that the staff attempted an intervention(**) was brilliant.
(**) That individual scene was hilarious, from Jerry mistakenly thinking it was a wedding shower (which carried over to his appearance at the actual shower a few scenes later) to Andy being confused about why they were there and paying Eduardo’s “follow your dreams” advice forward. Question, though: where does it rank on a continuum of recent comic TV intervention scenes, including Christopher Moltisanti’s on “The Sopranos,” the douchebag intervention on “My Boys” and the “How I Met Your Mother” intervention intervention?
Second, it wasn’t a straight rehash of the first story. The instigator of this horrifying reunion wasn’t busybody Leslie, but jealous, vengeful Tom. It played off the (relatively) long-running Tom/Wendy/Ron triangle, sent Wendy back to Canada (and gave Offerman the chance to deliver a perfect spit take in the process at the idea of Ron moving there) and forced childish Tom to man up and face bodily harms at the hands of crazy Tammy Swanson to undo the mess he’d created.
Third, the episode didn’t spend as much time on Ron and Tammy as the original did. Last year’s episode had a subplot about Andy trying to win Ann back (because he seems to spend a lot of the series trying to win back one woman or another), but it was fairly brief and forgettable, where “Ron and Tammy II” had two different fairly prominent subplots, with Leslie giving Ben another lesson in how business gets done in Pawnee, and Ann and April each adjusting to life in Chris’ orbit.
I enjoyed both of those a lot. To this point, Adam Scott has mostly been asked to play straight man and react to the people of Pawnee, but here he got to play more of a spaz, stumbling time and again over the attempt to woo the chief of police(***), letting Leslie, the chief and everyone else turn him into “Calzone Boy,” and again recognizing the specific genius of Leslie Knope. Some fine, funny work from Scott, and a good warm-up for next week’s Ben-centric episode.
(***) Played by Eric Pierpoint, who somehow keeps playing cops. He was the alien partner on “Alien Nation,” was the police chief who got murdered in the opening minutes of “The Cape” pilot, and here is both the chief of Pawnee and a pal of the Louis CK character from last season. Continuity!
As for the other subplot, it was only a matter of time before the show tried to put the irresistible force of Chris’ relentless enthusiasm up against the immovable object that is April’s apathy, and the results were as delightful as I might have hoped. And rather than just sit on that one joke, the script worked the ongoing Ann/April tension into the mix, as well as Ann’s own insecurities about this relationship (and her ongoing transformation into the female Chris, which again gave Rashida Jones a chance to do her Rob Lowe impression), so that there was some actual emotion underneath the barbs and quips and pranks. And I appreciated that Ann figured out what April did about not passing on the message in about five seconds, and similarly that Chris immediately understood what the note from Bert Macklin, FBI(****) was all about. This isn’t the kind of show that needs to waste time on wacky misunderstandings, and thankfully it doesn’t.
(****) More continuity!
All in all, a worthy successor to the first “Ron and Tammy.” I look forward to “Ron and Tammy VI” in a few years’ time, if only to see what they can do to Ron’s mustache that time. Hard to top “…from friction,” isn’t it?
What did everybody else think?