PARKS & RECREATION and the Mural of Shame - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

PARKS & RECREATION and the Mural of Shame

November 18, 2009 by  

I have neglected my duties to the public servants of Pawnee and the loyal readers of GMMR. My day job has been as painful as the large mass in Ron Swanson’s foot lately, so I have been woefully short on time. Though I do not have access to a decent shoe shine vendor, I have made alternative plans to ensure that my Parks & Recreation recaps will be delivered on time from this point forward.

Before jumping into this week’s mural-intensive story, let me share a few thoughts about the “Ron & Tammy” episode. Before NBC’s marketing machine sent Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman for press interviews, I had no idea that Ron & Tammy were married in real life. Their onscreen interactions were hilarious, uncomfortable, and captivating. If you have ever loved someone a little too much (for much too long), it was easy to find some truth in the exaggerated histrionics between the two. Ron Swanson became, if only for one week, the personification of an alpha male desperate to hide a thick layer of sensitivity.

To Mike Schur and the P&R creative team, I ask one little favor. It would be hilarious to see Tammy attempt to break up Leslie’s team by recruiting one of her staff members. April would be the obvious choice, considering her non-traditional approach to work. However, Jerry makes the most sense. In fact, I would love to see Leslie try and convince Jerry that he is important to her team, considering the abuse that has been inflicted on the quiet bureaucrat all season. Would Jerry leave the department that spoiled his parents’ secret, ridiculed his criminal past, and demeaned his use of the term “murinal?” I do not know where he would end up, but that’s must-see TV!

This week’s P&R drew on the talents of a powerful female duo. Director Millicent Shelton, nominated for an Emmy last year for “30 Rock,” and writer Rachel Axler, a veteran of “The Daily Show,” turned the simple premise of replacing one of Pawnee’s shameful murals into a clever examination of the workplace dynamic. Axler’s script took the bold position that there is often a difference between work that will reap tangible rewards and work that will feel rewarding. Shelton’s direction ensured that viewers recognized the stress that the mural contest brought to the P&R department’s interpersonal relationships.

Brief aside: Was Leslie Knope’s humorous Tim Gunn impression a nod to the women who watch P&R each week? Perhaps. Was it something out of the Michael Scott playbook? Yes. Has P&R been funnier than The Office this season? Yes. So, in the words of noted philosopher Ron Swanson, “What’s your point?”

Three things brought me great joy from this episode, in no particular order:

The overarching theme of Season Two has been a sense of teamwork amongst the Pawnee staff. The mural storyline was a perfect vehicle for explaining how easily feelings can grow frayed amongst co-workers. As each staff member explained his/her vision of the Spirit of Pawnee, some harsh words were spoken. In particular, Tom & April seemed to dismiss Ann’s work as amateurish and uninspired. However, when Leslie appeared poised to choose Mark’s moderate approach over her team’s own submissions, everyone came together. The Parks & Recreation department is now a family, able to make fun of one another in private, but stand together in solidarity when threatened by the Sewage or Library departments. Does that mean Tom will ever confess to being moved to tears by “his” creation? This family may not be that close yet…

Ron Swanson and Andy Dwyer have been this season’s most consistently funny characters. In a stroke of genius, the two men were brought together by mutual respect. Andy sees Ron as a role model who could teach him to be the confident man Ann might grow to respect and love again. Ron’s libertarian philosophy eschews government handouts, so he is impressed with Andy’s work ethic and desire to improve his lot in life. The incident that took place on Andy’s bench, a landmark in my television viewing life, was exactly the type of awkward, uproarious moment that would throw a wrench in Ron and Andy becoming fast friends. Just as The Office was careful not to turn the JAM wedding into a schmaltzy affair, P&R is continuing to fight cliches with idiosyncrasies. Maybe Duke Silver’s next album could be called, “Massaging Your Bunions.”

Finally, Tom Haverford scored again with his renaissance approach to abstract art. Though we are on a break from dealing with Tom’s unrequited feelings for green card wife Wendy, I think his emotional reaction to his low-budget student art submission was a fantastic piece of work. The gregarious guy, always the life of the party, met his match in a canvas of shapes, and Aziz Ansari sold it brilliantly. I counted one example of Tom’s trademark surprised/joyful smile this week, and we need to turn it into a drinking game. I find myself rewinding almost any scene with Tom Haverford involved, and the P&R creative team seems to know they have something special to work with.

“The Camel” was a fantastic episode, skillfully constructed and flawlessly executed. If the show continues on this type of creative role, it is not too soon to start thinking about Emmy nominations for Best Comedy, Lead Actress (Amy Poehler), and Best Supporting Actor (Aziz Ansari, Nick Offerman). What do you guys think? Comment away!

What was your favorite mural design? Has the friendlier tone amongst the Pawnee staff changed your view of the show? Will Ron ever have his shoes shined by Andy again? Have you taken a second look at Ann & Mark as a couple? I am eager to read your thoughts and comments!

Aside from writing about House and Parks & Recreation, Erik has become addicted to Top Chef, The Next Iron Chef, and most other shows with the word “Chef” in the title. Please forward any recipes for Chef Boyardee to his Twitter handle (@FreelanceErik).

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