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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Review: Parks and Recreation, Bailout

Season 5, Episode 16
Grade: A-
Verdict: Oh Parks & Rec, you had me at Jason Scwhartzman. "Bailout" uses Ron Swanson's libertarianism as the foil for a really strong central plot, starts to use Ann in a way that's actually endearing, but flounders a little with a weak subplot involving Tom.

Are you guys tired of seeing me give Parks and Recreation some variation on an A yet?

Mmm oh well. Suck it.

Parks & Rec has been cleverly inserting actual national political drama into small-scale local issues over the years (a la the Soda Tax episode), and this week it tackles the issue of government bailouts of failing businesses. It's not exactly new for Ron to spend an episode whining about the bloated, inept nature of government, but I will say that it never gets old.

In the primary plot of the episode, Leslie learns that local art house movie store the VideoDome is going out of businesses due to the popularity of online streaming services. Wanting to preserve something she considers iconic, she moves to grant the VideoDome status as a historical landmark, which would create enough tax credits for the business to stay open. It's not exactly the auto industry, and this isn't exactly saving jobs (apart from Schwartzman's), but the comparison is pretty clear.

Usually Leslie meddles and shows she cares and everything works out wonderfully for her and the community. It was kind of nice to see her overstepping her boundaries this week - she directors the store's owner to sell the kinds of movies people want to see in order to turn a profit, and the historic landmark focuses on selling porn. My political leanings are certainly way more near to Leslie than Ron, but Ron's philosophy suffers from so many defeats on this show due to Leslie's awesomeness, so it was refreshing to see him win by losing. The giddiness and glee on his face was perfect.

The other really strong point of this episode revolves around the Ann and April dynamic. April decides to apply for veterinary school and requests a reference letter from Ann, which Ann parlays into a week of forcing April to be her friend. There's always been an awkward animosity between these characters, initially stemming from the fact that April was jealous of Ann for dating Andy, and continuing because Ann is perky and nice and pleasant and basically the antithesis of April's character.

Ann is at her best on this show, in my opinion, when she's trying too hard. I was not a fan of the whole "Ann dates a bunch of guys and becomes really cool" thing they tried to do a while ago, and since then she's been a bit of a background character on the show. It feels like they just don't know what to do with her besides focus on who she's dating or not dating and how she feels about that. So, OK, enter the I Want A Baby storyline. Not exactly.. original? But it gives her something to do that doesn't involve talking about guys or talking about not talking about guys or... whatever. I see it as an upgrade.

Saving the worst for last, we have the whole Tom & Mona Lisa storyline. Tom hires the sister (dubbed Mona Lisa) of his eccentric friend, John Ralphio, to work in his Rent-A-Swag store. She's awful and doesn't do her job and steals from the store, and Chris takes on a parental role by convincing Tom to take control of the situation, only to see him fail when Mona Lisa seduces Tom. The purpose of this plot is basically to give Chris the chance to see the ups and downs of being a parent, but it was executed poorly, felt silly, and was a waste of Aziz Ansari's funny, in my opinion. Fortunately it was a fairly minor part of the episode - I will give this show that. It doesn't always make every plot funny, but it's quite good at knowing which parts are strong and which deserve less attention.

Favorite quote:
Leslie: I'll just buy some Red Vines.
VideoDrome owner: We only have Japanese slime-candy and Bulgarian wheatballs.
Favorite moment: April & Ann performing "Time after Time" & Ann trying to force a hug afterwards
Least favorite moment: Tom confronting Mona Lisa.

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