There is a sweet spot in the world of sitcoms when writers find a formula that works for their characters, and then they take that formula and bend it everywhichway hoping for the most hilarious of all possible outcomes. For Parks and Recreation, it’s the same equation as the Bad News Bears. Somewhere near the end of season one, the writers realized that Leslie Knope is not a Michael Scott. I mean, there are Michael Scottesque elements of ridiculousness about her, but where Michael Scott repelled his co-workers, Leslie Knope effortlessly pulls her co-workers into her orbit. She is the sun and her gravitational pull is unbreakable.
So the best episodes of Parks feature April and Andy and Tom and Ron and Donna whirling around her, collectively trying to accomplish the goal she’s set for them, and failing spectacularly. Like the Bad News Bears, they always succeed in the end, but the process of watching them trip over each other trying to get the win is comedy gold.
“The Comeback Kid” is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. After Leslie lost her campaign managers, the entire Parks Department decided to band together to help her run for City Council. Their first task is a pretty easy one: They need to announce that Leslie is still running, even though she’s only polling at one percent. They need a gym, a stage, and an audience. Easy enough, right? Nu uh. Everyone fails at their designated task: Ron can’t build the stage because he can’t haul the lumber to the gym because he doesn’t have a commercial driver’s license; Andy can’t work out a simple spatial task, so Leslie’s campaign banner is really just a photo of her eyeball with the letters “LES”; Tom can’t procure enough red carpet to reach the stage, which is an epic disaster since April forgot to mention that the basketball court they rented has been turned into a hockey rink for the winter. Throw in a three-legged dog and a seven-second clip of Gloria Estefan‘s “Get On Your Feet,” and I’ve never laughed so hard in my entire life.
Leslie Knope is the feminist most of us want to be. She takes the concepts of third wave feminism out of the ether and actually attempts to live them. She’s determined to have a successful relationship with Ben, determined to have a successful government career, and determined to win her first election. And despite every obstacle that comes her way — and God willing, there will be many, many more, and they will be ludicrous — she refuses to give up. There’s not a female-friendlier comedy on TV today.
Also, we got two glimpses at Leslie’s former campaign manager this week. Remember her reveal that she’s a homo? I’d like to see that go somewhere.
FEELINGS, FEELINGS, FEELINGS
I recently pulled some muscles in my back, and my number one feeling last night was those muscles re-injuring themselves because I was laughing so hard. I mean, it seriously felt like someone was stabbing me in the back with an axe, but I could not stop laughing. And it was so worth it.
The introduction of the three-legged dog named Champion has got to be one of the best things to ever happen to this show. Of course, April and Andy would adopt a three-legged dog and carry it all over town like it was their child. And of course April would start projecting all of her own feelings onto him. “Don’t make out; it’s making Champion sad.” “Shut up, Ann! I told you never to talk to me!” And this:
POEHLER PUPPET PALS
Amy Poehler had a lot of brilliant moments last night, but all of them — even the breakdancing — were eclipsed by this glorious bit of physical comedy:
The B-story with Ben and Chris was really solid, but I’ve run out of time to talk about it. I would like to point out, though, that Leslie’s “Get On Your Feet” rally was a perfect match to Ben’s “Stand” claymation soundtrack. It was a nice little piece of juxtaposition.
What did you think about “The Comeback Kid”?