“Parks and Recreation” is back and we could not be happier, especially when the new season kicks off with such a fantastic episode. How is it that a series that can be so ridiculously funny and silly also have me tearing up by the closing credits? It still amazes me that the show manages to sustain such a perfect combination of comedy and real emotion without ever crossing the line into sappy or overwrought. The writers balance the two facets of the show exceptionally and “London Part I & II” are great examples of their skill. Starting out with the greatest wedding ever televised, real or fictional. Ron Swanson married Xena! Obviously a match made in TV heaven. Ron and Diane’s slightly unemotional, hassle-free, quickie wedding ceremony gets the appropriate Leslie Knope treatment. She manically follows the two to the fourth floor acting charmingly insane; really, Poehler hits it out of the park. Handing Diane a colorful bouquet of highlighters, searching frantically for rice (“Why is there no rice in this municipal government building?!”), and delivering what would have been a deeply touching speech had it not been sweetly interrupted by Ron, the scene was genius. Also, the glimpses of Leslie’s face, behind Ron and Diane as the justice conducts the necessary rites, along with her excited commentary were absolutely hilarious. It was a perfect scene and a perfect way to start the episode, especially since much of the hour dealt with Leslie’s frustration with her job and we are introduced to the main conflict right after the credits. The episode needed that immediate moment of frivolous, light comedy before we got hit with the major problem.
So, in an attempt to shift public opinion on Leslie, April nominated her for a fancy award and Leslie actually gets chosen to be honored. Yay! Plus the big award luncheon/dinner/ceremony… whatever is in London. Now, the reason for this storyline’s existence (the trip to London not Pawnee hating Leslie) is Chris Pratt’s commitment to the filming of “Guardians of the Galaxy”, which coincides with the production schedule for Parks and Rec. In order to have Pratt appear in the premiere they took the production to London where he was already working on the movie. It is a pretty big leap to go from Pawnee to London, and the whole situation is extremely contrived and highly orchestrated, but it totally works. Yes, the narrative is quite extreme, but the writing that supports it is relatively flawless and the story felt completely believable and natural. We never doubt that April would nominate Leslie for an award, and there is no question that Leslie would ever win something like this because we have been shown throughout the series how hard Leslie works and how dedicated she is. So, while the whole situation was a contrived maneuver created to ultimately explain why Andy would be missing for a significant period of time, the writers dealt with it masterfully and took the opportunity to put the characters in new and plausible scenarios.
Andy will now manage a new non-profit with his new British buddy (How great was that meeting between the three?), Leslie finally lashes out at the people of Pawnee in her acceptance speech, Ron gets to scoff at everything European (“History began on July 4th 1776, everything before that was a mistake.”) and then reluctantly have the best time ever, courtesy of Leslie. Of course, not everyone got to go to London Tom stays behind and finds out who is ripping off Rent-A-Swag and Ann and Chris make Ann’s pregnancy pubic. Tom’s subplot was amusing enough, particularly because of the wackiness of the Saperstein siblings (some viewers find them too over the top and grating but I enjoy their deluded insanity) and the introduction to their father (hello Henry Winkler). Chris and Ann continue to be the show’s weakest spot, though their moments were sweet enough, but when there is a Swanson wedding and a perfectly touching scene between April and Leslie (tear), their scenes just pale in comparison. I’m actually looking forward to their limited presence on the show, which will hopefully allow for others to get more screen time, more Donna please.
What a fantastic start to one of the best comedies on television. If this is any indicator of what is to come in season six, then we are in for an amazing year.
- Of course Ron Swanson has ‘supersperm’…
- “The reception will be held in each of our individual houses, alone.”
- “Janet Napoli-freaking-tano!”
- I will never get tired of Jean Ralphio’s sing-song speak, never not funny.
- Thank you very much for this amazing award, I’m sorry I said pee-pee heads.”
- Leslie’s gift to Ron was beautiful (stunning cinematography), great callback to Ron’s birthday present in season three. Leslie gives the best gifts ever.
- “… for Leslie, her true purpose on earth, her true meaning is making people’s lives better. That’s what I love about her and that’s why she deserves this award. Sincerely, Satan.” Can it get better than this? April’s letter along with the cutaways to Ron’s Scottish expedition gives the episode great emotional resonance and is really effective. It just sums up how good a friend Leslie is and what a great presence she is in people’s lives. Also, Satan. Perfect.