Parks and Recreation "Pawnee Commons" Review: Please Get the Gang Back Together, Show!

By Michael Svoboda

Nov 30, 2012

Parks and Recreation S05E08 "Pawnee Commons"

Who doesn’t love a good blood feud? Hatfields & McCoys scored big for History Channel earlier this year. Springfield and Shelbyville have been railing against each other for over twenty years on The Simpsons. And the age-old rivalry between the towns of Pawnee and Eagleton continued this week on Parks and Recreation. Let’s face it, those Eagletonians have always been jerks. And most of the funny jokes in this episode spiraled out from the escalating one-upsmanship the two cities parlayed on one another while Leslie decided whether or not to hire an Eagleton designer (guest-star Brad Hall) to work on Pawnee’s newest park.

What really stood out for me this week was a lack of cohesiveness in bringing the episode's various stories together. For a show that has become so character-heavy, you would think there would be more of a push to integrate the ensemble for a more satisfying conclusion. Recall their efforts in previous seasons with putting on a L'il Sebastian memorial, the whole office working on Leslie's campaign, and planning and executing the Harvest Festival. The whole team had a task, and just when you didn't thought it would all come together, it did. Magic! They are a “modern family” of sorts, and I miss the days when everything was a group effort that brought them all a little closer. Except for Jerry, of course—he’s close enough. It seemed that the ensemble didn't have much to do this week, and I hardly remember them even being in the Parks Department office. April was busy helping Andy not be bored as the building's new security guard. Tom was tied up with Rent-a-Swag. Ann was playing counselor to Tom. Ron was helping Chris by teaching him some woodworking. In contrast to a family sitcom, all these characters HAVE to go to work every day, so whatever adventure is before them should be done all together, at least some of the time.

But hey, we still got quite a few laughs. There is still so much to mine from the town of Pawnee and its inhabitants: The “NPR” parody opening was the funniest part of the episode, because it reveled in absurdity and satire. And any time someone can be congratulated on a piece about “Dolphin Lactation,” as Leslie did during her chat with Derry Murbles (Dan Castellaneta) I’m probably going to laugh. Also, the Andy/April role-play stuff was pretty funny, particularly the Hitler joke (oxymoron alert?).

I'm also enjoying the continuing transformation of Tom Haverford. Having the man-child grow up and learn how to see the world as an adult is fun to watch. Plus, we saw the triumphant return of DJ Roomba! Aziz Ansari is one of the funniest people on television and to its credit, Parks and Rec has given him a platform with such a great character... you know, as opposed to Rob Lowe’s Chris Traeger. Try as the writers might, he always seems tacked-on these days. His descent into depression and wanting to learn woodworking from Ron seemed a bit out of place. Dude needs something to do!

Another highlight of this episode for me was the calling-out of the “always sunny” exterior locations used on Parks and Rec. I mean, come on, I grew up in Nebraska and it starts getting pretty gross outside by mid-October. But this Indiana has always seemed a LOT like southern California with a little fake snow once in a while. I loved it when Ben met up with Wreston Sarnoff at a fancy restaurant in Eagleton, with PALM TREES in plain sight behind them. When Ben asked about them, the waiter said that Eagleton’s hot springs created a micro-climate... and for that, they are truly blessed.


– With both The Office and 30 Rock winding down this season, what will become of NBC's Thursday night? Will Parks and Rec continue to grow and shine without its parents around? Can it be an anchor? – I’m pretty excited about the Jerry’s wife story that's coming up soon. Christie Brinkley has been cast to play Mrs. Gergich, and I'm sure it'll be be fun to watch that unfold.

– Will Rent-a-Swag be a success for Tom? Or would it be better for his character if he failed again?

– Three words: Jazz + Jazz = Jazz. Brilliant!

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  • ChrisODriscol Dec 03, 2012

    I'm surprised there was no mention to the scene where Leslie was talking about the two different sides of the signs. When she was showing the "Leaving Pawnee" sign, you could see a beautiful neighborhood with green grass in the background. When she was on the other side of the fence, and the sign was warning you about Pawnee, there was a shot of an overpass with a couple of bums walking across the street. Genius.

  • J_Pip Dec 03, 2012

    It's always interesting when two different shows in the same week (or in this case back to back) have the same elements in them. Like Jazz in this weeks Parks and Rec and The Office where Angela says "Jazz IS stupid. I mean, just play the right notes!"

  • brianreilly Dec 01, 2012

    I was a bit dissapointed in this episode. It started so well with the opening scene but then struggled from there on. I thought ben's loyalty to pawnee was unrealistic. I think it plays out better when ben doesn't quite get the rivaly between the two towns and yet finds himself seduced by eagleton; as occurred in an earlier episode. That been said,Tom's switch from spend thrift to miser was clever.

  • cacay21 Dec 01, 2012

    I do miss them all together. So far it's they've shared one great ensemble moment this season. At Leslie & Ben's engagement party, the team ganging up on Ben in protection of Leslie... I do love this episode though. Much laugh as always. I'm still waiting for what the team would have to go through to juggle the Parks business, (esp. now that lot 48 is back) personal growths and Leslie and Ben's wedding. (and am wondering, I think Chris and Anne should be together but they need a great plot like they did the first time they were together. Cause it seems like we're loosing Anne as she seems to be fading nowadays and Chris is really bugging me on the verge of being totally annoying I could hope they boot him out, but i think there's still hope yet for this guy)

  • JustinJohnson9 Dec 01, 2012

    I loved this episode and disagree with you a little. Whether together or apart, this cast has the ability to make their own comedy in separate areas. It doesn't matter if the story goes in three different places or directions, every member can hold his/her own, including Chris and Ann. With the exception of Ben, they're the only mostly sane characters on this show, which every great comedy needs: for the slightly insane characters to bounce their jokes off of. I also think Chris and Ann have had their moments this season, especially Ann to me. Chris' depression does make him a little out of place, but he's still funny to me.

  • thorthorsen Dec 01, 2012

    April is the sexiest Hitler I've ever seen :)

  • TaoufikBoulachi Dec 01, 2012

    I just about died when Leslie threatened those 2 morons in her batman voice. You can actually see Adam Scott cracking up in the scene!

    But I agree with the whole 'give chris something to do' part, he seems to be hovering around without any purpose lately. Give him a lady-friend or something!

  • Gilda Dec 01, 2012

    idk i found that this was the first episode this season which i found to be "meh". And I do agree with Chris and also Ann not really doing anything there always just kind of there. I really woundnt care if either of them got dropped from the show. Also been kind of dissapointed with the character they gave Lucy Lawless, for an actress who can be extremly funny they gave her a character that also hasnt rlly done anything, but i still have hope (especially with the plot of next weeks episode Ron & Diane).
    And I doubt that NBC would can P&R; because rlly what do they have? even if its rating arent the strongest at least they know that it has a fanbase.
    But yeah im def looking forward to next weeks episode. Tammy 2 returns and we get to finally meet Gayle! Also there needs to be more Jean Ralphio scenes.

  • brianreilly Dec 01, 2012

    Yes to the Jean Ralphio, can we get him a job at pawnee city council ?

  • mich_aly Nov 30, 2012

    I'm sensing a trend where a lot of people seem to be down on the past two seasons and the current one, in particular. Personally, while season 3 is still my favorite, I've also very much enjoyed seasons 4 and 5. Unlike The Office, which has felt stagnant for quite a while, I really appreciate the fact that Parks and Rec allows story lines to move forward and characters to grow and change over time.

    As for the future, I'm honestly a little bit scared. Ratings-wise, Parks is doing ok (at least by NBC standards), but it's down vs. last season and hit a series low this week. Now, plenty of comedies on NBC are performing worse and I expect Go On and The New Normal to take a big hit in the ratings when The Voice goes on hiatus. But execs at the network have gone on the record saying they want to broaden the audience and have indicated a growing impatience with supposed "niche" shows, so I fear next season will bring us a bunch of multi-cams with laugh tracks. I also take issue with NBC blaming their troubles on narrow programming. I think the bigger problem is the networks have no clue how to market their programming in the current TV landscape.

  • patsully Nov 30, 2012

    I'm a little down on Parks because of their inability to utilize all the characters. Completely agree with Chris Traeger. He's just a useless as Ann at this point. Neither of them fit into the mold of Jerry and Donna, who are superior comic relief options. I'm guessing they'll solve this by throwing Chris or Ann into a new relationship with a guest star, but since those only last a few episodes they'll always be returning to square 1. Kind of troubling for a show that has been so good at balancing the ensemble at times.

    On Rent-a-Swag, would love to see Tom's new found fiscal responsibility challenged by the return of Treat-Yo-Self 2012. They can't go without celebrating it this year can they?

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