Parks and Recreation: Operation Ann

Do I really even need to write this review?

Seriously, folks. Parks and Recreation is fantastic. And it’s fantastic at being fantastic- the last two seasons have, some hyperbole aside, been a near-perfect string of home runs that don’t show any signs of slowing down.

So I don’t really need to write this. I could just post a picture of me, cradling a TV that happens to be playing this weeks episode of Parks & Rec. There’d be a look of absolute joy on my face.

Or I could post a picture of me, holding some large and frightening firearm, as a warning.

A dire warning.

On second thought, I think I’ll just write the review.

So here’s a fun and exciting little anecdote- last week, on my review of Bowling for Votes, a very astute commenter noticed that Ann Perkins hadn’t had a real plot in a very long time. Now, I can’t remember who actually posted this comment, so allow me to quickly hurry over to that page, copy that person’s name, and then hurry back here.

Well, Eric of The Warning Sign, you were absolutely right. Ann hasn’t done anything in quite a while. Conveniently, the writers and producers of Parks & Rec are apparently reading my blog comments (or else it was just some kind of coincidence, I don’t know) and tonight’s episode was very much an Ann-centric piece of television. Just check the title if you don’t believe me.

And now on to the episode.

So rather than the standard three-story structure that Parks & Rec normally takes, Operation Ann has essentially two big stories that branch out into a number of smaller ones.

On the one hand, we’ve got the Valentine’s Day dance, where Leslie attempts to set Ann up with a number of sad and unpleasant suitors (guy who’d rather be dating his sister, guy who opens with his juggling abilities, Jerry’s Craigslist gigolo, and so on). On top of that, you can add Ann and Chris both feel single and awful together and Tom and April both trying their best to make Ann feel better.

Then, story number two takes us all across Pawnee as Ben does his best to unravel Leslie’s intricate and completely insane Valentine’s Day scavenger hunt (complete with a brief, apathetic cameo from Martin Starr), eventually sending Ron and Andy off on their own little adventures as each man tracks down as many clues as he can.

It’s refreshing to see Parks & Rec go for some alternate story structures, but it’s also pretty enjoyable just watching each of those big stories come together in the end, as everyone jumping on the “let’s find Ann a man” bandwagon leads us to a sweet (and totally unexpected) date with Tom and Ann. While that was a great little twist that no one could have predicted, Chris does get thrown to the wayside- we’re set up to assume Chris and Ann are going to get back together, but when they don’t, why do Chris’s music choices get so much happier by the end? It’s a small misstep, but a misstep nonetheless.

And then we have the Ben storyline, which is far less ambitious but ends with the night’s sweetest moment. While Ann’s story has a more definite purpose- pushing Ann to a point where she’s comfortable looking for a new relationship- Ben’s scavenger hunt simply exists to serve up a lot of wacky clues in recognizable Pawnee locales and end with an “awwwww” when Ben and Leslie reunite at the Little Sebastian memorial.

And it works fantastically. We get a chance to revisit the gruesome, slaughter-filled murals of Pawnee history, the gay bar where Leslie became a local hero after marrying two gay penguins, JJ’s Diner and plenty of other Pawnee landmarks, and by the end of it all there’s a warm nostalgic feeling from seeing these places once again.

Parks & Rec is a show that thrives on a sense of community. It wouldn’t be nearly as endearing or special if Pawnee didn’t feel like a real place with real strengths, real flaws, and real psychotic idiots making up the majority of the population. So a little retrospective piece like this not only reminds us in the audience of how many great memories we have of Pawnee, but also associates all those memories with Ben and Leslie and how their relationship has grown. It’s the moments like this that elevate Parks & Rec above 99% of all the comedies on TV right now.

So before I go, let me just point out my two favorite smaller moments in Operation Ann.

1. Ron’s giddy delight in doing scavenger hunts.

2. That when Tom actually manages to get a date with Ann, he blows it almost immediately.

And with that, I’ll say goodbye to you all. I’ll see you in Pawnee next week.

33 responses to “Parks and Recreation: Operation Ann

  1. I have never watched this show – that’s what comes of living with not only a teenage daughter (who’s not allowed to watch a lot of stuff) but also elderly parents who A) own the TV and B) think the news is quality entertainment.
    I think I am missing out!

    • It definitely seems like you’re missing out, but there’s more than one way to skin a cat. You can also substitute a less-gross metaphor there if you’re a cat person. Anyway, there are a ton of free websites (Hulu being the best example) that allow you to watch TV without the actual use of a TV.

      The news certainly is quality entertainment. But there’s so much more.

  2. i’ve got to say, i don’t watch much television. i, in fact, do not own a TV and view everything online. But your writing brings about the same joy as me first viewing “house”, which was the last time i owned a TV. your capability to articulate the attitude of the shows, invigorates my love for sitting down and enjoying a new story.

  3. Hi Adam! Wanted to say hello and dropping by to admire your passion in film. Thanks for following, maybe someday we could write something merging yoga, food and film together, who knows hey

  4. Fantastic episode. I didn’t like it as much as the previous one, but it still made me laugh out hard. I especially liked the ending with Ann and Tom and Ron’s likeness of scavenger hunts. Good review.

  5. This is my absolute favorite show of all time. Lesley Knope is my doppelganger! – she is just slightly less worldly and more polite.

  6. Hi Adam, I don’t watch barely any TV but your blog makes me feel like I’m really missing out :) I really enjoy reading your reviews though, btw, what do you think about the show ‘Once Upon a Time’? My friend was telling me about it and she was raving about it.

  7. Yes! I love love love Parks and Rec, and so glad you do, too! It is becoming my favorite show ever. It’s clever, hilarious, and makes me smile wide every time I watch it.

  8. Parks and Rec is one of the best shows in a very, very long time. It is pretty much perfection, in 22 minutes.
    Great review too :)

    • Thanks for the compliment! And I can’t really think of any other comedy in recent years that’s been as consistently smart, well-written, and hysterically funny as Parks and Rec is. It’s amazing, really.

  9. Haha, well I don’t know if I could have timed that comment any better! It was great to see an episode about Ann, and Ron’s love of scavenger hunts was just brilliant. Really fun episode.

  10. dude! i love that show! you are very underestimated it seems like… and dont get enough credit…. and you like me posts?? woah! what an awesome person you are

    • I think that the quality of my site would REALLY improve if all of the comments focused on what an awesome person I am.

      Thank you for getting the ball rolling.

      But seriously, thanks for commenting.

  11. I’ve been saying since the new season of Parks and Rec began that it’s undoubtedly become the funniest show on TV. I’ve been a loyal fan of the Thursday night lineup for years. I still watch The Office and 30 Rock. But Parks and Rec has grown into something I never expected. It’s funny while retaining so much heart. And though it’s ridiculous sometimes, it’s got that sense of family, and not the sense that its turned into some strange Cartoon Network cartoon (*cough, 30 Rock, cough*).

    Anyway, point is- great recap. Just reading it made me smile again. ;)

    • I’ve stopped watching 30 Rock and The Office for the exact reason you mention, but Parks and Rec is pretty much the exact opposite- rather than starting strong and fading, it started out OK and then blossomed into the smartest comedy on TV. What really does it for me is that sense of community pride I feel for Pawnee just from watching, even though I’ve never been there and it’s not even a real town.

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