Review: ‘Parks and Recreation’ – ‘Swing Vote’

Senior Television Writer
04.25.13 49 Comments


A review of tonight’s “Parks and Recreation” coming up just as soon as I jump out of a moving car to buy a Nikki Minaj poster…

I liked a few isolated jokes and scenes, but overall “Swing Vote” didn’t work on a number of levels.

First, while I appreciate a good Leslie vs. Ron battle as much as the next guy, their argument about the mini golf course was too similar to the one they had about the video store, and was a case of Leslie going wildly overboard for a really minor cause. These Leslie/Ron fights succeed when both sides have a point, but as much as I love a good game of putt-putt, Leslie seemed pretty ridiculous here. The final scene where they drank Ron’s whiskey and talked about all the challenges Leslie has faced as an elected official was very nice, but everything leading up to it dragged.

On top of that, Jamm has tended to work better as an obstacle than a character. He’s two-dimensional like a lot of Pawnee villains, but the show is usually wise enough to limit the use of those people; I love Perd Hapley, but would not want a Perd-centric A-story.

Similarly, I think Mona-Lisa has been a miscalculation. Whether the idea was just to present a Saperstein presence while Ben Schwartz was busy starring in “House of Lies” (or going to Roy Hibbert’s bachelor party) or simply to give Tom a new love interest, she’s ultimately too horrible to click. Jean-Ralphio’s douchiness is tempered by the fact that he’s completely harmless and knows when to retreat, where Mona-Lisa is a violent sociopath. The Ann/Tom interactions around Mona-Lisa were amusing (Ann being scared and powerless is one of Rashida Jones’ better comic notes), but I’d be fine never seeing the evil sister again.

The Andy story was mainly an opportunity to let Chris Pratt get on stage to do his Hootie and the Blowfish impression again, and on that level, it worked. (I particularly enjoyed the complete lack of stakes in the story; the band didn’t so much kick him out as assume he had quit because he stopped returning their calls.)  But the idea of Andy being torn between his immature past and the possibility of growing up is a tricky one to pull off, and needed more time than was possible in a B-story. While some of the show’s supporting characters (most notably April, but also Tom) have matured over the years, Andy has actually devolved a bit. (He wasn’t smart in the first season, but he was at least canny in the way he manipulated Ann.) It’s a funnier, sweeter version of the character, but one that’s harder to use when discussions of maturity come around. Assuming there’s a sixth season (a safe assumption at this point), I’d be fine with an arc about Andy really trying to grow up. Here, it just felt like a holding action until he took the stage with Burley and the guys again.

(Also, because the early mini golf scenes took place in dazzling sunlight, it was jarring to see them intercut with all the action at the bar.)

Even a show with as great a batting average as “Parks” occasionally turns in a dud. And given how well Schur and company bring it at finale time, I’ve got high hopes for next week’s episode.

What did everybody else think?

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