“Parks and Rec” Returns, Nation Rejoices

September 20, 2012


You heard me. Seriously, whatever it is that you were planning to focus on this fall – maybe you’re all signed up to take a Thursday evening class in tablemaking; maybe you made a vow to be more crafty and spend the penultimate night of the work week making cocktails out of soap – whatever it is, it will simply have to wait. Your Thursday nights are busy now. Leslie’s here.

Parks and Recreation, the subtly brilliant sitcom starring Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope and featuring a really excellent ensemble, premiered last night to thunderous applause (or, I was applauding). The show – which started slow in season one only to come into its own in season two and then truly kill it in seasons three and four – is now entering its fifth season, and so far all signs point to MORE OF THE BEST THING EVER.

Last season’s heartwarming finale happily saw Leslie win the election for City Councilwoman of Pawnee, but it also set up some drama by sending her world’s-most-wonderful-boyfriend, Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott) off to take a job in Washington. Turns out Ben brought April along as his assistant, and so the premiere finds Leslie and Andy in our nation’s capitol for a visit with their long-distance SO’s. As the episode starts, this gives us a chance to see Leslie delight in all things government while also providing Andy with one million opportunities to say dumb things.

Back in Pawnee, Ron has taken over Leslie’s annual Parks Employee Appreciation Barbeque, which he kicks off with the announcement that there will be no adult males in costumes and NO vegetables. (Jerry: “Can we at least have corn on the cob?” Ron: long pause… “No.”). It’s a wonderful little subplot, and it feels great to see everyone again: Ron trying to slaughter a pig in a public park and get children to drink watered-down beer, Chris still trying to be Ron’s best friend, Jerry just having to pee, Donna being Donna, and Tom and Ann. Oh… about Tom and Ann. Ever since the writers got the two of them together, I’ve found it contrived and annoying. Luckily, they’ve now broken up, but I was still bothered that their relationship (now being upheld for show, and a $1000 bet with Donna) is even part of the plot. Although the end of the episode sees them parting ways, I have a feeling we haven’t seen the last of this. Enough already.

I’ll stop complaining, though, because this episode filled me with true joy in every single non-Ann and Tom moment. In DC, the couples reunite at a museum mid-day. Andy/April and Leslie/Ben get a brief moment of double dating screen time, which is brilliant mostly because we get to see April mount Andy right there on the floor, contrasted with Leslie’s sly little smile when she checks out Ben’s butt as he leaves.

That night, the group accompanies Ben to a swanky cocktail party, where it’s evident that the power balance in Leslie and Ben’s relationship is beginning to shift. (Andy and April’s seems the same: he makes “shrimp hands” while she stuffs a complete set of tableware into her purse.) Things for Leslie go downhill from there, and I think that she and Ben are in for a tough ride this season (did anyone else catch him introducing her to her heroes as his “friend”? What was up with that?). Hopefully they’ll pull through, though; after all, as Andy reassures Leslie when the trip is over, she and Ben are both “amalgams.”

Here are some more award-winning moments:

– Leslie has created a “Jealousy Amalgam” and named her “Hot Rebecca.”

– Leslie on tall DC women: “It’s like C-Span and Neiman Marcus had kids or something.”

– Ron on first-barbeque-as-virginity-loss, resulting in “flavorful meat love.”

– Shout-out to John McCain, who does a solid job turning up to accidentally annoy Leslie in the coat room for the last 20 seconds of the episode.

And the Best Line of the Night:

“Can we just real quick stop at the nearest place that has free pants?” – Andy, after being told that the cocktail party is more of a “pants” thing than a “shorts” thing

Read all about my ecstatic reaction to Parks’ return on Nuclear Salad. 

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