Review: ‘Parks and Recreation’ – ‘Ben and Leslie/Correspondents’ Lunch’

Senior Television Writer
02.21.13 62 Comments


I’m on vacation this week, but I got to see both of tonight’s “Parks and Recreation” episodes before I left, and I have a few thoughts on them coming up just as soon as I figure out what Neve Campbell sounds like…

As I noted in last week’s review – and as Mike Schur discusses at length in the interview published this morning –  “Ben and Leslie” was conceived at a time when there was a chance it was going to be the last episode of the season, and possibly the series. Even more than “L’il Sebastian” and “Win, Lose or Draw,” it feels like a summation of the entire series: Ben and Leslie get married (and before that, Ben gets to tease Leslie with his awareness of how strong and independent she is by pretending he wants her to take his last name), Chris gives Ben a framed copy of the letter that brought them to Pawnee, a L’il Sebastian impersonator blesses the event (and the entire cast later sings Andy’s song from the memorial), Ron walks Leslie down the aisle (after turning a sconce into wedding rings and before decking Councilman Jamm) and then does it again, the real wedding happens in the parks department office (accompanied by black and white montages of Ben and Leslie’s greatest hits), and DJ Roomba even comes back to keep things lively.

It is an incredibly warm and happy episode, and if this had, in fact, been the last we saw of Pawnee, I’d have been sad to say goodbye but happy that it ended so well.

I do wish, though that, as I said last week, “Ben and Leslie” had wound up paired with “Emergency Response” and not “Correspondents’ Lunch.” Not only does it feel weird to have such a finale-y episode followed moments later by a regular one, but “Correspondents’ Lunch” is one of this season’s lesser outings. It does a good job of establishing new roles for Ben and Andy (always a good combination), moves Ann and Chris forward on the baby-making idea and gives Perd Hapley some choice moments (“The story of this situation is: it’s extremely personal”), but it’s kind of forgettable overall – and especially so aired back-to-back with the wedding. (And there are other oddities that come as a result of the scheduling, like Leslie doing her Tim Gunn impression in “Ben and Leslie” and then struggling to come up with a single useful celebrity impression in “Correspondents’ Lunch.”) Sometimes, the show does very well when it lifts ideas from current events (like Leslie discovering she was born in Eagleton), but the phone hacking idea got cursory treatment at best.

But boy oh boy was “Ben and Leslie” good. As I’ve been saying for a while now, it would be a stunner if NBC didn’t renew the show at this point, which means Schur has at least two more finales to come (including this season’s, which was written at a time when the future was more in doubt). Can “Parks” pull a “Friday Night Lights” and make all of its faux series finales great? After the three we’ve gotten so far, I wouldn’t want to bet against it.

What did everybody else think?

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