I can’t think of another show with actors as skilled at playing stupid as some of the ones on Parks and Recreation. Be it the insane, witless ramblings of the Pawnee general public or Andy’s never-ending parade of catastrophic accidents, it really makes you wonder if Leslie and co. should look into the content of Pawnee’s water supply. Tonight, we meet perhaps the most delightfully dumb specimen to ever cross paths with the Parks department: city council candidate and heir to the Sweetums candy fortune Bobby Newport, played by the wonderful Paul Rudd.
For all of the hubbub around Leslie’s candidacy for City Council over the past several episode, there hasn’t been much thought put into exactly who she would be running against. In fact, I’m not even certain it was ever mentioned. Regardless, with “Campaign Ad,” Leslie’s opponent finally materializes and he’s good looking, universally loved and rich rich rich.
As if Leslie being down 70 points in the polls weren’t enough, Bobby Newport has a seemingly endless well of money to draw from, and has plastered his face all across town. To counter, Leslie’s newly minted campaign manager Ben proposes that the group air a campaign ad aimed at shining a light on Newport’s status as a do-nothing rich boy who has never accomplished anything in his life. An attack ad, essentially--and a warranted one at that.
As charming and good looking as he is, Bobby is basically only running for city council to appease his father, that and because he thought he would be running unopposed. If he were to get elected, finding the bathroom by himself would probably be too much for City Councilman Newport.
This proves to be a real challenge for Leslie, who refuses to allow her campaign to go negative. This causes a rift in her camp with her wishing to highlight her own strengths in the ad, and everyone else wanting to crush Newport in one swift stroke. This being a sitcom, the solution, of course, is a contest where Ben and his team make the negative ad, where Leslie and the rest go positive.
The hive mind of Ben, Jerry and Tom getting down to the science of a negative campaign ad was one of the funniest, and strangest, gags that Parks has done in a while, mostly amounting to the three of them grumbling “Bobby Newport” in slightly varying movie trailer voiceover tones. By the end of it they’re mostly just grunting at one another.
When the time comes to choose an ad, Ben’s, while over the top, is clearly more effective than Leslie's. It makes the case for Leslie while crushing poor old Bobby Newport in a way that doesn't seem petty. Leslie’s ad, though, was a non-start, mostly amounting to Leslie standing beside a remarkably long list of nice things that she supports. Though the group ultimately decides on Ben’s ad, Leslie jumps in at the last minute to disapprove of Ben’s message, taking him down with a tackle in the lobby of the TV studio.
If there’s one thing that Leslie is going to have to face with this coming election, it’s her own idealism. Even though Leslie likes to think that she is incapable of mistreating people, we have all seen her mean streak at the library, talking to Jerry or visiting Eagleton. But because she’s idealized the political process her whole life, it renders her campaign potentially toothless. This is what Ben is trying to break to her when he tells her that she needs to get tough.
And get tough she does.
While the ad that Leslie and Ben put together isn’t as cartoonishly foreboding as Ben’s original, it does a fine job of making Bobby Newport looking like a dribbling idiot while highlighting Leslie’s strongest traits. It’s so effective that Bobby Newport himself asks the pair of them to stop airing it because, gosh, it’s so mean. Then he begs her to give up the election because, gosh, campaigning is hard. He even offers to let Leslie do all of the work for him if she just lets him win. Sweet deal as it is, Leslie advises Bobby to get his act together or she's going to wipe the floor with him.
The upcoming debate should be fun.
With Rudd’s Bobby Newport (Have a Bobby Bar, my dad made them!) hamming it up for much of the episode, our home team idiot Andy Dwyer had to kick things into over drive to compete. It seems that playing the village idiot has finally taken its toll on poor old Andy. When Andy bashes his head against the wall hanging his gold record, giving himself a small concussion, April takes him to Ann for medical advice, who then reminds the pair of them that, as city employees, they both have rather generous health insurance plans.
Excited by their newly discovered free medicine cards, Andy and April jump around to every doctor in Pawnee to fix Andy’s laundry list of ailments. He’s blind as a bat, has a broken thumb, his ankles sound like a rattlesnake and it wouldn’t surprise me if every tooth in his head was rotten. April isn’t in great shape either, it turns out, as she likely hasn’t been to a doctor since the last time her parents dragged her to one.
Too bad neither one of them knows how insurance works, and when they’re slapped with a $500 deductible fee, the couple makes a break for it—that is until Andy slams right into a parked ambulance.
Andy probably needs better insurance.
Andy's doctor might be my favorite Pawnee tertiary character we’ve seen in a long time.
I didn’t even bother to mention Ron and Chris’s action tonight. Chris takes Ron on as his surrogate Ben Wyatt, much to Ron’s dismay. It turns out Chris is considering Ron for the Assistant City Manager position—which, frankly, would be pretty great, they made a pretty great team when cancelling a public works project. But with Ron out of the Parks Department, and if Leslie gets elected to office… who’s going to run the Parks Department….. Tom?
It also looks like Ron’s remote controlled closing doors are on the fritz.
When Bobby Newport was petulantly complaining about the difficulty of running for office, flashes of Paul Rudd picking up the tray that he drops in Wet Hot American Summer came running through my head, and I was suddenly extremely hopeful that he will play a bigger part in the rest of the season.