Review: ‘Parks and Recreation’ – ‘Soda Tax’

Senior Television Writer
09.27.12 39 Comments

A review of tonight’s “Parks and Recreation” coming up just as soon as I lecture you on consistent font use…

“Soda Tax” is an episode about how Leslie Knope is still feeling her way through her new job on the Pawnee city council. But it also reflects how “Parks and Rec” itself is still feeling its way through the new status quo.

The tax storyline (inspired by Mike Bloomberg’s controversial jumbo soda ban in New York City) was the episode’s best, and not just because Leslie’s addiction to sweets and Pawnee’s reputation for morbid obesity are both so well-established. Yes, it’s funny to see Leslie stress-eating raw sugar, to hear the list of restaurant names in town, Ron’s description of his “Double Bacon Grenade Deluxe,” the explanations for the misleading soda size names (“Well, it’s roughly the size of a 2-year-old child, if the child were liquified”), etc. And any chance to hear the lunatics at a Pawnee public forum (including the return of Mike Scully, plus the group that wanted to tax women’s genitals) is very welcome.

But the tax story also had a strong emotional component. As we were reminded last year in “Live Ammo,” Leslie isn’t used to a job where people are going to be mad at her a lot of the time. She’s used to the adoration of her co-workers, and perhaps the indifference of Pawnee at large, but whether or not the restaurant association carries out its threat to lay off workers, people will not be pleased with Leslie. She has to accept that and learn to play tough and fight for her convictions. And, as so often happens when “Parks and Rec” is at its best, that realization came in a sweet, funny heart-to-heart with Ron Effing Swanson, this time about his four attempts to fire her early in her tenure.

But because Leslie now has this second job, while Ben and April are temporarily off in Washington, “Soda Tax” felt more diffuse even than last week (which at least had Leslie and Andy in D.C. for several scenes), and the two subplots slighter. It’s amusing to watch Ben try to act cool around spoiled twentysomething interns in the B-story, and also to see just how out-of-shape Andy is(*) in the C-story, but both stories felt more like they were there just to give the supporting players something to do for a few minutes while Leslie was wrestling with her conscience. I was glad at the very least that Tom pointed out how often Chris freaks out about his mortality and loneliness; hopefully, this sends that character into a new direction, rather than rehashing last season’s issues.  And April taking the job more seriously by threatening to scoop Ellis’s eyeballs out? Excellent.

(*) Chris Pratt says he puts on weight at the start of each season because Andy’s a lazy guy. If you see him in “Moneyball” or most of his previous roles, that paunch isn’t there.

What did everybody else think?

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