Skip to main content

Scandals and Bullies (And the True Spirit of the Season): Last Night's Episodes of "Parks and Recreation" and "Community"

I had both the good fortune and the unluckiness to go out for drinks last night (with a group of fellow TV critics and reporters) and am still way behind on catching up on my Thursday night programming. (Which feels a bit like a Sisyphean effort every week with so many fantastic series shoehorned onto Thursday nights.)

I did, however, manage to catch last night's fantastic episodes of NBC's Community and Parks and Recreation, which offered a much-needed holiday-themed one-two punch after my night of absinthe-based socializing.

I thought that both series were firing on all cylinders last night. Community may have pulled off its best episode to date with "Comparative Religion" (written by Liz Cackowski), juggling plots involving Jeff (Joel McHale) standing up to bully (guest star Anthony Michael Hall), the holidays, the end of the semester, and Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) coming to terms that her friends might not share her religious views.

While I enjoy seeing the various permutations between the characters, with each of them sharing a storyline with another that week, the most successful installments of Community so far have been the ones that involve the entire group. Here, the chemistry between the ensemble was played to great effect and the actors didn't miss a beat. (Particularly loved Donald Glover's "Forest Whittaker face" and Alison Brie's "finish the word" incredulity.)

Tricky to do when you've got some major events--the end of semester and the holidays--to deal with in one episode. Not only did the cast and crew of Community pull that off but they also dealt with a touchy subject (religion) and tied up the feel-good episode with a full-on brawl between the study group and some shirtless, backflipping fighters. (The fact that they then came together for Shirley's now non-denominational holiday party bruised and battered was the icing on the cake for me.)

I do feel that NBC missed a trick by not releasing a Community holiday single from Yvette Nicole Brown's Shirley (or, heck, a whole CD of Christmas standards). I'm still singing along to her beautiful rendition of "Joy to the World" and her non-denominational "Silent Night," with its celebration of "decorative things." Bliss.

Meanwhile, Parks and Recreation mischievously threaded a sex scandal into their holiday episode ("Christmas Scandal"), written by Michael Schur, and did a sensational job at giving each of the characters opportunities to shine. I'm loving the low-key flirtation between April and Andy (you just knew she would get him that jersey in the end) and the way that Ron Swanson finally realized just how much work Leslie performs on a daily basis and just how valuable a member of the team she really is.

Kudos to Amy Poehler for pulling off not just righteous indignation (as the target of a fabricated sex scandal perpetuated by Pawnee's 24-hour news cycle) but also genuine softness, as in the scenes with Louis CK's Officer Dave Sanderson when he asks her to accompany him to San Diego... and she sadly declines. It's pretty remarkable to see just how much Poehler's Leslie Knope has changed since the early installments of Parks and Recreation; no one could argue that she's a Michael Scott stand-in (not since that pilot episode, anyway). Her character is so richly layered and three-dimensional that the screen crackles with energy every time she walks into a scene.

Poehler is ably assisted by a sensational supporting cast in Rashida Jones, Paul Schneider, Aziz Ansari, Nick Offerman, Chris Pratt, and Aubrey Plaza. Each of their characters has also deepened over the course of the last dozen and a half episodes, fleshing out the world of Pawnee in a winsome fashion. Even tertiary characters like Jim O'Heir's Jerry and Retta's Donna have moved into the main group and the writers have smartly imbued them with as much complexity and nuance as our main characters. (It's a trick that Greg Daniels and Mike Schur paid off beautifully in the early years of The Office as those background players quickly became memorable characters in their own right.)

My only complaint: that more people aren't watching Parks and Recreation or haven't given it a shot since its early Season One episodes. There are few comedies on the air that manage to be as insightful, wickedly funny, and emotionally truthful as Parks and Recreation.

Community and Parks and Recreation return with new episodes in the new year.


Both were great but I especially loved last night's Parks & Rec. Amy Poehler is a shiny beacon of comedy goodness!
kat said…
I thought Community was great last night. It is just me or is Community getting better and better? I thought this was one of the best episodes to date and I loved the ending with all the bruised cast members at the party.
jmixont said…
Week after week I find that I have more actual laugh-out-louds with Parks and Rec than with any other comedy. And who'd have thought Louis CK could be so sweet and loving?!
Germ said…
Parks and Rec really was great (as it has been all season), but I strongly disagree about Community. Parts of it were good, but what I saw from it was NBC's continued Progressive stance and their taking shots at Christmas and all of Christianity. Truly, in my opinion, the WORST ep to date of what is a really good comedy.

Popular posts from this blog

Katie Lee Packs Her Knives: Breaking News from Bravo's "Top Chef"

The android has left the building. Or the test kitchen, anyway. Top Chef 's robotic host Katie Lee Joel, the veritable "Uptown Girl" herself (pictured at left), will NOT be sticking around for a second course of Bravo's hit culinary competition. According to a well-placed insider, Joel will "not be returning" to the show. No reason for her departure was cited. Unfortunately, the perfect replacement for Joel, Top Chef judge and professional chef Tom Colicchio, will not be taking over as the reality series' host (damn!). Instead, the show's producers are currently scouring to find a replacement for Joel. Top Chef 's second season was announced by Bravo last month, but no return date has been set for the series' ten-episode sophomore season. Stay tuned as this story develops. UPDATE (6/27): Bravo has now confirmed the above story .

BuzzFeed: Meet The TV Successor To "Serial"

HBO's stranger-than-fiction true crime documentary The Jinx   — about real estate heir Robert Durst — brings the chills and thrills missing since Serial   wrapped up its first season. Serial   obsessives: HBO's latest documentary series is exactly what you've been waiting for.   The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst , like Sarah Koenig's beloved podcast, sifts through old documents, finds new leads from fresh interviews, and seeks to determine just what happened on a fateful day in which the most foul murder was committed. And, also like  Serial  before it,  The Jinx may also hold no ultimate answer to innocence or guilt. But that seems almost beside the point; such investigations often remain murky and unclear, and guilt is not so easy a thing to be judged. Instead, this upcoming six-part tantalizing murder mystery, from director Andrew Jarecki ( Capturing the Friedmans ), is a gripping true crime story that unfolds with all of the speed of a page-turner; it

BBC Culture: Matthew Weiner: Mad Men’s creator on its final episodes

The creative force behind the period drama talks about where his characters are as his show begins its final episodes. “We left off with everyone’s material needs being met in an extreme way,” says Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner of where we last saw the characters on his critically acclaimed period drama when the show went on hiatus 10 months ago. “Then the issue is, what else is there?” That is the central question with the return to US TV of the AMC hit, one demanding to be answered by both the show’s characters, and its creator whose success is the envy of the television industry. Mad Men has been a defining part of Weiner’s life for the last 15 years. He wrote the pilot script on spec while he was a staff writer on CBS’ Ted Danson sitcom Becker in 1999, using it to land a writing gig on HBO’s The Sopranos in 2002. It would take another five years, filled with multiple rejections, before the first episode of Mad Men would make it on the air. Someone with less determination or vision