Parks and Recreation: Campaign Ad

We’re fairly deep into Season Four territory by this point, but a thought crossed my mind that hadn’t ever crossed my mind before- What if Leslie actually wins the election?

On the one hand, it’d be a joyful, cathartic moment to cap off the season. Both the writers and the actors on Parks and Rec are so good at slyly building to an intense emotional moment amongst all the laughs that, frankly, win or lose, the finale this season is sure to be a biggie.

But what if Leslie wins it? Are we going to start having to divide her time between the Parks Dept and the City Council? Will they all at least be in the same building? Will she get new staff, or will everybody in the Parks Dept start pulling double shifts for continuity’s sake?

I honestly have no idea.

But really, no matter what happens in the end I’m not worried. Parks and Rec has proven time and again that it’s one of the smartest shows on TV and I don’t see any reason not to trust it at this point. So with that out of the way, let’s dive into “Campaign Ad.”

We’ve got three basic plot threads here. First, Leslie and Ben argue over how to run her campaign now that the staggeringly wealthy and charming man-boy Bobby Newport (the always-likable Paul Rudd) has entered the race and has immediately become the frontrunner. Second, Chris attempts to start spending more quality time with Ron, much to Ron’s displeasure. And finally, April and Andy, having suddenly become aware of the concept of insurance, visit every kind of doctor society has to offer.

What’s so impressive about “Campaign Ad” is that each of these stories employs a specific and unique style of humor (with Leslie and Ben we get a constant barrage of little jokes hidden in the campaign ads, with Chris and Ron we get two very strong characters bouncing off of each other, and with April and Andy we get lighthearted slapstick) and each one hits an equally unique emotional point at the end (Leslie and Ben coming to a compromise, Ron realizing that Chris’s attention wasn’t about friendship but instead a possible promotion, and April and Andy sweetly tending to each other’s wounds outside the hospital). It’s a testament to this show’s strength that it can weave in and out of so many different styles and ideas and still leave us with a cohesive and brain-explodingly funny piece of television.

But the focus of the episode is Leslie and Ben, so allow me to dive in just a little bit more. “Campaign Ad” introduces a new face to the world of Pawnee- Bobby Newport, Leslie’s political rival, heir to the Sweetums candy fortune and a man spoiled to the point where he’s barely a functioning human being. Bobby’s addition to the show is a wonderful thing- first of all, he’s a funny character and Paul Rudd instantly fits in with the regular cast here (I can’t wait to see Bobby’s unflinchingly positive stupidity meet Chris’s unflinchingly positive intelligence). But, more importantly, Bobby allows the city council election storyline to grow in a number of new ways.

Before “Campaign Ad,” Leslie was running against a sea of nameless, faceless potential candidates, but by creating one major candidate and making it him vs. Leslie, the conflict becomes infinitely more personal. Leslie’s not just running for City Council anymore. She’s running against¬†someone she doesn’t like. Someone she wants to defeat.

And not only is that more personal, but it’s also a big step for her character. Just look at the changes we get in this episode alone- first she’s a positive-only candidate, but in learning how poorly the too-positive stuff is received, she finally compromises with Ben and finds a more negative route that she’s ok with. Plus, if that wasn’t enough, after meeting with Newport, Leslie’s at the point where she’s ready to start actually fighting for this campaign.

And did you notice, that by the end of the episode, you really, really, really wanted to see Leslie kick Bobby’s ass? I mean that politically, of course, but still- that feeling’s there because the conflict between the two of them keeps getting more and more personal.If the fourth season continues on in this vein, we’re gonna get one hum-dinger of a finale.

Oh and one final note: Ron suddenly being in the restaurant without realizing how he got there was screamingly funny in the most perfect way imaginable. Thank you, Parks and Rec. Thank you so much.


14 responses to “Parks and Recreation: Campaign Ad

  1. Parks and Recreation just seems to get funnier and funnier. I heard Louis C. K. will return later this season as police officer Dave, Leslie’s former boyfriend.

    • “Poetic musings on meat” is the perfect way to describe that. I’d pay any sum of money to see a show on Food Network that was just Ron admiring a piece of beef for a half-hour a week.

      Thanks for your comment!

  2. P&R is definitely one of my favorite shows. I think they are slating Leslie to win, especially since they presented an out for Ron Swanson if he accepts a job with Chris. You’re right the finale will be intense–I am literally so excited!

    • I think you may be right, and I can’t wait to see what changes they make in Season 5. One of my favorite things about this show (besides how uproariously funny it is) is each season has its own very well-developed story arc. It’s rare for me to find a comedy that’s engaging story-wise as it is with the funnies.

  3. Yes! I’m glad you recognize Parks and Rec as a great comedy show. Too often it’s written off as stupid, silly, and hackneyed. But it’s one of my absolute favorite shows, and it never fails to make me laugh.
    A particular highlight of the episode for me was Tom, Ben, and Jerry are sitting around trying to sound mean while saying “Bobby Newport”.
    I’m really glad you decided to discuss this episode, because I’ve been wondering how this season will turn out. Every time I start to get worried that maybe this will be the end, or that it will stop being funny, I have to remind myself that the writers of Parks and Rec are an incredibly sly and clever bunch that will always do the right thing for the show.
    Thanks for the post (and for subscribing to me!), I can’t wait to read more!

    • Thanks for your comment! And I have a question for you- have you ever watched Community? Because the way you describe your fears about Parks and Rec declining matches perfectly with my feelings on Community. First I started to wonder how it was all going to wrap up, and then I started to notice more flaws in the show, and now I find the newest episodes so jarringly different from what was in seasons one and two that it’s hard to watch anymore.

      And the evil Bobby Newport voices were hilarious. I’m glad Jerry got to enjoy something for once. His life is so pitiful.

      Dammit, Jerry.

      • I have watched Community before! I saw a couple of episodes from the first season, and then I think I hopped on board for nearly the full second season. I wasn’t super attached to it, so when it stopped being funny to me, I dropped it. Maybe it’s because of the decline you noticed?

        This also happened to The Office in my oppinion. Seasons 1-3 were absolutely amazing, marrying comedy with a good story-line. 4 was good. And then by 5, I started noticing that I wasn’t enjoying it nearly as much as before. I chalk it up to the Jim and Pam romance being resolved happily. The drama and will-they-won’t-they anxiety helped to bind the show together. And once that ended, it felt like the writers were grasping at straws to find a new drama to bring in viewers. I felt Michael’s stunts were getting more and more ridiculous, and then of course, when he left, everything went to pot. I hardly watched the 7th season, and now that the 8th is on, I don’t even watch it at all. It’s sad to see it happen, but sometimes I think the best thing to do, especially for TV writers and producers, is to quit while you’re ahead.

  4. I LOVE Parks and Rec, and this was my favorite episode of the season so far. I went to get a blood test that week and told the nurse I was “giving my blood for science.” lol

    • I love secretly slipping stuff from TV shows into my everyday conversations and seeing if people notice.

      So far, none of them have. But there’s still hope. There’s always hope.

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