Hey, Greg Daniels and Mike Schur: Please keep "guest star" Chris Pratt on Parks and Recreation. Pratt, and his goofball fratboy-past-his-prime charm, dominated the show’s season finale, delivering some of the best moments ever in the fledgling series. His listing of all the band names he’s gone through was pure genius. Some favorites: Department of Homeland Obscurity. Just the Tip. Teddy Bear Suicide. Puppy Pendulum. Everything Rhymes with Orange.
The finale, "Rock Show," was solid all-around, with Leslie getting set up on a blind date with a 62-year-old government guy, while the whole Parks department headed to a local bar to watch Andy (Pratt) and his band Scarecrow Boat. (They should totally change it back to Department of Homeland Obscurity.) The music, described as Matchbox Twenty meets The Fray, was awesomely awful. To be fair, not many bands have songs that "rock really hard" but also "inform people about a small public works project."
A lot of people I know gave up on Parks after the first episode. I don’t blame them. It was pretty underwhelming. But the last two have been really good, if not great. But there are still a couple of nagging issues I’d like to see fixed for the next season. Click through the jump to read the three things the show needs to do to improve in season two.
1. Always remember and never forget who the star is: Amy Poehler. Poehler really, truly is one of the most gifted comedians out there.But why do I get the nagging feeling Parks isn’t the best vehicle totake advantage of her talent? She seemed particularly subdued in lastnight’s episode. She occasionally had some great facial reactions, butLeslie wasn’t really the star of the episode. She was more on theperiphery, until the episode’s final moments when she and Mark (PaulSchneider) made out by the pit. When Leslie rejected Markbecause he was too drunk, and because she’s too in love with him, thesubtlety of Poehler’s performance really shone through. Subtlety isfine and all, but this is Amy Poehler for crying out loud! I wish the showwould give her more to do. Perhaps give her a rival that’ll amp up her competitiveness?
2. Make Rashida Jones, Aziz Ansari, and Aubrey Plaza’s characters more dynamic. Jones’ character, Ann, spent most of the finale pissed off. Andy never told her he could have removed his cast far earlier, and once she found out the truth she was a terror. And not in a funny way. When Mark kind-of, sort-of hit on her, she rejected him so fast (and cruelly) it was frightening. Jones was the straight woman on The Office, and here she is almost exactly the same. They should let her wave her freak flag, or something.
Elsewhere, Aziz Ansari is hilarious. That’s just a fact. His reaction to Leslie’s date was priceless. His character Tom is undeniably a huge jerk, but not in an irritating way. (I’m still laughing about "peacockin’.") I like that they finally introduced his wife, Wendy, but his character is going to have to evolve from the whole jerk persona eventually, right? Otherwise he’ll just be another one-dimensional character on the show. Like Ann, or April (played by Aubrey Plaza). April’s signature bug-eyed looks of disgust are great, and she typically has one killer line per episode. (Last night’s: "I make out with him sometimes when I’m drunk.") But that’s pretty much it. They need to weave her into the story better.
3. Utilize the confessionals better, or delete them altogether. I really can’t decide if the documentary-style format does Parks any favors. Besides the occasional guffaw (like Andy’s list of band names), the verite feel doesn’t really deliver laughs or advance the plot in any way. Confessionals on The Office make sense within that world, but I don’t think that holds true for Parks. No one would care if they were deleted. It’d at least make people less apt to compare the show to The Office over and over again.
This reads like I’m being hard on the show. I do it in good faith. Parks and Recreation is only six episodes in, and it’s already better than I anticipated. It has its own tone, a talented cast, and a plot that’s advancing toward something, at least as fast as governmental red tape will allow it to. I will definitely be tuning in next season to see what (if anything) has changed. But again, a friendly PSA: Chris Pratt better still be on the show. He rocks, even if his band doesn’t.
Did anyone else catch the finale? Did you like it? What are some improvements you’d like to see next season?