Parks and Rec Talk: “Leslie and Ben”/”Correspondents’ Dinner”
Joe Stando is the writer and proprietor of Gentlemen, Behold!! (He’s writing this sentence, actually.) Adam Dietz is a writer for Filmophilia. Parks and Recreation is a long-running, critically-acclaimed comedy series on NBC. They (we) sat down together over the weekend to talk about last week’s episodes, in what will hopefully become a regular column. Here goes!
ADAM: I would like to start things off with a few irrationally over the top statements regarding these two episodes.
JOE: Go for it.
ADAM: Perhaps my disposition was sunny on account of a full night’s sleep and copious amounts of morning coffee, but these two episodes were head and shoulders above the pack this season. I think the “Leslie and Ben” wedding episode was one of my top five Parks of all time. It was probably the coffee because I’m pretty sure at one point, I caught myself thanking Hulu aloud for allowing me the option to select my own commercial viewing pleasure. Whatever it was, Joe, these episodes scratched a much needed itch.
JOE: At this point, most Parks and Rec episodes end with my on the verge of happy tears, but “Leslie and Ben” was the one to finally push me over a little bit. I’ll admit I was nervous, with the show kind of surprising us with this pivotal of a moment, but by the end of the cold open and the gag about taking Ben’s last name, I was sold.
ADAM: I completely know what you’re saying. I felt like the final image of “Leslie and Ben” where the entire department is passed out from inebriation would have been an acceptable end to the series altogether. Of course, I’m glad it was not. Leslie’s face when Ben told her he had always wanted her to take on his name last night was priceless. Where would you rank losing Knope as a last name among Leslie’s greatest fears? It has to be near the top, somewhere between being locked in a room with Councilman Jamm and having Jerry run the department.
JOE: Yeah, I’ve been seeing reports than NBC is passing on another season, which while it’s kind of disappointing is also a relief, since I don’t know when their insane streak of topping themselves is going to run out, but I wouldn’t want to be there to see it.
ADAM: I’ve heard rumblings of that as well, but with The Office on its way out and the Dwight Schrute spin-off dead on arrival, I am not sure what else they can turn to. Maybe Whitney?
JOE: I kind of doubt they’re going to make any more new shows at all at this point, instead they’ll just continue to tweak Up All Night into more of a Frankenstein’s Monster. My favorite part of Parks and Recreation as a whole has always been the way the character relationships grow and strengthen over time, and a lot of this episode was kind of the payoff to that. Leslie asking Ron to give her away, although kind of predictable, was nonetheless one of the show’s best moments. Also, when did they establish that Leslie’s father had died? I feel like it’s a retcon that was inserted later, and that she referenced him in early episodes.
ADAM: The surprise wedding wasn’t much of surprise, but I liked it as well.
JOE: There were a ton of wonderful little gracenotes, from Leslie’s dress to JJ’s diner to the Lil’ Sebastian impersonator. It was almost like a montage, but not in a cliche, annoying way. Speaking of montages, I really liked the brief black and white flashbacks during their vows. It could’ve easily veered into the overdone sappiness of later season Scrubs, but it stayed classy.
ADAM: Personally, I am not a huge montage guy. I think it worked in the sense that it showed the brief history of Leslie and Ben, but the black and white color tone bothered me (unsure as to why) and I am not sure that the flashbacks were needed as they have only been together for a season or so. All of those memories should be fresh in our minds.
JOE: Fair enough.
ADAM: Really solid Tommy Haverford moments. Steve Harvey and Seacrest…Stevecrest was one of my favorite lines.
JOE: Oh man, the only thing better than Tom Haverford is Jerry Grgich trying (and failing) to do Tom Haverford.
ADAM: Would you be in favor a Jerry spin-off because I totally would? He has slowly become one of my favorite characters on the show. It’s hard to say if his schtick would work without such a great cast.
JOE: Jerry’s character and interactions are the kind of thing a lesser show would turn into a mean bullying gag, but Tom O’Heir and the rest of the cast pull off enough sincerity at the right moments to totally make him work. I also love that he’s an ordained minister, just adding another layer to his full, happy life outside of work.
ADAM: Smoking wife. Beautiful daughter. Ordained minister. Jerry is like the “Entourage” fellas who truly seem to have it all!
JOE: He’s pretty well-endowed too, don’t forget!!
ADAM: Do you agree that P and R is at its finest when the department is forced to meet a deadline and Leslie delegates tasks to each member of the group?
JOE: Probably, especially when it lets them showcase less common character pairs. Leslie and Ann is fun, and Leslie and Ron is fun, but Ron and Ann is priceless.
ADAM: Fortunately for viewers, this is almost every episode. For example in “Leslie and Ben” you’ve got Andy and April on a mission to find marriage licenses and Tommy attempting to become ordained. It might be a little scattered as far as keeping a consistent plot, but as a fan of (pretty much) the entire cast, I love episodes like this.
JOE: Yeah, even an episode like this with a clear endpoint has loads of opportunities for B and C plots, which is great.
ADAM: The Ann sperm donor plotline is being severely dragged out and I don’t think the payoff will have any dividends for the time the show runners have spent covering it.
JOE: On the one hand, I think it’s a unique idea for a plot, and breaks the “Ann dates somebody” cycle, but yeah, I haven’t really been impressed with it. As much as I like whenever they write Ann as an awkward weirdo, and bringing Nick Kroll back, it needs to wrap up.
ADAM: Yeah, Nick Kroll’s cameo role on Parks and Rec is probably one of the funnier things he’s done, Kroll Show included.
JOE: Kroll Show has had about one or two funny punchlines per episode, which is ROUGH for a sketch show. I loved his as the fooseball-obsessed German exchange student on Community though.
ADAM: Nick Kroll is an untapped commodity. I always tell people that I like him and find myself standing up for him (In the many Nick Kroll related arguments that I get in…..not), but I think I like the idea of him more than Kroll himself. Kind of like Chris Mintz-Plasse with Coke in Role Models.
JOE: “Correspondents’ Dinner” was a more classic, low-stakes Parks and Rec ep, but it did a great job of showing that things are going to keep on rolling.
ADAM: “Correspondents Dinner” was, indeed, low stakes. It seemed to me like the writers had a lot of one-liners that they wanted to try out and they just kind of formulated a plot around them. My biggest laugh came at the very start when Leslie and Ben gave out the gifts from their honeymoon. The remnants of an airplane trip (Skymall, peanuts, and ear buds) for Jerry and an autographed James Caan picture for Tom. Both of these episodes really showcased Tom and Jerry (see what I did there).
JOE: Tom and Jerry reference. Classic!!
ADAM: A childhood of television watching enables such references. Joe, what does Neve Campbell sound like? Have you considered impersonating her for your stand-up act?
JOE: My only idea of Neve Campbell’s voice is from Anna Faris being her in Scary Movie… so I assume she sounds like Anna Faris. My only criticism of the overall arcs at this point is what they’ve been doing with Andy. As impossible as it would’ve been, I’d have loved to see him as a rookie cop on the force.
ADAM: I completely agree, Joe. While part of me understood that Andy Dwyer could never feasibly be an officer (even in a zany town like Pawnee) I do think it would have been hilarious. I feel like, at the very least, he could be out on some special assignments with the force. You know, finding missing cats or things like that. He needs some validation at this point. If Barney Fife can do it….why not Andy?
JOE: Guest spots with Louis C.K. doing the rookie/experienced dynamic. The possibilities are endless!! It looks like they might have finally found a role for him to achieve in with the charity work though, which I think is important. He and April are my favorite dynamic on the show, and her slow but clear character growth has been fantastic, but it’s kind of left him looking underdeveloped by comparison.
ADAM: Andy is the same Andy as when the show began four years ago. Whereas everyone else on the show (with the exception of Donna and maybe Jerry) have altered who they are to a considerable extent. The Leslie Knope character of the first season is NOTHING like the Leslie that we know now. Ron is more sentimental, Tom has matured, even Chris Trager is more well grounded. It’s Andy’s time now. RIP Bert Macklin.
JOE: Exactly. Chris Pratt might be the funniest cast member, and certainly the best physical comedian and improviser, but it’s time to let Andy grow up a little bit and find his calling, like Tom and April have.
ADAM: Pratt’s days are numbered on basic cable, I fear. Zero Dark 30, Moneyball, and the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy. Pratt is destined for stardom. I hope that he has the career that Jason Segel should be having.
JOE: I’d love to see him turn into a blockbuster action movie star. Burt Macklin on the silver screen.
ADAM: Speaking of guest spots, nobody does it like Parks and Rec. For every terrible guest character arc that Greg Daniels has tried on The Office, he has nailed on Parks. Paul Rudd, Biden, McCain, Kathryn Hahn.
JOE: Parks and Rec has a very specific feel to its world, and the guest characters always feel like they belong there. They’re other citizens you just haven’t met yet, as opposed to celebrities pretending.
ADAM: I know that I probably shouldn’t, but I am really loving the Councilmen Jamm character. A complete buffoon to be sure, but the absurdity of the role has been one of the favorite parts this season and that blue warm up jacket with the giant tooth on the back was money. I’d love to stumble across something like that at Goodwill.
JOE: I love everything about him, going way back to the cigar club bit with Tom early on. I also love that he’s just this inexplicably mean dude who has it in for Leslie, who (as far as we’ve seen) has never really done anything to him to begin with. And yeah, he’s clearly been listening to Macklemore.
ADAM: Jamm is completely irrational and I completely on board with the guy. However, (you heard it here first) he will be sentimentalized very soon. Parks and Rec is not keep any Leslie foe around for too long. I’d give pretty good odds that he joins the department in some way by the end of the season or gives a hearty donation, so that some new structure/park can be erected.
JOE: Yeah, most of the “villains,” especially the election-based ones, are rounded out in some way. It’s one of my favorite things about the show, that strain of optimism and idealism.
JOE: So what kind of stuff do we expect for the rest of the season? I had heard early on this year was a shortened order, but I just checked and we’re only 15 episodes into the 22 episode season.
ADAM: Unfortunately, I think we are going to get a heavy dose of Ann’s maternal quest for sperm (poor wording). I would assume that Andy will flourish in his new charity work and there has to be some kind of a Leslie/Ben conflict. Ben will probably be paired with a sexy young intern and Leslie will object, you know, #newlywedproblems.
JOE: Yeah, I think the Ann plotline will get at least one more episode mostly devoted to it before it’s resolved. One thing I was thinking about is that childbirth is one of the few topics Parks and Rec hasn’t tackled, and while I can’t imagine they’ll get there this season without a timeskip, they may be setting up options for a hypothetical sixth season.
ADAM: Amazingly, I had never considered that until right now. You’re absolutely right though. I can envision this season ending on a cliffhanger where Leslie is holding positive pregnancy test right before the credits roll. I’m not sure the addition of a child would do the show any favors, unless Tom Haverford is allowed to babysit and then I am all in.
JOE: It’s kind of one of those things I’d like suggested more than shown. A season/series finale with a character prepping for a child is more powerful to me than a million episodes about redecorating bedrooms or picking names. Then again, Parks and Rec can make classics out of characters getting the flu, so I’m almost open to anything.
ADAM: Ann and Leslie in the hospital together, giving birth on the same day….powerful stuff. Unrealistic, but it would make for a nice story.
JOE: My ideal series finale has always ended with a flash-forward to Leslie being inaugurated as the first woman President of the United States, but I suppose being happy with work and family are okay too.
ADAM: A Six Feet Under finale-like flash forward would be pretty stellar. Showing all the characters twenty years in the future. Jerry has won the lottery, Tom is a fashion mogul, Leslie and Ben in the White House, and Andy is working with children somewhere (a logical fit).
JOE: Yeah, it’s the kind of thing that stretches your disbelief a little bit, but for these characters, I’m willing to stretch pretty far. I’m fairly certain that this season at least will end with Pawnee Commons opening, which I think is good. If this ends up being the last season, that long-running plot will be resolved, but if we get a sixth season, it’s clear that the show grew into something bigger than just Lot 48 a while ago.
ADAM: Anything else we need to cover?
JOE: I think we’ve got most of it. Good show, good talk.
Awesome!! Let us know if you enjoyed this, or if you think we’re idiots wasting our time here when Two Broke Girls is on, or whatever, in the comments below. See you next week!!