What’s up Parks and Recreation fans! I’m your friendly neighborhood TV critic/intern Chris Peck, and I will be reviewing the best comedy on TV right now (in my humble opinion) weekly for your enjoyment. Since this show is in its 4th season, for the sake of time, I will jump right in for the loyal followers. Any who haven’t watched the show, do it! Or we cannot be friends. Evidently, my friendships are conditional.
Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman), the cutthroat libertarian with a heart of gold, is steadily creeping up the ranks to become my favorite comedic character of all time. He’s written to perfection. Anything he does makes me audibly chuckle at the screen and point admirably, “That’s so Ron Swanson.” This may seem obvious, but too often we see extraordinarily funny characters mold themselves into caricatures of themselves. Dwight, Jim and even Michael Scott from NBC Thursday night teammate, “The Office,” comes to mind. Therefore, to see Ron’s idiosyncrasies nailed through every scenario they thrust upon him must mean he’s also a writer’s favorite too.
Not only is it important you have a barometer for what my level of enjoyment for “Parks” is, but Ron persuaded me to grant “Trial” an A from the moment his computer was thrown in the dumpster. April’s deadpan delivery about the dangers of cookies, his bewilderment about how the computer could know his name, and his ultimate fear that anyone could see his house on Google Earth, all killed for me. Probably the most understated aspect of this cold open is Ron’s misguided understanding that it is this particular computer that has violated his privacy and so he must dispose of it immediately. Swanson, I love thee.
Now on to the equally delicious meat and potatoes. The message boards have been blowing up with weariness over the Leslie/Ben plot this season. Whether it was the typical nature of the will they/won’t they plot, the seemingly convoluted lengths the writers went to keep them apart, or how most promising sub-plots and additions to the Pawnee universe (Entertainment 720 among them) have been squandered in favor of the warmest and fuzziest couple of all time. Those concerns have been heard, and considered, but I believe this episode has squelched all those worries decisively. You would have to be dead inside to not adore Ben (Adam Scott) or Leslie (Amy Poehler) by the trial’s end, and dare I neglect to mention ETHEL FREAKING BEAVERS, the cutest old lady stenographer this side of TV land.
If there is any criticism to be had, (and the obnoxious cynic in me tried his damnedest and couldn’t find a thing), it might be that this episode was TOO darn sweet. Between Chris’ (Rob Lowe) supplementally aided attempts to avoid spiraling into depression (to fire Leslie would “have hurt him to the core,” and he focuses primarily on his core in his workouts), Ron’s “4th quarter” speech about what makes a person good, and the whole gang chipping in to help Leslie through what may have been her darkest hour, I was incredibly moved by this most genuine of communities. And lest I forget Ben’s epic declaration of love and sacrifice that compelled me to kneel and propose! The execution of seeing the secret meeting play out in one instance, and in the next the elderly court reporter reading the record aloud in a semi-engaged monotone was clutch material.
Every element, every character detail, all came together in what felt like one of the most significant, passionate smooches I’ve seen in a comedy. Of course the cliffhanger kiss is a trope that’s existed since man fiddled with the antennas atop the set, but this felt earned. Though more of our supporting cast is always appreciated, the collection of minor contributions worked for me. Andy read archaic legislation with no pictures, April tried to deflect the accusations on ETHEL BEAVERS (totally worthy of the caps lock), Ron gladly volunteered to “silence” any and all witnesses (though he was unwilling to divulge his home address in order to shore up Leslie’s alibi) and Tom willingly testified to kissing Leslie on the impulse of a joke, though he equated he act to kissing his sister’s elderly aunt—clearly all contributed in their own special way.
Chris sobbing violently in Ben’s lap, touched by Ben’s selflessness in taking the brunt of the blame for covering up the relationship, was an utterly hilarious visual gag. Kidding aside, my immediate feelings were a variation of the same. An almost primal reaction, impossible to suppress. I was all smiles for hours after viewing, and I still am beaming as I plug away at these keys, delighted that I got to spend this time in Pawnee. Clearly the podunk town is flawed (comically so) and it houses an assortment of basket cases, but at it’s center, sitting in support of their fallen leader in the council chambers, we found the best that people can offer us: family, love and belonging.
What does Leslie’s two-week suspension mean for her political career? Even she isn’t worried about that, despite her newly official boyfriend’s concern. Ben doesn’t seem all too preoccupied with his unemployment status either. And that’s okay. Because they have each other, and we have them. No more games, just Leslie, Ben, Ron (my ironic hero), Chris and Pawnee, Indiana. “Parks and Rec” is truly bold TV for going all in and delivering the relationship payoff only nine episodes in, and has only opened up the potential for more shakeups and hilarity. For bringing the funny and adorable like gentlest of ass-whoopings, I hereby sentence the accused episode with an A.
L.O.L.Ls (Laugh Out Loud Lines):
“You kidding? Bribing a public official to cover up a sex-capade? I like you even more!”
“Anne, text me every thirty seconds to tell me everything is gonna be okay…THANKS ANNE!”
“…You end up a frozen whore! I’m fighting.”
“Any women caught laughing is a witch.” “It’s true.”
“We got the gramps! I mean grants! Damn, it was going to be such a great moment.”
(sniffs audibly) “She’s here. Tammy 2. I can smell the sulfur from her cloven hooves.”
In response to learning Jerry’s real name is Garry. “God, they’re both horrible…I can’t get over this Jerry/Garry thing!”
Ben, while consoling Chris, “Let it out, I guess?”
Not a line, but another cute couple moment: Ben giving Leslie a Lil’ Sebastian horsey doll (CALLBACK!) and telling her he would be right behind that wall…where a portrait of a hideous monster-looking lawyer is hung. Leslie later informs us he is Marcus Everett “Stoneface” Langley. His nickname came from his steely demeanor in the courtroom. Also because when he got trapped in a rock quarry and his face was blown off by dynamite. Only LesBen, only LesBen. LesBen is officially trademarked by Christopher Peck and Blast Magazine…or I’m saying it is before the dwellers of the interwebs steal it!