Tag: Parks and Recreation

An Open Love Letter to Ron Swanson

There are so many things to love about Parks and Recreation – whip-smart writing, making mundane local politics hilarious, opening the second season with earnest (and super-square) heroine Leslie Knope giving a passionate rendition of the classic Fresh Prince song “Parents Just Don’t Understand” – but the crown jewels of the show are its each-one-more-hilarious-than-the-next cast of characters. I credit the writers and producers with taking such care to respect and flesh out all the players, each one contributing their own little piece to the ensemble’s whole: Amy Poehler‘s Leslie is the heart, Aziz Ansari‘s Tom Haverford the creative energy, Chris Pratt‘s sweet but dim Andy Dwyer the childlike enthusiasm. Throughout its three seasons all have had moments to shine, but none has done so more brightly than my current character crush Ron Swanson, the stomach of the show.

Case in point, I give you his journal dedicated to meat. Inspired.

Brilliantly played by Nick Offerman, on the surface Ron is a man of simple pleasures: breakfast foods, pretty brunettes, facial hair, woodworking, no BS. He’s a man who just wants a hearty meal and for the government to stay out of his business, and here’s where the beauty in the depth of this character begins: government is his business as he’s Director of the Parks Department. But that doesn’t stop this city servant from making sure no parks are ever built during his tenure and imparting a strong opinion on how existing ones should all be sold to corporations with impressive business models, a la Chuck E Cheese. He’ll even go so far as to influence future generations with his staunch libertarian outlook. This overall brusque demeanor shouldn’t make him so endearing, and yet he is the most cuddly curmudgeon on television.

Even his self-proclaimed Pyramid of Greatness makes me want to hug him closer. How could someone who emulates volatile college basketball coach Bobby Knight bring out the smit in me?

Perhaps he’s so easy to love because underneath that burly gruffness beats the heart of a romantic. He looks out for those he cares for (although he would never admit it outright), so noticeable when he patched up the relationship between his sullen assistant April and the lovelorn Andy and defended Leslie to a board of review threatening to fire her. It could also be the way he handles a saxophone moonlighting as Duke Silver.

Then again, it’s mostly his love of keeping meat real.

As the July 14th announcement of Emmy nominations approaches, I can only hope the protein gods will smile down and ensure that Nick Offerman’s name is on the list of Best Supporting Actors in a Comedy. For how can I live in a world where the man who brought us this is not recognized for his own piece of greatness?

The Best TV of 2010 – A Repeat Viewing Part 2

SCENE-SATIONAL

All of these selected moments made a truly lasting impression on me this past year: a show-stopping dance number directed by a personal creative hero, a shocking action sequence that takes its time building the tension before exploding, and two wonderful character-revealing comedy sequences. The shows herein are amongst my favorite currently on air, representing an eclectic taste but akin in delivering top-notch entertainment, creating some of the most indelible characters and scenes for them to play in.

And now the best pieces of a whole.

Glee Safety Dance Flash Mob, “Dream On” – A show filled with many memorable moments, this choice is probably due to my bias of all things Joss Whedon, He Who Can Do No Wrong. However, it is a wonderful sequence that not only further demonstrates Whedon’s creative acumen (cannot gush enough about his choice to cut in shots that look like clips from the inevitable viral video this flash mob will become) it was also a beautiful piece for supporting character Artie who features mostly in the background, save for the occasional need of a little R&B flavor in some songs (see “Billionaire” or “Umbrella/Singin’ in the Rain”). Kevin McHale got to show off some serious dance skill that obviously couldn’t happen due to his character’s confinement to a wheelchair, and with the episode’s dream theme we thankfully (or heartbreakingly) get to watch Artie experience his deepest wish.

Breaking Bad – Parking Lot Shoot-Out, “Ambush” – How much praise can I heap on Breaking Bad in general? Suffering from what I call the “middle child syndrome,” this AMC drama has found much critical, and award-winning, praise but seems to consistently fall in the shadow of its big brother Mad Men. Both dramas deserve equal accolades, but what Breaking Bad has over Mad Men in spades is the ability to create tense scenes where the audience too-often questions whether the characters they’ve invested so much in will be making it out of any given episode alive. And this is the crux of what I’ve decided is the best scene from a one-hour drama in 2010. The actions of anti-hero lead, Walter White, in the previous season – killing New Mexico’s leading drug kingpin – brought in two of the scariest hitmen television has ever seen, The Cousins. It seemed no one was safe when these twin cold-blooded killers were around, and this scene with Walt’s DEA brother-in-law set in their sites was literally the most breathtaking moment I’ve witnessed on TV.

Modern Family – Song for Lily, “Dance, Dance Revelation” – It’s near-impossible to single out one definitive moment of Modern Family as being the greatest. Absolutely every character is given a chance to shine with every actor stepping up and knocking a performance out of the park, making it the definition of a stellar ensemble show. Saying this I will admit to playing favorites, and it’s that favorite character who provides the majority of my enjoyment when watching. Only because his defining episode, “Fizbo,” aired in 2009 I’ve chosen this scene from late 2010 as his best, demonstrating why Cam is both the heart and funny bone of the show.

Parks & RecreationRon’s Whiskey Harp, “Sweetums” – Another show that contains the best ensemble comedy group assembled on television, Parks & Recreation came into its own during the show’s sophomore year thanks in large part to how the characters’ relationships were continually made real and interesting as each episode progressed. Again, my urge to play favorites wins out as I highlight the MVP character of the show, Ron Swanson. The dynamic between Ron’s Director of the P&R department and his Deputy Director (and show lead) Leslie Knope is second only to the stellar team of 30 Rock‘s Jack Donaghy and Liz Lemon. This sequence demonstrates Leslie’s constant need to play by the rules coming to blows with Ron’s equally constant need to maintain an upper-hand and most importantly always be right. Both go way too far to prove their points, but ultimately we see that they want to project a strong image of themselves out of their underlying respect for each other.

Repeat Doldrums, or How I Spent My Holiday Vacation Evaluating 2009 and Sizing Up 2010 – NBC

Hello again gentlereaders. No, I didn’t forget about you these past two months, please blame my absence on the most hectic (wonderful?) time of the year. Now that the holiday season has passed, including the glut of repeats that come with it, I am back and focused as ever to comment, critique and celebrate the best of what’s to come in 2010 television. The musings are too much so I must make this a multi-part post.

MAKE ‘EM LAUGH

I’ve made no secret of the insane amount of love I have for comedies, particularly the perfectly programmed 2-hour block on NBC’s Thursday night. While the Peacock appears to be making all the wrong moves in late night (the incomparable Conan in limbo and bland Leno is back, no words) they’ve at least made impeccable choices when it comes to scheduling the primetime funny this season.

Vets The Office and 30 Rock had some of their strongest episodes of their series’ histories – Jim & Pam’s wedding will go down in the annals of TV moments and “Dealbreakers Talk Show No. 0001″ not only gave us crazy Performer Liz who forgot how to wave like a person, we were treated to how HD alters the Rockers – Kenneth is a Muppet and Jack a young Alec Baldwin, classic.

Parks & Recreation became so enjoyable as its second season progressed that I found myself not just choosing it first among my DVR viewing selections the next day but actually watching it in real time! And even though newbie Community had some ups and downs, its ups (Senor Chang’s always quotable lines – “Hasta luego! Come on, hands 90% of spanish!”) far outweighed the downs.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

New episodes of all CNDR shows return this week, save for The Office (which is open for business again January 21st) but with an extra 30 Rock there’s no complaint from this Fey-natic, and we’ve got guest stars galore – Jack Black wandering around the Greendale campus on Community, Will Arnett romancing real-life wife Amy Poehler on P&R and James Franco stopping by as “himself” for an arranged celebrilationship with Jenna on 30 Rock.

Most Improved Show: Parks and Recreation

Parks and Recreation, NBC Thursdays 8:30/7:30c

Not that I’d go so far as to call its first season a total disappointment, NBC’s Parks and Recreation did come out of the gate rather weak earlier this year with only a pedigree of being led by the minds behind fellow Comedy Night Done Right hit The Office and lead Amy Poehler to keep me hopeful that the excellent creative potential would eventually shine. And it was the second season premiere episode, “Pawnee Zoo” that was so glorious I revisited no less than half a dozen times.

I should have expected that as it was modeled so closely to its predecessor (right down to the hand-held mockumentary feel) P&R would also follow in the footsteps of The Office and finally hit a side-splitting stride in their second year. The show is truly firing on all cylinders – the writing, dialogue, pace and team of actors have all found a great comedy groove that continues to impress every week. So impressive that it was one of only a handful of shows given a coveted full season pick-up earlier this month.

What do we have to look forward to in their sophomore season? On the near horizon a November sweeps installment will feature a guest turn by former Will & Grace star Megan Mullally in what show runner Michael Schur claims as “the best episode we’ve ever done.” Mullally will play ex-wife opposite real-life husband Nick Offerman’s Parks & Rec department boss Ron. “She works for the library system, and they’re trying to take over the lot that Leslie is jealously guarding for her future park,” Schur explains. “So Ron has to get back involved with his ex-wife and fireworks ensue.”

Fall Premieres – Thursdays: Comedy Night Done Right

While tonight’s NBC comedy premieres don’t include crown jewel 30 Rock (that momentous day is October 15th), it does provide enough funny haha’s to cause a swell of joy with the return of The Office, a ho-hum “welcome back” to its spin-off Parks & Recreation and excited anticipation for newbie Community.

That’s What She Said

The Office, Thursdays on NBC 9/8cConsistently hitting the mark whether it’s with absurd, endearing or cringe-worthy situations The Office is continuing to deliver the guffaw goods even as it hits its sixth year. Coming into the new season the show opens three weeks following the events of last year’s finale with Michael Scott re-invigorated by the return to his post as Regional Manager of Dunder Mifflin Scranton, after his brief stint as a small business owner, and consummate couple Pam & Jim dealing with the very unexpected news that they’re expecting.

Having a child is going to make a huge impact on big kid Jim and will be the most interesting storyline that will most likely develop this year, as this life change will propel him towards an attempt to move up the company ladder again. It will no doubt have an effect on Michael as well who will re-examine his own feelings of where his future lies within DM and life overall.

A Great Place to Master a B.S. Degree

If we must wait another month for 30 Rock at least there is a new, promising show that acts as placeholder until Liz Lemon and the TGS gang return. Upon viewing the upfront trailer months ago I fell for Community instantly and knew it would be a perfect addition to NBC’s Thursday night comedy line-up.

 

Ably led by deliciously devilish Joel McHale (host of The Soup – Friday nights at 10/9c on E!, full episodes on iTunes, clips available at hulu.com), the snarky tone of the show is what pulled me in, plus centering it around community college is rife with potentional hilarity. Hopefully they don’t place too much emphasis on the melting pot aspect (pompous white guy – check; middle-aged, divorced lady – check; young, jock guy – check; socially-awkward nerd – check) and stick to the ace-in-the-hole delivery and presence of McHale to lead the comedic charge.

Meanwhile…dramas have a strong presence on Thursday nights as well and tonight FOX brings back solid offerings with Bones and Fringe (will dedicate more musings on the latest, greatest sci-fi/mystery from JJ Abrams and the Bad Robot team). And for those who still get thrills from the outwit, outlast, outplay game on CBS, Survivor begins a new run with contestants battling it out on the island of Samoa.

SERIES NOT TO MISS

  • 9/8c – The Office, NBC
  • 9:30/8:30cCommunity, NBC (series premiere)
  • 9/8cFringe, FOX

VERDICT IS STILL OUT

  • 8:30/7:30c – Parks & Recreations, NBC
  • 8/7cBones, FOX

NOT AN ELECTION YEAR, CATCH HIGHLIGHTS ON HULU

  • 8/7c – SNL: Weekend Update Thursday, NBC

NOT ON THIS ONE’S DIGITAL RECORDER

  • 8/7cSurvivor: Samoa, CBS