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.