Parks and Recreation: Leslie vs. the 1%

By Michael Svoboda

Apr 27, 2012

Parks and Recreation S04E20: "The Debate"

We can imagine that Leslie Knope spent her star-spangled youth successfully running lemonade stands on the streets of Pawnee, glad-handing all who bought her wares. She was probably running for office even before she was aware of what she was actually doing. Pawnee was probably ever-present on her mind... a better Pawnee, a Pawnee for the people. The magic of this show has always come from our belief in Leslie Knope to do the right thing.

The City Council election is finally almost upon us. And this week Leslie took to the stage to debate her political rival and local daddy’s boy Bobby Newport (a perfect Paul Rudd). TV shows hit home the most when they can draw a distinct bead on some political zeitgeist and Parks and Recreation is doing its best to illustrate the frustration of the 99%, with Leslie squarely falling into some sort of Obama/ Clinton hybrid, tirelessly working for the people to make their lives more... livable. While Sweetums heir Bobby Newport is blissfully and hilariously ignorant of the political process he's participating in, earnest in his own screwed-up way, you can’t help but like him, or at least feel a little sorry for him, but you don’t want him running the town. (Cough... Romney.)

But as much as I like a good analogy, I am ready for this election to be over. I somewhat long for an episode of Parks and Recreation that is, well, about parks and recreation, and not the city council race. Give me rabid squirrels! Or fetid water! I understand, from a writer’s perspective, that it must be nice to give your zany cast of characters something new to do and talk about in Season 4, but something is being lost in the shift. Maybe too much drama and not enough ha-ha. Papa wants a little more giggle in his half-hour. And in the past we have found that in the workplace. So I am looking forward to seeing our folks get back to work.

On that tip, it feels as if most of the humor has been mined from the Ann Perkins and Chris Traeger on/off romance. And with Tom also pining for Ann too, it seems like angst has set in over our little village. This week they all played spin-doctors both during and after the debate, giving us a nice triangle to watch, with Ann Perkins and Chris acting all couple-y and declaring themselves “Spin Team!” excitedly every few minutes. But I think it is time to spice things up. Give our lovely Ann Perkins someone new to play with, someone worthy of her awesome-ness. Hey, maybe Chris and Tom should realize they were made for each other! Now that would be a little sugar and cinnamon twist! (Insert winky-smiley emoticon here.)

April and Andy, for their part, continue to be my favorite couple on television. Somehow they have successfully bucked the old adage that domesticity on TV has to be boring. This week, April and Andy hosted a debate party fundraiser at their house. Dressing up in cardigan sweaters and swilling champagne, they played 1% for the evening, laughing haughtily at their own jokes. But of course, in true Andy fashion, he forgot to pay the cable bill, so the crowd that had amassed at their house had no debate to watch. Now I could pretty much watch Andy Dwyer read a cereal box (Chris Pratt is such a genius), but this was a singular event as he entertained their guests with his one-man reenactment of his favorite movies, Road House being the highpoint. I was left rapt by his Keaton-esque modern-dance-like moves, kicking and twirling roundhouse punches, scissor kicks, and the de-larynxing of a non-existant thug. The Swayze would be proud.

But back at the debate, we had Joan Callamezzo (Mo Collins) returning to moderate, her off-tone patter and awkward style of delivery always great for a few laughs. She really is the Fox News of Pawnee. With the stage full of “other” candidates, like the redneck Foster Trim and porn star Brandi Maxxx, it reminded me of how wonderful and rich a world the Parks and Rec writers have created in Pawnee, like a game of the Sims gone wack-a-doodle. After a rocky start, our Knope decided to go on the attack to save face, and ostensibly Pawnee, from a surprise dirty play by Bobby Newport. (Why do I seem to want to call everyone in Pawnee by their full names?!) It felt good to see Leslie fight fire with fire in order to defend the working people of Pawnee, and in spirit the rest of us in the 99%. Go Knope-bama!!

Leslie Knope is still a character to believe in. She gets my vote. Now let’s end this election and get back to work!



Highpoint: Ron Swanson strapping on his tool belt and shimmying up a telephone pole to fix Andy’s cable. While atop, he crooned my all-time favorite karaoke standard, Glen Campbell’s "Wichita Lineman." SWOON!


Lowpoint: Too much drama for this mama. Give us more jokes folks. And we got all of two miniscule glimpses of Donna and Jerry? Not enough.


Talking Points:

– Who should Ann Perkins date? Does she need to date? What else can they give her to do in Pawnee.

– If Leslie gets elected to City Council, who should take her place in the Parks Department? I vote Donna Meagle. But then, I always want to see more Donna. Thoughts?

– Did I miss something, or why was Jerry Gergich in a room full of nuns? Do tell.

– Anyone else share my desire to see the election end so the gang can get back to the office?

  • Comments (19)
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  • PhilipBaker1 Apr 30, 2012

    i always want to see more donna!

  • hilliebabee Apr 30, 2012

    I love Parks & Rec! It took me quite a while to get into the show but since last season I am a die hard fan. They do a really good job of mixing funny with sincere, with hilarious with heartfelt. When I describe the show to others I say it's really funny and sweet. I thought this episode had plenty of funny and sweet. Andy acting out those movie scenes was hilarious! Leslie going after Bobby Newport was really sweet. It showed her true character. When her town was threatened she kicked some ASS!!!!



    With regards to Ann-I don't get it. I know Pawnee isn't a big city but Ann cannot possibly be the hottest chick anywhere! That being said, she makes more sense with Chris but she already tried dating him and it didn't work so I don't see her going back.

  • pcsjunior002 Apr 28, 2012

    Seen Glen Campbell perform live. And while Ron Swanson is awesome, Andy was the highpoint for me. I agree that it's been getting just a little too much drama on this show for me (though I LOVED the "West Wing" stuff last episode with Bradley Whitford).



    -I like Ann and Tom. I think there's still more gold in there.

    -I do not know. I like Leslie running the Parks Dept.

    -No clue. That was weird.

    -I share. Get back into the office doing fun stuff there.

  • torontogirl98 Apr 28, 2012

    Loved Ron stealing the cable that literally made me pee my pants and that Jerry bit was so WTF I hope we get more on that later

  • daddydriz Apr 28, 2012

    Thanks for the reminder on why I gave up on this show long ago. Oh, and your comment, "Parks and Recreation is doing its best to illustrate the frustration of the 99%, with Leslie squarely falling into some sort of Obama/ Clinton hybrid, tirelessly working for the people to make their lives more... livable" made me throw up in my mouth just a little. Actually, a lot.

  • DoDaDeeDo Apr 28, 2012

    -Obviously Ann Perkins should date me

    -No to Donna, she's always been the weakest in terms of comedy to me out of everyone in the department

    -That's just Jerry being Jerry

    -Yes! Let's get back to the little adventures they go on through working with the Parks department

  • ssgoku1010 Apr 28, 2012

    Chris is weakest IMO.



    Donna can do no wrong. No one can say more with a facial expression then Donna

  • JustinJohnson9 Apr 28, 2012

    There was a lot more drama in this episode, but it makes perfect sense since Leslie's running for City Council. And any fan of the show knows how badly she wants this, which has to equal drama. However, there are still many hilarious points in any P&R; episode, like Andy karate-kicking the tv!! LMAO!!!

  • CarlyChristen Apr 28, 2012

    Yeah, maybe a little too much drama, but I still love this show. April and Andy were great, and I always enjoy seeing Leslie come out on top. I hope that when she wins this election (and she will) that it goes back to more of the parks and rec department with maybe some ridiculous city council meetings/issues on top of that. I want Leslie to succeed, but I also still want her in the parks and rec office. It's a conundrum.

  • KevinG87 Apr 28, 2012

    good episode, written and directed by Amy Poehler as well.. I'd totally vote for Leslie! also, I never once believed Ann and Tom would actually date.. I don't see why ANYBODY would date Tom. lol



    is it just me, or is Paul Rudd basically playing a more clothed/better groomed version of his Our Idiot Brother character for Bobby Newport? lol

  • MichaelSvoboda Apr 28, 2012

    Ha! I thought that Idiot Brother crossover too. Good call KevinG87.

  • JT_Kirk Apr 28, 2012

    Paul Rudd was awesome, I almost never watch this show because Amy Pohler grates on my nerves, but this was alright and Rudd was great as ever. I doubt they'll let Leslie win the vote though, just because it'd change the show so much. But The Office sent Jim to another branch for a season, so who knows.

  • ben45tpy Apr 28, 2012

    Well I think that if she doesn't win then this whole season will have been pointless, and it would be too depressing to be funny. With the enormous amount of time this season has invested and the slow arc from no chance to front runner she'll definitely win.

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