For the last two weeks, I’ve nitpicked your episodes, Parks & Rec. I did it out of love. And out of respect. I did it because I thought you could better yourself by reading my words.
And you did. Campaign Shake-up was a complete and total return to form, with laughs, love, life lessons, and other L-words I can’t be bothered to think about right now.
Campaign Shake-Up brought Leslie’s city council campaign back in full focus with the introduction of Jennifer Barkley, the political genius working as Bobby Newport’s new campaign manager. This is wonderful for a number of reasons:
- We’ve already established in Campaign Ad that Leslie and Ben can hold their own against Newport and can even outgun him in a lot of ways- now they’re back to being underdogs, thus more fun and more tension.
- Paul Rudd has lots of movies to shoot and can’t be on this show every week, so having a member of the Newport campaign that our characters can interact with on a weekly basis is always a good thing.
- Katheryne Hahn, as Barkley, is in fine form and her character is just bizarre enough to be a perfect fit for Pawnee, IN.
So here’s what I’m wondering about the political demigod that is Jennifer Barkley- do Ben and Leslie ever stand a real chance of defeating her? Even when they pull a fairly clever move and drag Newport’s tabloid romance into the debate on ‘Ya Heard? with Perd (I love typing that) Barkley’s able to counter it in seconds with a couple of well thought-out lies. If Leslie is to win this campaign (which is completely possible) it may end up being through some manipulation of Barkley’s general apathy then through actual political finess.
Campaign Shake-Up also featured the funniest thing I’ve seen on this show in a long while (probably since Ron suddenly found himself on a lunch date with Chris and didn’t realize it- way back in Campaign Ad), when senior leader Ned Jones tells the story of his brother Leslie, who’s still a “good looking, young, flat man” after losing the middle third of his body in a horrific motorcycle accident. Carl Reiner, who’s pushing ninety at this point, is just flat-out perfect as Jones and I ended up replaying the whole bit a couple of times because I was laughing too hard to hear what came afterwards.
That everyday, casual insanity displayed by the residents of Pawnee is one of the strongest aspects of this show, and one of the easiest ways for it to bring the funny. Case in point: the repeated sight gag of people awkwardly cramming a water fountain spout into their mouths (which included a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo from Jesse Heiman, an actor famous for being an extra in a staggering amount of big-name productions). While the B-story of Campaign Shake-Up didn’t sway me as strongly as everything else did, it was still funny, clever, and had its fair share of genius moments, like Andy’s water balloon kamikaze maneuver or Ron’s stone-faced interactions with Ann.
And I’ll be interested to see how April deals with her newfound responsibilities in the Parks Dept- this is a show that’s never shied away from moving their characters to new places, and this feels like the next step on April’s journey to becoming the female Ron Swanson.
I can’t wait for that to happen.
Two notes before I go-
Only one reference to the relationship monster that is Ann/Tom. Things could be better (they could break up), but they could also be a lot worse.
Famed TV critic Alan Sepinwall (in his review of this episode, click it and read right here on this link) apparently heard that Amy Poehler and Adam Scott were constantly cracking up over Carl Reiner’s “flat man” line. Things like that make my heart smile.