Ruddtrospective #7: Let’s Talk Parks and Rec!

Full spoilers for the TV show Parks and Recreation, but the five episodes that Paul Rudd was in in particular. I would recommend watching this show, but it’s so damn good that I don’t think any jokes I mention will ruin it for you.

The main cast of Parks and Recreation includes Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope, Nick Offerman as Ron Swanson, Rashida Jones as Ann Perkins, Adam Scott as Ben Wyatt, Aubrey Plaza as April Ludgate, Rob Lowe as Chris Traeger, Chris Pratt as Andy Dwyer, Aziz Ansari as Tom Haverford, Retta as Donna Meagle, and Jim O’Heir as Jerry Gergich. Other important players in these five episodes include Paul Rudd as Bobby Newport, Kathryn Hahn as Jennifer Barkley, Ben Schwartz as Jean-Ralphio Saperstein, Jenny Slate as Mona-Lisa Saperstein, and Bill Murray as Walter Gunderson. That’s only naming some of the great supporting characters we’ll be talking about.

If you don’t know me personally, you should know that Parks and Recreation is my favorite TV show of all time. After all the binge-watching I’ve done this year, it could soon be edged out by Community, another phenomenal show I will speak of at a later date. Between Parks and The Office, I definitely prefer Parks. That may sound like sacrilege. But I can’t stand the majority of the characters in The Office, and I find the show very depressing in general. I will watch the odd compilation of Jim/Dwight pranks, but otherwise I’m not really a fan. What I love about Parks, and also The Good Place, which is also a great show, is the sheer positivity. Both shows are about nice people that are trying to become better and help their friends along the way. They were also both created by Michael Schur, who is a true comedic genius. I do want to speak about five specific episodes, but I thought I’d just give a quick background of the show. I’ve gotta use all the crap I know in some way, right?

Parks and Recreation was originally pitched as a spinoff of The Office. Which is why Rashida Jones, who played Karen in The Office, was the first person to be cast. Eventually the show morphed into it’s own thing, though. Parks was created by Greg Daniels, who created The Office, and Michael Schur, who was a writer on the The Office at the time, and also played Dwight’s cousin, Mose Schrute. That character was really just a way for the other writers to make Michael do the dumbest things they could think of. Since The Office was a satyrical mockumentary about the private business sector, Daniels and Schur wanted this new show to be about the public sector. Which is why the show is centered around local government in a small town in Indiana.

They wanted to have the show to have a very strong continuity in a town that felt real. With reoccurring characters like police officers, townspeople, radio personalities, business owners, etc. The plan succeeded, as most people would tell you. The fictional town that the show takes place in, Pawnee, Indiana, feels incredibly real. It’s part of why the show is so special. The original idea was for Leslie Knope to be a disgraced kid mayor who was trying to climb back into politics through the local parks department. This idea ended up getting shelved, although it would later be used as the backstory for Adam Scott’s character, Ben. If you haven’t watched the show before, I’ll try to explain it as I talk about the five episodes.

Season 4, Episode 12: Campaign Ad
Episode Aired January 19th, 2012
At this point in the show, Leslie Knope has decided to run for City Council. After Leslie and her boyfriend and former boss, Ben came clean about their relationship, he was forced to resign. Because of this, Leslie’s polling numbers dropped to two percent and her campaign managers decided to stop representing her. To help Leslie fulfill her dream of going into politics, her coworkers decided to become her campaign team. In the prior episode, Ben joined the team as Leslie’s campaign manager. At the beginning of this episode we are introduced to Leslie’s new opponent, Bobby Newport. Bobby Newport is the son of Nick Newport, the former CEO of Sweetums. Sweetums is the main candy supplier in Pawnee, which is part of why Pawnee is the fourth-most obese city in America. Bobby Newport is, of course, played by the great Paul Rudd. We are immediately shown that Bobby is a complete idiot with a buttload of money, and he’s only doing this so his Dad will be proud of him.
After being introduced to Bobby, Ben decides to shoot a campaign ad for the upcoming Pawnee/Eagleton High School Basketball game. He wants to make it an attack ad against Bobby, but the ever-positive Leslie hates this idea and wants to shoot a really nice video promoting herself instead. They split the campaign team in half and both make videos. Leslie’s is horrible, and Ben’s is fine. But the team agrees that they should just air his video instead of hers. Before Ben can get it to the radio station, Leslie tackles him. They are unable to air a video during the game, so they upload a remix of some fake campaign ads that Leslie shot as a kid. But as a compromise, they also say some negative things about Bobby. Bobby then calls Ben and Leslie to meet with them, because his friends have been making fun of him since the video dropped. A highlight of the episode is when Bobby just begs Leslie like a complete child to give him the election.
“Gimme it! Come on, gimme it! I want it! Just give it to me! Come on, give it to me.”
Meanwhile, Chris starts spending more time with the staunchly anti-government Ron Swanson. Ron hates this, but soon learns he’s a main candidate for Assistant City Manager, which is Ben’s old job. While all of this is going on, April and Andy, who are married at this point in the show, go to the hospital to get a bunch of check-ups and tests done. They don’t realize they’ll have to pay so much money though, so Andy races out of the hospital to avoid paying, but accidentally runs into an ambulance instead. I don’t love Chris Pratt, but this line is classic:
“Call an ambulance! A different one than the one I just ran into!”

Season 4, Episode 20: The Debate
Episode Aired April 26th, 2012
This episode is one of the all-time greats. The whole season in general is just incredible. Seasons three-five are the best. In the last eight episodes, Bobby went on vacation to Majorca, which is why we haven’t seen him. But he hired a new, cutthroat campaign manager played by the great Kathryn Hahn. Also Ann and Tom started a very flimsy on-again off-again relationship. As of this episode they are broken up. The episode is centered around the big debate, and we are told where everyone will be right at the start. Ben will be supporting Leslie from the sidelines while she campaigns. Chris, Ann, and Tom will be talking to reporters. Jerry is sitting with some Nuns, I think? I don’t know. He’s in the episode for two seconds. And April, Andy, Ron and Donna are holding a dinner for the biggest supporters of the campaign to watch the debate live.
The debate is moderated by local Pawnee TV legends, Joan Callamezzo and Perd Hapley. The other candidates include renowned porn star Brandi Maxxxx, gun loving Fester Trim, and animal rights activist Manrico Della Rosa, who all have their own weird ideas for City Council. Fester Trim, who owns a store called the ‘Gunbelievable Gun Emporium’, is constantly insisting that gun lockers and grenade launchers be added to all public spaces. Manrico Della Rosa says that he’ll have anyone who even touches leather tried for murder. And Brandi Maxxxx says that she’ll star in a movie with any of her fellow candidates. Meanwhile Andy recaps the plots of his favorite movies to the Knope supporters while Ron fixes the cable so they can watch the debate. At the end of the episode Leslie wins the debate. It’s heartwarming and positive.

Season 4, Episode 21: Bus Tour
Episode aired May 3rd, 2012
The day before the election the team boards a giant bus with Leslie’s face on it to do one last big PR push. Unfortunately, while making a big speech at a park, Leslie is informed by a random reporter that Bobby’s dad has passed. This is seconds after Leslie refers to Nick Newport, Sr. as a big jerk. Ann encourages Leslie to apologize to Bobby, but Ben, anxious to not lose the chance to campaign, tells Leslie to continue campaigning. After they get horrible press for calling Nick a jerk, Ben and Leslie finally decide to show up at the Newport estate to apologize, but only if they leak the information to the press. When they arrive, it is revealed that Jen Barkley tricked them by inviting the press to a public memorial service, and Leslie showing up in a bus with her face on it and accidentally running over the portrait of Nick didn’t make things easier for them. Leslie goes inside and apologizes to Bobby, who is found Wii bowling right next to an actual bowling alley. When asked why he isn’t bowling for real, he says he likes this more because the avatar looks like him. We are then shown the avatar which looks nothing like him. Bobby is sad, not about his dad’s death, but that his dad was such a dick to him when he was alive. They leave the house to speak to the press, and it is revealed that the election isn’t exactly over, because Bobby openly tells the press that Leslie apologized to him and was super nice about it. He spends the majority of the campaign unintentionally sabotaging himself.
While all of this is going on Tom, Donna, and Ron go to figure out some van rentals with some bald ass. Chris talks about why he has to be constantly moving, because he’s had a horrible year and if he doesn’t he’ll lapse into a deep depression. But later in the episode him and Jen Barkley have sex and he feels better. And Andy, in his alter ego of FBI agent Bert Macklin, investigates who was trying to pie Leslie at a recent rally. They hit Jerry instead. I’m not gonna say who did it because I’m tired. I gotta stop doing these so last minute.

Season 4, Episode 22: Win, Lose or Draw
Episode aired May 10th, 2012
This is it! The big election episode. This is another one of my favorites. The episode is mostly about everyone watching the election results as they come in. Threads are woven for future plot lines. Ron declines the job of Assistant City Manager. Tom and Ann get back together and move in together. Andy decides to become a cop. Jerry forgets to vote for Leslie. Ben gets a job managing a congressional campaign in Washington for Jen Barkley. And Leslie wins the election by 21 votes! It’s great. As with all episodes before this, there isn’t much Bobby, but the scenes we get with him are fun.

Season 7, Episode 11: Two Funerals
Episode aired February 17th, 2015
So, quick recap of the in between seasons: Leslie and Ben got married and Ann and Chris had a baby together before leaving the show. Rashida Jones left to write Toy Story 4, and I’m not sure why Rob Lowe left? He’s very famous, so who knows. And then there was a time jump at the end of season 6, because Leslie and Ben got pregnant with triplets, and Amy Poehler had just had kids and really didn’t want to do a storyline with babies on the show. So they jumped forward in time to the far-flung future of 2017. There’s a whole storyline in season 7 that is kind of resolved by this point because it’s the penultimate episode and I really don’t need to get into it so I won’t. At the beginning of the episode it is revealed that Mayor Walter Gunderson has died. Gunderson was mentioned all throughout the show but he never appeared in the flesh. So Michael Schur got Bill Murray to come in and lie in a coffin for a scene after shooting a short video farewell speech. It’s insane to me that anyone would cast Bill Murray and do so little with him, but that’s why it’s funny.
At this point Ben has now become City Manager, and so he has to appoint the new Mayor. This is really just an excuse to bring back characters from previous seasons, which is why Bobby shows up. Also Ron’s barber dies, sending him into a deep depression until he finds a new one, and Leslie helps Tom propose to his girlfriend Lucy, who is played by the legendary Natalie Morales. So Ben approaches Bobby, who is wearing an excellent sweater, to be interim Mayor for two months. Bobby can’t though, because he’s going to space. Ben also asks Joan Callamezzo, who lies and says she can’t because she’s 27 years old, the Douche, a local radio shock jock played by Nick Kroll, and Jean-Ralphio’s dad, Dr. Saperstein, who is played by the great Henry Winkler. April tells Ben that he should become Mayor, but Ben gives it to Jerry instead, who, it is revealed in the finale, remains Mayor until his death. Also Tom and Lucy get engaged.

I should also mention that there’s a deleted scene from the finale in which Bobby meets long-suffering reporter Shawna Malwae-Tweep, and the two fall in love and get married.

If I sound like I don’t like any of these episodes, it’s just that I’m tired.

Overall Review: 9/10(I’m kind of just reviewing the show as a whole, but these episodes are all pretty great. If I had to pick favorites I’d say that The Debate, Bus Tour, and Win, Lose, or Draw are the strongest episodes.)
Rudd Review: 10/10(He’s not even in the show that much but he’s so damn charming that when I look back at season four I forget he’s only in four episodes. Also he had a lot of fun doing it and the behind the scenes stories are so funny. Just look up Parks and Rec: Philly Justice.)

I hope you enjoyed this half-assed review of some episodes of my favorite show. Swing back on Friday for a random post of some kind, and look forward to my next Ruddtrospective, which will be about the Paul Rudd/Paul Giamatti Christmas movie, All Is Bright. I haven’t seen this one before, but it’s seasonally appropriate. Thanks for reading!

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