Remember how The Office handled its big wedding episode? How that show telegraphed the situation three seasons away but took its time building toward a really sweet moment? The kind of moment everyone could enjoy because we’ve spent so much time with these characters? Well pretend they got married in season three right after Pam’s ex left the building. Congratulations, you now have Parks and Recreation.
How can an episode with so many great bits feel so wrong? This is a hard review to write because, while there were tons of hilarious moments and great jokes, the underlying reason for the episode felt forced, wacky, and off-putting. We understand that, compared to most of the Parks department, April and Andy are children, and subject to doing stupid stuff on a whim like most twenty-somethings, but really?
Ok, maybe a second viewing will help here, now that I am expecting the big event. Be right back.
Nope. Sorry. It’s the second shotgun wedding this season and it felt entirely unearned, just like last time. If Ben and Leslie get hitched by the season finale I swear I will change the channel.
The problem is not the characters. Indeed, I completely buy that April and Andy are in love, and watching their antics has been a highlight of the show, however few episodes their scenes are in. It’s not that they weren’t a good fit. It’s that not three episodes ago they were getting together and now they made an impulse decision to go down this road. It’s that this is played up to be this big, emotional, happy moment but any viewer is probably feeling shellshocked. Thus, there’s no point because we as fans don’t have time to enjoy it.
Lest I crap on the episode too much, everything surrounding the wedding was a blast to watch. From the cringe-worthy cold open where Ron pulls a dental prank that causes Tom to feint to Chris’ use of a vegetable loaf (Seriously, what IS that anyways?) to another appearance by Jean Ralfeo, the rest of “Fancy Party” was classic Parks. Ann ventures out into the wild world of dating, with some helpful advice from Donna. Ben, offered to go back on the road for his boss, is given a position to stay in Pawnee, and after some thought, decides to stay. We meet yet another one of April’s creepy friends. And overall the episode brought back some returning folks and built up the idea of family even more.
Meanwhile, as the sheer voice of reason, Leslie freaks out when she is let in on the secret that tonight’s dinner party is a little more than that. A woman who needs to create a pros and cons list for every decision in life, major or minor, obviously is disturbed by such a cavalier action. So, Leslie being Leslie, she goes around to everyone trying to stop the trainwreck, but is put in her place by Ron, who asks her to let the chips fall where they may. It takes a lot of convincing, but eventually she doesn’t raise objections– that’s my job!– and sits in stunned silence as everyone showers praise on the happy duo.
You can’t hate an episode that has talk of effigy burning, Jerry wearing a shirt straight out of the 1970’s, and the idea of premium party food being Bagel Bites. It’s just sad that the crux of the episode, the reason for many of the jokes, is so disappointing. I have faith in the writers of this show, but this episode left a bad taste in my mouth. (Or maybe that was just the vegetable loaf.)
Article by Mark Ziemer