Parks and Recreation: Leslie vs. the 1%

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?

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