Parks And Recreation Review: “Pawnee Commons” (Season 5, Episode 8)

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The bigger problem with “Pawnee Commons” though, is that it lets the mania infect just about everyone, but does so while also retreading a lot of old ground. Andy has his first shift working the City Hall beat as a security guard, and when it proves to be even less exciting than Paul Blart: Mall Cop, he calls in April to keep him company, and as an excuse to goof off. This leads to the return of one of the all-time great alternate personas in Parks and Recreation, Burt Macklin, F.B.I. Normally, Burt appearing would be cause for celebration (especially since he died after fatal exposure to Snake Juice in “The Fight”) but April and Andy’s role-playing didn’t click the way their escapades usually do most other weeks.

Admittedly, Chris Pratt and Aubrey Plaza improv-ing various cliché cop archetypes and film noir vamps makes for a better show than 90% of what’s out there, but setting Andy’s Burt against April’s Judy Hitler (the fuhrer’s only surviving daughter) felt like a rehash of the same shtick from “The Fight”, only broader, and more strained in its joke generation. Andy running into the Parks office and asking, “have you guys seen Hitler,” should be a riot, but feels more deliberate and forced than how usually smooth Pratt is at shouting out a barely in-context comment. As hokey as finding a lost kid in city hall might be, it ultimately saves the plotline by having April and Andy realize that Burt Macklin can’t come out to play whenever they’re bored, and that Andy will actually have to mature a little if he wants to become a cop. Their dramatic retirement of Macklin in the city courthouse, complete with a 21 gun salute, was the exact sort of scene I wished all the others had been; a delightfully silly distraction, but one more assured of its purpose than just being a time killer.

The third plotline is arguably the worst offender in its familiarity, as Tom roping all his non-occupied coworkers into helping him setup his Rent A Swag store was nearly identical to when he had to move houses back in season two, only now with Ron in tow, and Chris taking the place of Mark (remember Mark?). The biggest difference is in how Tom treats everyone: he still works harder at bossing people around than actually doing anything himself, and is as stingy on providing food as ever, but this time, it’s because he’s trying to be a smart business man. With the lessons from Entertainment 720’s collapse perhaps a bit too fresh in his mind, Tom has gone from a mogul to a miser, and it’s only when Ann reminds him that Tom’s swagger (in moderation) is his best asset, that he upgrades his store from frugal dump, to fly wardrobe hotspot.

Tom’s storyline was typical in structure, but got mileage out of showing how trying your best not to fall back into old habits can cause you to lose sight of what are your truest qualities in the first place. Andy hanging up his shades as Burt Macklin certainly doesn’t mark the end of his infectious immaturity, but he’s going to have to grow up someday, even if his much younger wife has to lead by the hand to do it. The eradication of Crazy Leslie entirely would be more of a loss for the show than the character, because Parks and Recreation exaggerating character traits for the sake of a cartoony laugh can be a beautiful thing. When it’s not though, it can make you worry about season ten, when Leslie’s first act as president is the converting of Eagleton into the world’s biggest dog park, and Ron does nothing but talk about woodworking while wrestling a bear. I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t watch that, but it wouldn’t be the Parks and Recreation I know and love.

  • Stray Thoughts

-Crazy Leslie had me trying to spin connections to Carrie Matheson from Homeland all episode. Maybe it was brought on by a sample of WVYS’s “Jazz Plus Jazz”, which sounds an awful lot like Homeland’s intro music, and was by far the biggest laugh I had all evening.

-Eagleton always seems to bring out the cartoony side in Leslie, no doubt because it so often seems like the Shelbyville to Pawnee’s Springfield. Lil’ Sebastian would be the equivalent of the Lemon Tree.

-I love you Amy Poehler, but a mock ad for Canada Dry Ginger Ale is still an ad for Canada Dry Ginger Ale, and it felt horribly out of place.

-“Oh Hitler, you sexy bastard, no!”

-If you go to Eagleton, don’t try the Pawnee caviar.

-We will have to see the “Many Surrenders of Pawnee” mural at some point, it’d be a crime not to.

-Ben and Leslie’s wedding is scheduled for May. Save the (sweeps) date.

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