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

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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.



NOTES & QUESTIONS


– 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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