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Thursday, April 11, 2013

Review: Parks and Recreation, "Animal Control"



Season 5, Episode 18
Grade: B-
Verdict: This wasn't a bad episode, but the show's done so well lately that it doesn't compare to some of the stronger ones we've seen this season. "Animal Control" fails to cover any new ground and relies on some of the same jokes, stories and recurring characters we've seen before, but even a mediocre or average episode of this show is a lot better than most of what you'll see on TV. 

I was really excited when I saw the title for this week's episode, Animal Control. A few seasons ago Andy Samberg guest-starred on Parks & Rec as a loud, kind of stupid government employee working as a park ranger, and I was hoping they'd find a way to tie him into an episode about out-of-control animals. Alas, it was not to be. 


In "Animal Control" we have three primary plots: 

A: Leslie and Chris decide to fire the two employees of the animal control department after seeing how incompetently things are run. In their quest to find a new director of animal control, we see Jerry interview for the job (and somehow end that interview with a pay cut in his current position - so Jerry of him), Orin, and several other completely unqualified candidates interview for the job. There's a nice continuity here, as we've seen Leslie actually work to solve pest control problems in previous episodes due to the department's incompetence. Leslie decides to push April to fill the position, wanting her to take on increased responsibility and knowing that this fits well with her love of animals. 

B: Ron gets sick but refuses to admit he's sick. This is a lot like the episode where he has a hernia and refuses to seek treatment. He shows up to work, but Ann notices that he's not well and forces him to see a doctor. Some of Ron's funniest lines come up when he's being asked questions, so his Q&A with the doctor results in some classic Ron lines. He's ultimately diagnosed with strep, has surprisingly decent cholesterol, and could use more potassium in his life. 

C: Ben, Tom and Andy try to land a large donation for the Sweetums Foundation from Dennis Feinstein, Pawnee's exotic perfume creator (we have seen Feinstein in a previous episode where Tom tries to impress him with a new scent). Feinstein is a jerk and the three spend all episode sucking up to him, only to have their hard work crash and burn when Andy can't contain himself and calls Feinstein out on his behavior. It makes sense that the person to do that would be Andy.

In each of these plots we have something really familiar - Leslie handling animal control problems, Ron refusing to admit weakness, Tom sucking up to Dennis Feinstein. I think this episode could've been spruced up a bit by a notable guest appearance or the introduction of a new, more interesting Pawnee resident. It was just missing that little something to make it notable, as I think it fails to stand out from the rest of the season. 

I feel like I say this in probably every review, which may actually indicate a weakness in the show, but the strongest part of this episode was Ron's involvement, for me. Not only were his lines funny, endearing, and constantly hitting the mark in making him the wise and respectable character we love, but we also see him budge by an inch in an effort to be responsible to his girlfriend and her two children. When Ann suggests he eat bananas to fix a potassium deficiency, he scoffs until she reminds him that his I-live-how-I-live philosophy is selfish and doesn't consider the fact that other people rely on him. The episode ends with Ron trying to eat a banana like a child trying to swallow a pill; he ultimately smashes it inside of a hamburger in order to choke it down. Ron is such an excellent mix of teddy bear and badass that although I don't think this covers new ground for his character, it does it well enough to pull it off. 

My chief complaint with this season thus far is the show's treatment of Tom. He's been shrill, in stupid story lines, and not very funny. Tom from seasons 2-4 makes bad decisions and can be really annoying, but he's savvy and suave, if a bit narcissistic. I haven't seen any classic Tom-isms in a while, and Aziz Ansari seems pretty checked out. I'm hoping they'll do something to revive his character a bit before the season concludes.  
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