Review: ‘Parks and Recreation’ – ‘Bailout’

Senior Television Writer
03.14.13 72 Comments

A review of tonight’s “Parks and Recreation” coming up just as soon as I buy Japanese slime candy and Bulgarian wheatballs…

Jerry Gergich provides a moral to this week’s “Parks and Recreation,” explaining to Chris that when you’re a parent, the small victories are the ones you have to rely on for positive reinforcement. That seems an apt lesson for an episode that’s very small and simple in scope, but still very effective at what it sets out to do.

The eponymous story about Leslie’s attempt to rescue a Pawnee video store is another example of the show applying a story from national politics to the local government of Pawnee, and another case of big government advocate Leslie clashing with hardcore libertarian Ron. What’s interesting about this one is that the show allows Ron to be completely right, even though its philosophy on the whole is much more aligned with Leslie’s. It’s important that Ron sometimes get to win these arguments about government, or else stories like this lose all bite. (Ron is, of course, frequently right about non-work-related matters.) The video store’s shift into an unapologetic porn emporium was a huge (and funny) embarrassment for Leslie, including the latest incident of Brandi Maxxxx modeling herself after Leslie to star in “Too Big to Nail.” Plus, Ron’s giggling talking head after discovering what had become of the store was so good that the remainder of the episode could have been a test pattern and I’d have still loved it. Jason Schwartzman didn’t get a ton to do as Dennis the video store owner, but I enjoyed his early faith in the power of depressing cinema.(*)

(*) Speaking of cinema, Perd Hapley, film critic, gives “E.T.” 1 1/2 stars for being “not believable.” His ideas intrigue me, and I wish to see more of his archives.
The Ann/April story, meanwhile, paid off years of April being mean to Ann with an extended ode to the power of niceness – and of Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” (Donna’s entrance to complete the song was the second-best thing in the episode after Ron giggling) – which felt very in character for both Ann and this show. Of course, Ann making April be nice to her and do girlfriend-y things was on one level something she knew would torture April, but it paid off in some genuine non-hate between the two of them. Like Tom slowly growing up, it’s the sort of character note you have to have after five seasons of the show, especially because it’s clear April will still mock and complain about Ann, even though she no longer hates her, because it’s simply who she is and what she does.

And speaking of Tom, I quite enjoyed Jenny Slate(**) as his horrible new love interest Mona Lisa Saperstein, and not just because Jean-Ralphio got to make a brief cameo to sing of his sister’s terribleness. (Ben Schwartz’s falsetto always makes me laugh; I’m easy.) Chris playing dad to Tom – with Tom being puzzled by the hair-ruffling and bicycle lesson offers – was amusing but also sweet, and nicely set up the decision we knew was inevitable, as Chris decides to join Ann in making a baby.(***)

(**) Slate briefly played Schwartzman’s love interest on “Bored to Death.” If this episode had somehow included Ted Danson or Zach Galifianakis, we’d have a trend!

(***) One question on this: Ann seemed to be suggesting a few episodes ago that she just wanted a sperm donor, but doesn’t seem fazed here by Chris talking as if he intends to be an active parent. I suppose it’s easier to say yes to that if it’s a nice guy like Chris, as opposed to someone like Sewage Joe making the same offer.

Overall, a light, simple episode, but a very entertaining one.

What did everybody else think?

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