An episode of “Parks and Recreation” featuring the return of Burt Macklin, FBI, the Joan Callamezzo Gotcha Dancers and Ann trying to get April to talk to her should be a great episode of “Parks and Recreation.” And indeed, all of those things were very funny on Thursday (Oct. 6).
But for the first time in a long time, “Parks and Rec” didn’t quite live up to the increasingly high standards it sets for itself. Here’s the thing: About 90 percent of the episode was roaringly funny, from the public-radio opening (featuring “Simpsons” star Dan Castellaneta) on. But the birth-certificate story at the center of it was just a little … off.
The show has Pawnee-ified some real-world political issues in the past and gotten great comedic mileage out of them (most recently, its take on the Anthony Weiner scandal in the season premiere). The show clearly seemed to have the Birther movement in mind with Leslie’s story, but that’s not exactly news these days, so whatever satirical juice it might have had at one time isn’t quite there now.
Nonetheless, Amy Poehler played the heck out of the revelation that she was born not in Pawnee, but in hated Eagleton, home of snobby jerks. Watching her try to choke out the word “Eagleton” — and her mom’s explanation that the Pawnee hospital was overrun by raccoons at the time — was a great one-two punch in their scene together.
The rest of the comedy around the birth-certificate issue was similarly good, starting with Andy reviving Burt Macklin (“You thought I was dead? So did the president … ‘s enemies”). Andy is turning out to be a surprisingly good hire as Leslie’s assistant, running interference for her as her book signing turns ugly and actually getting her birth certificate out of the records office. Chris Pratt also delivered two great bits of physical comedy with Andy’s fall over the reception desk and whipping the briefcase back as they left the records building.
Joan’s near-orgasmic joy at catching Leslie’s inaccuracy, and her extra-sloppy drunk lunch with Tom and Ben, also worked (Mo Collins fit right in with the drunk-playing experts among the “Parks and Rec” regulars). So did the coda about Jerry’s fact-checking trip (“He seemed so happy”). It’s a little odd to have all the stuff around a slightly stale central joke work so well, but that’s what happened here.
The B-story with Ann, Ron and April — a not-often-seen combination — also hit, thanks in large part to Rashida Jones‘ increasingly agitated talking heads about how determined she was to get an actual conversation out of both of them — “It will be casual! It will be amicable!” And yes, she’s right: Gross medical stories are always good ice-breakers.
We’ll forgive “Parks and Rec” that one slight bobble, because the rest of the show around Leslie’s birth certificate was so strong. What did you think of the episode?