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Recap: Parks and Recreation: ‘Media Blitz’

February 18, 2011
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I don’t think I’m alone in wondering where Adam Scott’s Ben Wyatt fits into Parks and Recreation. Scott’s a fine straight man (Party Down) and a good sleaze-ball (Piranha 3-D), but as Wyatt he didn’t seem to have much to work with other than being a possible romantic foible for Leslie. And even then there didn’t appear to be much potential for their relationship, since, as Anne Perkins constantly brings up regarding her relationship with Chris, he’s heading back to Indianapolis soon. (Though given Scott and Lowe’s inclusion in the main cast, that may not be too soon.)

So it was nice to see the show focus on Ben and explore some of the clean-cut accountant’s weaknesses. In particular Ben’s reluctance to address his disastrous tenure as the former teenage governor of a small Minnesota town, which he bankrupted after sinking all its money into the failed skating rink “Ice Town.”

The show’s brought up Ben’s shadowy past before but never made much use of it until now, when, during the Parks’ media blitz for the upcoming harvest festival, it’s dredged up by Pawnee’s horrendously obnoxious (and completely spot-on) morning show “Crazy Ira and The Douche.” (And I’d really like to know who discovered that you can get away with “douche” on network television, because every show in existence has reveled in it. My guess is that it was Family Guy.) Ben’s put on the spot and chokes with all the epic badness of a high school drama student who forgets all her lines opening night…and then soils herself from every orifice (“Uh, the thing is, what I mean to say…” Cue Pac-Man death sound).

This immediately puts Leslie on to damage control, and she contains the situation by handling the tough interviews herself and leaving the softballs to Ben and Tom—but Ben chokes even worse and ends up, almost unprovoked, threatening the kindly Al-Roker-esque Perd Hapley (“More like Turd Crapley!” “He talked about feeling up Cindy Eggert for the first time for, like, five minutes”).

Back at the office, April agrees to take up Chris’s offer to be his personal assistant in Indianapolis, which leads to further drama for Ann Perkins, who’s still not sure where her relationship with Chris is going, and Andy, who’s in much the same boat regarding April. Andy, in a rare display of initiative, tries to get April to stay by agreeing to do her least favorite jobs for a month (which include manning the permits department [“I don’t got time for a permit; my bird’s got wings! It can fly!”]). While Ann Perkins drops hint after obvious hint that she’s willing to move to Indianapolis to be with Chris.

Andy fairs a bit better, thanks to Ron, who teams up with Andy because he also doesn’t want to see April go either, since he figures he’ll never find a worse assistant. Some of it works (capturing the spirit of melancholy for April’s photography class: “Boom: sad desk. Boom: sad floor. It’s art: Anything can be anything”), some of it kind of does (writing a thank-you note to April’s Gizmo), and some of it really does (picking up April’s sister from dance class; April’s sister being so apathetic that she’s downright evil…and has Andy arrested).

Ann Perkins’ story on the other hand lags some. The Ann Perkins/Chris tension hasn’t had much going for it; neither character has quite reached their potential yet, and Chris’s uber-health-consciousness isn’t enough to keep the C plot funny. Likewise, while the episode ends on a happy note for the rest of the group save Ann Perkins, it doesn’t look like their story arc will be resolved anytime soon.

In all, there’s plenty of great moments, but they’re scattered between some lulls. Granted last week’s brilliant “Ron and Tammy II,” an episode that was so good it left me speechless, is tough to follow. For nothing else, it’s a step in the right direction for revealing the deep insecurities of Ben and giving his character some needed definition. Keep it up, Parks, up.

“I bought a new ribbon off of e-electronic-bay-dot-com”
“Rectangle. America. Megaphone. Monday. Butthole” God, I love Ron.
“You embarrassed me in front of The Douche!”
“Sweetums might cancel the Fat-Coaster”
Ben Wyatt: Human Disaster
Why does everyone in Pawnee use Alta Vista?

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