Monday, December 3, 2012

Parks and Recreation

Parks and Recreation
Episode 8: Pawnee Commons
By: Carlos Uribe

Parks and Recreation is a show about Pawnee's parks and recreation department and a town councilwoman named Leslie Knope.

Spoilers Ahoy!

It's a bit funny when you think about the park plot. It was introduced in the first season as a way to introduce the characters and set up the premise of the show. It did hold back the show in that it limited the scope of the series to the pit. When the show was renewed for a second season, the pit was filled in and it slowly moved to the background. It comes back every now and then to remind the viewers that it's still there even if there hasn't been much progress. The previous episode had brought it up to generate conflict between Leslie and April. It had ended when Congressman Jamm decided that he'll allow Leslie and April to present their plan for their park to the city council rather than forcing them to adopt a fast food restaurant. This is an episode that has Leslie begging people to send them their plans since without one then the chances of a park are going to be slim. This is really an excuse to force her to deal with someone from Eagleton. Leslie's view of Eagleton is that it's a wealthy pretentious and snobby town that looks down on Pawnee. For the most part, she's actually right. It just happens that one person from Eagleton is actually serious about helping Leslie with planning the park. The conflict lies in whether Leslie will be able to let go of her prejudice towards Eagleton and it's inhabitants or if this anger will get in the way of the park's progress.

Wreston St. James is more than qualified to plan Pawnee's park. He's a friendly person who was moved by Leslie's speech to try and help her and the townsfolk. He is so reasonable that Leslie's attacks on Eagleton start to wear a bit thin. There is definably a point in the episode where it looks like the problem isn't with Eagleton but with Leslie. She's looking down on someone from Eagleton based on where he lives. This is exactly what she claims Eagletonians do when they look Pawneeians. She appears unwilling to let her prejudice go until Ben convinces her to give Wreston a chance. She apologizes for being rude and it seems like the park is going to have a good plan. That is until Wreston's assistants present the park plan to Leslie and Ben. It's a completely offensive plan that justifes Leslie's attitude and claims about Eagletonians. It so rehrensible that even Ben is outraged. He is so shocked between the plan that Wreston's company sends over and Wreston that he had met. He decides to have a lunch meeting with Wreston only to discover that the plan wasn't his. It was by other employees from his company who had submitted it as a prank. Leslie discovers this only after she enacts her revenge on Wreston but it doesn't stop him from providing her with his actual plan: a park that Leslie actually likes. Forcing Leslie to have to work with someone from Eagleton was not only a stroke of genius but a sign that the series has learned how to use the empty lot work to it's advantages rather than allow it to drag the series down.

The main plot was funny but the April and Andy sub-plot was simply the best. Andy is working as a weekend security guard but he's finding it to be dull. He's not having adventures like he imagines and he's starting to think deep thoughts. He invites April to spend time with him because he's lonely and bored. She comes and the two start to have a classic Bert Macklin adventure. This adventure is broken up when a little kid shows up. He's lost and needs Andy's help to find his parents. When Andy does deliver the kid to his mom, he tries to give the credit to Bert Macklin but April stops him. She realizes that as long as Andy is pretending to be Bert Macklin then he'll never be able to take his law enforcement job seriously. Andy needs to start thinking himself as a security guard rather than reverting to his alter ego. She forces Macklin to hang his badge. This entire plot was cute, funny, but most of all it shows just how much April gets Andy. It's sub-plots like these that show me that the two belong together.

The rest of the cast is largely helping Tom prepare his new storefront for Rent-a-Swag. Tom is taking his business seriously which leads to him trying to spend his money wisely. This leads to a store that Ron approves of but has no actual swag. Tom is so bent on saving money that the pizza money he celebrates after setting up the store is done is pitiful. There's only one pizza with no toppings and Tom turns the lights off. It isn't until Ann tells Tom that he needs to allow some of his old self to get through in order to succeed. Tom needs his old confidence and attidude in order to decorate his store properly. It also helps that in return for a stock in his company, his co-workers help properly fund the decoration of his new business. By the time it's done, Rent-a-Swag truly looks like it's ready for business. Ron might not like it but he admits that's probably what it takes for the business to actually take off. What's significant about this story is that it requires Tom to use his new self with his old self in order to succeed.

Pawnee Commons is an episode that is absolutely hysterical and on fire. It is even an instant classic in it's own right. The opening scene with the NPR scene was comedy gold and the main plot worked really well. Tom's new business plot continues to pay amazing dividends while the Andy and April sub-plot was the best part of the episode. Pawnee Commons above-all made me genuinely happy to be watching these characters come together to achieve their goals. That's really what this series makes me: happy. That's probably why I love it so much.

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