Alas, I have a small bit of sad news for all us Parks & Rec fans- in two weeks’ time, the show will go on hiatus for five weeks, and return on April 19 for the last four episodes.
I really don’t know if I can survive for five weeks without a visit from my Pawnee friends. It’ll be tough, that’s for sure. Heck, I cried for about an hour and a half after typing the first sentence of this article.
I may or may not have a problem.
So, much like last week’s episode, I found a handful of things in Sweet Sixteen that aren’t really doing it for me. I still laughed a great many belly laughs, and I still enjoyed the episode as a whole, but there are a few cracks that are starting to show in Parks & Rec’s foundation at this point in the season. It’s nothing serious. Just… annoyances. And things that distract me from how much love I normally hold for this show in general.
I’ll get to those elements later, though. Let’s start with a breakdown of what occurred over the course of Sweet Sixteen.
Like the title implies, it’s someone’s sweet sixteen- and the lucky birthday boy is Jerry (as his birthday falls on February 29). Now, even though we’ve seen plenty of Jerry-centric episodes before, it’s an incredibly clever concept to have an episode about Jerry’s birthday where he plays almost no role whatsoever in the actual plot. It’s classic Jerry (I’ve always wanted to use that phrase somewhere). What Sweet Sixteen’s actual A-story focuses on is Leslie’s struggle to work two jobs- one at the Parks Dept. and one on the campaign trail.
It’s a basic, boilerplate sitcom premise, but where Parks & Rec shines is in it’s ability to take a boilerplate premise and rework it into something uniquely clever.
Sadly, Sweet Sixteen never really goes the extra mile. Ron suggests that Leslie takes time off from work, Leslie fights him on it, she tries to plan Jerry’s party and fails spectacularly, and eventually she reconsiders and takes time off. As a vehicle for some great gags (of which there are many), it works perfectly fine, but it’s not at the level of creativity I’ve come to expect from this show.
Still, the jokes are numerous and on point, so I’ve go no complaints there. Ron especially stands out as Leslie’s voice of reason and gets a number of great lines, like the crack about eggs (a quick callback to “all the bacon and eggs you have”) and his anecdote about leather and sheet metal (and the perfect, perfect kicker to that whole story- that it took place while Ron was in middle school). Plus we got an eyeful of Jerry’s back hair, which is both plentiful and upsetting.
Sadly, while Leslie’s A-story saved itself from oblivion with its sheer, overwhelming funniness, the Tom/Ann subplot was more or less a dud.
First, though, let’s give me a round of applause for predicting the “Tann” mashup in last weeks review. Am I some kind of television psychic? Am I secretly moonlighting as a writer for NBC? Are there only so many ways to mash up the names Tom and Ann, with “Anom” being the only (and terrible) other option?
The world may never know.
But this whole relationship just isn’t working for me. The lesson we learned from their story this week was that Tom and Ann aren’t really compatible as a couple, but they can make it work because all their differences seem superficial. I’m not buying it. For the past three weeks we’ve seen these two together plenty of times, but there hasn’t been a single moment where we can feel a real connection between these two. A “spark,” if you will. It still may come in time, though. I have faith in Parks & Rec’s writing staff.
And I have no real problems with the C-story here. Chris and Andy are two characters who aren’t normally paired together, and while Chris’s mopish attitude has gotten a little over-the-top lately, this story was simple, short and sweet. Plus, I am absolutely loving how much screen time Champion has gotten since his introduction.
Think about it. How many shows have there been where a character gets pregnant, has a baby, and lives the exact same life as before while vaguely mentioning that new baby every two or three episodes? Two characters on Parks & Rec bought a dog five episodes ago, and that dog has played a role in every episode since then. That right there is a huge testament to the commitment and the talent Parks & Rec’s writers have for allowing their characters to grow and change.
It’s a beautiful thing. Just like Parks & Rec is. While I may find fault in the show, nothing will ever change it’s warming, glowing, warming glow.
And nothing ever will.