PARKS AND RECREATION: The Reporter - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote


April 24, 2009 by  

Years ago, an innovative advertising campaign told all of us that, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” In the pop culture of 2009, with on-demand access to our favorite movies, music, and television, that phrase rings especially true. The motion picture industry has all but abandoned the development of small films, since they are rarely held for more than two weeks in our concession-driven multiplexes. New CD sales of established artists like U2, stunted by the proliferation of peer to peer sharing sites, are unfairly judged against those produced in the pre-Internet era. Most drastically, TV shows are launched with a window of opportunity more narrow than the mind set of people who are critical of Adam Lambert’s personal life.

Parks & Recreation has improved steadily each week, with this particular episode offering a full range of comedic opportunities and overarching storylines. Lost in that growth, I fear, will be a barrage of entertainment journalists and bloggers who will focus on the show’s lackluster ratings. Rome wasn’t built in a day. In fact, if the bureaucrats of Pawnee were in charge of that particular project, then HBO could probably count on their historical drama running for seventy-six seasons. My hope is that P&R’s core audience, which boasts a strong number of 18-34 year olds, will overcome the Monday Morning Quarterbacks and spread the word that smart sitcoms can still be found on NBC’s Thursday lineup.

I was wrong about Ron Swanson. In my review of the P&R pilot, I found his physical presentation to be a distraction from his contributions to the story. Shame on me for missing the point about Swanson’s persona, and Nick Offerman’s fearless portrayal of him as a public servant who loathes the idea of government. As sitcoms have softened in recent years, particularly for the sake of creating romantic tension, we are suffering from a short supply of characters that provide belly aching laughter. When Ron announced to the camera, “Her name is Tammy Swanson…and she is a serious bitch,” I snorted six to eight ounces of Diet Coke out of my nose. With his unapologetic tone and appreciation for inefficiency, Ron Swanson is the perfect character to represent our cynicism about our elected officials. When I peeked at Nick Offerman’s IMDB page, his resume was surprisingly light on comedic roles. The P&R audience is lucky that Offerman’s journey brought him to Pawnee.

Mr. Swanson has a kindred spirit in the Parks & Recreation Department, and his professional soul mate’s name is Tom Haverford. Following a tough outing in the pilot, where he left a poor first impression as someone who was too cruel for school, Aniz Asnari’s character has benefitted from a sunnier disposition and a slew of clever quips. Despite a record of achievement that could not fill a page without double spacing and 18 point font, Tom Haverford is a committed underachiever. Disinterested in his current lot in life, Tom displays a knack for reading people and understanding expectations that Leslie Knope could use a heavy dose of. The online Scrabble storyline felt like an exceptional Dilbert cartoon brought to the small screen, and Asnari nailed each beat of the story. With just three episodes left in P&R’s mini-season, I am hoping to see this aspiring womanizer (“So, she’s available?”) make time for a social life.

If one were to simply read the scripts for P&R, you could find an array of reasons to dismiss or dislike the character of Leslie Knope. She is a naive beneficiary of blatant nepotism, blinded by a diabolical sense of ambition and entitlement, and consumed with idol worship for a man who discarded her years ago as if she were a local print reporter. With all those things working against her, I am still rooting for Leslie, due to the sensitivity and impassioned resolve that Amy Poehler brings to her face each week. When Leslie is overwhelmed or intimidated, she reaches out for help. If a reporter outlines the case against her dream project in daunting detail, our girl buries her face in an industrial sized waffle and moves forward. Perfectly willing to accept the bumps and bruises that will come her way, Leslie Knope may be the best manifestation of “Hope We Can Believe In” on network television.

The P&R train is still gathering steam, and there were many other moments worthy of note. The writers have planted the seeds for a number of recurring gags, such as Leslie’s troublesome armpits, Andy’s inappropriate band names, and the politically incorrect murals. The on-screen performers have each grasped a place in a comedy band, with Amy Poehler on vocals, Aniz Asnari on lead guitar, Chris Pratt on drums, and Nick Offerman playing the upright bass. Paul Schneider’s character of Mark would probably be a decent tour manager, leaving him time to take advantage of groupies. Lost in the shuffle so far is Rashida Jones, who has been relegated to a tambourine girl while surrounded by gifted comedic actors. Her time will come, perhaps in the encore…

What are your thoughts? Has P&R stepped up the humor to your liking? Did the reporter story help develop other characters? Do you feel like playing Scrabble?

Do you agree that the creative team took a huge leap forward this week? I am eager to read your opinions, so please chime in to the discussion.

How does Erik combat writer’s block? He indulges in Adam Carolla’s new daily podcast at and reads Bill Simmons’ columns on Along with covering Parks & Recreation and House for GMMR, Erik is preparing to attend his 35th and 36th Dave Matthews Band concerts in Las Vegas. Officially, this makes him a nerd, and he’s ok with that!


12 Responses to “PARKS AND RECREATION: The Reporter”

  1. CFO (not myinitials) on April 24th, 2009 6:22 pm

    I really enjoyed Leslie & Ann in this episode, but I was surprised that Mark turned out to be such a cad! I am now totally confused by whether I should like him or not.

  2. Erik on April 24th, 2009 6:46 pm

    CFO: I think Mark will evolve in a manner similar to one of Kath’s favorite characters, Pacey Witter from “Dawson’s Creek.” At the moment, his conscience gives way to his impulses and opportunistic tendencies. If the right woman comes along, and I think that lady will be Ann (Leslie will be thrilled about that, if it happens), we will see a softer side of Mark. In fact, Ann’s reaction to Mark’s horrific behavior towards the reporter tonight is very similar to how Joshua Jackson’s take on the Pacey character led him towards Katie Holmes’ Joey.

    Maybe the P&R writers are big Kevin Williamson fans? We’ll see…

  3. SB on April 24th, 2009 11:27 pm

    You know what I loved? When Mark told Leslie she was being a huge dork. Like, it seems like such a harmless insult but it was SUCH a burn, and I don’t think there is a funnier word that could’ve been substituted. Feels like a Michael Schur joke to me.

    But I thought this one was much, much better. And I am LOVING the April (?) character. And this was the first episode where I really felt like Leslie wasn’t Michael Scott–she recognizes problems almost immediately (even though she can’t help but create them) and asks for help. Just seems more self-aware in general. Ann is still boring me, and to the point where I don’t even want her to ditch her asshat boyfriend, because he’s the only thing making her funny/interesting. Not a great sign for a character, imo.

    But all in all, I totally agree–it’s getting stronger and I’m hoping they keep it on.

  4. Give Me My Remote on April 25th, 2009 7:31 am

    I’m sticking with P&R, but honestly I’m not there yet. It’s still too much like The Office. I know that’s an easy, go to assessment but that’s where I am right now. The situational jokes, the pacing – it’s just too similar.

    I’m hoping we get something more than the pit to the park storyline too. Is the entire show going to be about this pit? Rashida Jones’ Ann seems like a level headed girl and I can’t imagine she would spend this amount of time on the pit.

    I really like April and Mark, and I’m looking to see more from them.

    Best scene for me this week was when Mark, Tom and April encountered the creepy guy. “April, stand behind me”.

    I’m not going anywhere, but I hope the show starts distancing itself from THE OFFICE a little more.

  5. elocin on April 25th, 2009 8:27 am

    Um, the scene with Mark and Tom and April was in last week’s episode…

    Anyway my two cents. This week’s ep was the one that finally won me over. Laugh out loud funny. Love love love Amy P. Loving all the cast actually -[ with the exception of Rashida Jones. Her character is just…nothing. She could just not turn up again and I doubt anyone would even notice.

    Really hope NBC sticks with this one.

  6. Give Me My Remote on April 25th, 2009 8:36 am

    Oops…sorry I missed last week’s episode while I was away so I watched the last two last night.

  7. Jen on April 25th, 2009 11:50 am

    I finally laughed a little last night during this episode. I’m trying to hang in there, but it’s hard to love a show when the main character drives you crazy. I need more Andy…

  8. Erik on April 26th, 2009 2:13 am

    SB: There is no question that Leslie’s reaction to being called a “huge dork” was equivalent to one of our friends being called a “promiscuous whore.” The impact of that comment on Leslie’s self-confidence was written on Amy Poehler’s face. Who would have guessed that insults from the 5th grade would come full circle on a prime time sitcom?

    When Kath offered her review of the P&R pilot, she mentioned that Aubrey Plaza, who plays April, had displayed a knack for comedy in her earlier work on The Jeannie Tate Show, and would hold her own in future episodes. That prediction has been substantiated by Plaza’s disarmingly passive delivery and veteran timing. Between April, Tom, and Ron, I see the potential for weekly laughs that could eventually rival the Burbank Buy More team. That’s right, I said it!

  9. Becky on April 27th, 2009 9:32 am

    I wasn’t reallysure about this show. I was giving it a shot because I love the office, but this show did it for me entirely. I loved it. I have even watched it mutliple times. I wasn’t sure about Leslie Knope but I’m liking her now. I’ll definitley stick with it.

  10. Erik on April 27th, 2009 11:56 pm

    Kath: In retrospect, the decision to sandwich P&R’s pilot (admittedly the weakest in the Pawnee batch) between two outstanding episodes of The Office was an instance where NBC sacrificed perception for ratings. That night, P&R was clearly the red-headed stepchild to the Dunder Mifflin family, and the buzz surrounding the premiere echoed your thoughts.

    Though the last two episodes yielded more chances for the supporting cast to shine, I agree that P&R’s best hopes of building an audience is the creation of original stories that avoid the sampling of Scranton’s Greatest Hits.

  11. Erik on April 28th, 2009 1:18 am

    elocin & Becky: I am thrilled that this episode met your expectations. One of the aspects of the show that I am enjoying is the use of different locations. Scenes at the Pit, Ann & Andy’s house, and other remote settings give P&R a different look from its Scranton-based parent, and have been fantastic triggers for sight gags like the Rock Band “audition” from last week.

    Ultimately, we will keep watching if we have reasons to root for Leslie and her cohorts. So far, so good!

  12. Erik on April 28th, 2009 1:27 am

    Jen: Amy Poehler’s appeal is not universal. Even during her glory days at SNL, there were legions of viewers who did not enjoy her takes on Hillary Clinton, Dakota Fanning, or other recurring characters. I am a longtime fan of Poehler’s, and am charmed by the slightest smirk or utterance that she makes. That being said, I do believe that characters like Ron & Tom are shaping up to be scene-stealers in the final three episodes of the season.

    It’s not a bad bargain: just three more weeks, and you can say, “I tried a whole season of P&R, but it wasn’t for me.”