I’ll admit to you guys and gals out there that this review had me stumped. At about the second commercial break in “The Comeback Kid” I started thinking about what I’d actually write about in this review, and my mind drew a total blank. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zip. And so forth.
I think the reason for my sad, unexpected loss of brain function is simply that Parks and Rec is a very well-oiled machine. It’s a show with a strong cast, an equally strong writing staff, and even on its weakest days Parks and Rec can cram plenty of quality gags, warm character moments, and interesting, engaging stories into a 22-minute piece of television.
And on that note, let’s begin.
“The Comeback Kid” is a reasonably simple story. Leslie, having re-kindled her campaign with the help of the Parks Dept, attempts to stage a press conference to announce said campaign re-kindling. Ben, in attempting to pursue his own interests after leaving the Parks Dept, slips into a weird, calzone-laden depression that Chris attempts to bring him out of. The whole thing is set up to make Ben into Leslie’s new campaign manager, so to make that development feel earned we just need to see how awe-inspiringly terrible things are when these two aren’t working together.
And boy is that fun to watch. I’ll admit, I thought the first half of this episode was a little slow, but in hindsight that was probably just because the first half is mostly set-up. Ann struggling with Pistol Pete, Ron and the gang losing the bulk of their supplies, the three-legged dog, Tom’s red carpet- it feels like the whole episode is just an excuse to build to that spectacularly awful press conference at the end.
You could do just about anything with this idea- all that’s really required is that Leslie and Ben both have a horrible time without each other’s presence, and they decide to start working together once again. It would have been really easy to just pile on a bunch of crazy crap and have that be the episode, but the writers here do so much more. Leslie saves the day when Ron breaks nearly every law on record in the truck. Ann perseveres and actually gets Pistol Pete to show up. It all builds in a way that it seems like Leslie will overcome all these obstacles and have a knockout press conference. So when the disasters start coming (and don’t ever, ever stop), it feels so much more ridiculous then if the whole episode was just everybody screwing up the whole time.
I’ll make one more point here. Because the whole episode is building to something we all know is coming (Ben as the campaign manager), there’s an air of predictability about everything that happens here, but I didn’t really see that as detracting from the episode. Anybody could see that ending coming a mile away, but it’s the right place for these characters to be going and it was fun as hell getting to that place, so I don’t begrudge the predictable-ness in “The Comeback Kid” at all.
And being predictable can be a good thing, too. Just look at that press conference scene one more time. That “Get on Your Feet” bit of music keeps repeating, over and over again. You know it’s gonna pop up again. And again. And somehow, the anticipation that it’s coming makes it funnier every single time.
So kudos, Parks and Recreation. Even an episode that’s not your best is lightyears ahead of nearly everything else out there.
Thanks for reading!