Review: ‘Parks and Recreation’ – ‘Leslie vs. April’

A review of tonight’s “Parks and Recreation” coming up just as soon as my job is exciting enough for there to be a show on A&E about it…

If I recall correctly, the last time we heard mention of Lot 48 (The Artist Formerly Known As The Pit) was midway through season 3, when someone suggested Leslie could tackle it as her next big project after the Harvest Festival. And even at that point, it was startling to be reminded of the series’ humble origins. Remember back in that first season when everyone was asking how on earth Schur and Daniels were going to generate season after season of stories about Leslie trying to turn The Pit into a park? The series has long since expanded past that point in terms of story, theme, and character. The pit was filled in early in season 2, Ann eventually developed other reasons for hanging around City Hall, and the ambitions of both Leslie Knope and “Parks and Recreation” are so much greater that it doesn’t seem wildly out of whack to put her in the same scene was Vice-President Biden (aka the entirety of Leslie’s celebrity sex list) in the opening scene.(*)

(*) When news of Biden’s cameo broke last week, Mike Schur explained on Twitter that they came up with the idea in the summer, before Mitt Romney had even chosen a running mate, and that equal time laws meant they couldn’t put Biden in the show before the election unless they were prepared to have the Republican veep nominee on the show as well. It was always intended as a payoff to a running gag about Leslie’s Biden lust, so they shot it early and held it to run after the election, justifying the very funny bit by having it take place when Ben returns to D.C. to pack up his stuff. I don’t think it’s violating this blog’s No Politics rule to compliment Biden on largely staying composed even as Leslie Knope was undressing him (and more) with her eyes.

When Lot 48 comes up in “Leslie vs. April,” it’s in a much different context. Leslie is now a city councilwoman, with the ability to actually do something with the place if she can get the votes. More importantly, April Ludgate is now someone who, thanks to Leslie, actually cares about her job, and has a perfectly reasonable suggestion for what to do with the place, if only Leslie can let go of her belief in the importance of dibs. When April and Leslie came into conflict way back in the first season, it was because April didn’t care much about anything and had no respect for Leslie(**), where here it’s April getting frustrated because she’s done exactly what her mentor would want her to do and is still being shut down over it. And because it’s a story taking advantage of the show’s deep bench of recurring characters (Jamm, Oren) and history (Ron’s early attempts to slow Leslie down, April’s dislike of Ann) it was a very funny one, too.

(**) Recalibrating April’s view of Leslie was one of the single most important changes between season 1 and 2.

Both subplots were job-related, as Ben tries to figure out what he wants to do next with his life (assuming it’s not reviving The Low-Cal Calzone Zone as a business concept) and winds up being inundated with job offers even as he’s trying to help Tom get Rent-A-Swag off the ground, while Andy faces the reality of being a cop. The Ben/Tom plot was also a nice example of how the characters and relationships have grown and changed. Tom’s maturing, and he’s not really exploiting Ben anymore, but at the same time, the nerd’s success puzzles and/or frustrates him. And the Andy subplot dealt amusingly with the reality that Andy Dwyer would probably hate the real-life drudgery of policework in a town like Pawnee. 

A very satisfying outing, that evoked the show’s past many times over, while reminding us of how far everyone’s come over the last few years.

What did everybody else think?