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Friday, October 28, 2011

Parks & Recreation: "Meet 'N' Greet"

Halloween episodes seem to lean towards character development as opposed to plot development, largely for the simple reason that more than any other time of year the characters are making ostentatious choices of self-representation. In TV as in real life, what you dress up as, or your choice not to dress up, says a lot about who you are.

The urge to fight back against that instinct might have lead Michael Schur and the staff at Parks & Rec to use the Halloween episode for at least one major development: the (not at all premature but still a little disheartening) death of Entertainment 7wenty. Apparently, telling potential customers that you have no bookings available is not the best way to drive up interest in your enterprise.

It’s a little unfortunate that they used the dissolution of everyone’s favorite source for free iPads as a method of turning Tom into a staggeringly obnoxious douche. (It’s also a lot unfortunate his offscreen presence last night harbors ill for future appearances of Jean-Ralphio.) Tom’s douchiness didn’t provide many laughs and seemed designed just to highlight once again what a good person Leslie Knope is. I guess we needed that since she didn’t get to dress up in a costume this year.

The rest of the episode took place at April and Andy’s house party which, like a spring-loaded skeleton, came as quite a surprise to their roommate Ben. Andy, intuitive if not exactly considerate, can tell that Ben is upset but perplexed that he won’t admit it. The show took Ben’s suppression a little too far, but it was worth it for the pay off of Andy, in costume as UFC fighter Chuck Liddell, dragging Ben around the party in a headlock.

A lot of television critics have praised Parks and Recreation by comparing Pawnee and its denizens to the way The Simpsons have populated Springfield, but the comparison becomes unflattering when the real people turn too cartoonish. Such has always been the danger with man’s man Ron Swanson, but here the concern is for Chris Traeger, whose actions made little sense and, outside of his hilarious explanation for dressing up as Sherlock Holmes (he wanted the perfect brain to go along with his perfect physique) provided less amusement than needed to carry this superfluous plotline.

Oh, an Ann was an eggplant, or a beanbag, and she has small enough hands to do some tricky plumbing work. Whatever.

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