'Parks and Recreation': Let's hear it for Pawnee, the town for weirdos who care

Parks-And-Rec-PoehlerImage Credit: Chris Haston/NBCRemember how the producers and stars of Sex and the City always talked about how New York City was the show’s secret fifth main character? Well, tonight I realized that Pawnee, Indiana itself is Parks and Recreation‘s secret weapon — and that the show wouldn’t work nearly as well if it were set in a less wonderfully quirky place.

Don’t believe me? Then watch the town hall scene from tonight’s episode again. Every time Parks and Rec ventures beyond City Hall, the show reminds us that we’re not watching a comedy about a group of wacky government employees working in a boring hamlet. In fact, those wacky government employees are actually the sanest people in town — Ron didn’t call the meeting a “crackpot convention” for nothing.

But that doesn’t mean that the eccentricities of Pawnee feel forced. On the contrary, some of the show’s funniest moments come when the extreme weirdness of its setting is revealed — when, say, Leslie explains what’s going on in one of City Hall’s numerous, horrifically offensive murals, or when she dispatches ridiculous bits of Pawnee history. (“For a brief time in the ’70s, our town was taken over by a cult.”) And then there’s how absurdly cosmopolitan Pawnee is: Why does this blip on the map have its own tabloid news show, zoo, beauty pageant, periodicals, and thriving nightlife scene? Pawnee is more than a setting — it’s a rich comic universe, like Springfield or Stars Hollow or, well, the Manhattan that could exist only in Sex and the City.

But enough about Pawnee. I haven’t even touched on ‘Time Capsule”s other highlights, like:

– April to Eduardo, in Spanish: “Jerry dressed up like a princess.” And Leslie, at the episode’s very end, explaining how there’s a blank spot on the time capsule tape because of Jerry’s bumbling: “He had one job to do.”

– Everything about Will Forte’s guest appearance, especially the way he eagerly offered to describe the Twilight movies shot-by-shot.

– Shauna Malwae-Tweep’s amazing headline: “Parks Department Foiled by Pipe Dreams.”

– Andy running down the hallway like a monkey. Internet: We need a GIF of this moment, stat!

– The Christian Twilight-detractor’s last words, which were barely audible before the show cut to commercial: “I have no interest in traveling to Russia, can I just say that?”

What were your favorite moments, PopWatchers? And do you agree that Pawnee itself is Parks and Rec‘s secret weapon?

Comments (77 total) Add your comment
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  • tracy bluth

    I realized after the episode with the Eliot Spitzer (x100) congressman that Pawnee is a character in itself. The NBC website dedicated to Pawnee is hilarious.
    Will Forte was great, though I would of loved it if they chose something else for him to be obsessed with.

  • Melly

    Loved that Ron Swanson wanted to contribute a restaurant menu that contains his (and Wendy’s) favorite meat-filled meal in the time capsule. Also, I’m enjoying all of the bromances that are developing!

    • Mr. Holloway

      I was LI-TRALLY thinking the same thing last night about all the bromances.

    • Mae

      and leslie’s favorite waffles that she spent over $1000 dollars on last year!

  • Karen

    By far it was the “four horsemeals of the eggporkolypse.”

  • MCS

    So glad to see the Christian woman who complained about the gay penguins back. I thought Rob Lowe improved also by taking more of a backseat in the ensemble. Cant wait for Ron and Tammy next week.

    • Lee Strasburg

      So you’re saying Rob Lowe improved because he wasn’t in the scenes?
      Ummm, that has to do with the writers and director, not his acting.

      • Mole

        I think he’s saying he likes Chris more blended into the ensemble. I liked seeing that, but Lowe was genius last week, in my opinion.

      • Mr. Holloway

        I didn’t feel like Lowe was ever dominating the ensemble, so I thought he was funny last week AND this week.

      • MCS

        Mole is right. I just feel like Chris works better as part of the group, rather than running his own story. And I never attributed it to Lowe’s acting, I fully appreciate the writers and directors as the true creative force behind P&R.

    • AndyLuvr

      Marcia Langman FTW. She hates TWILIGHT and penguin weddings. She really is a Pawnee weirdo!

  • Steven

    I just loved when they explained the Will Forte situation to Ben. The way he said “Again?” Had me on the floor!

    • Casey

      Adam Scott is a genius. I hope he and Rob never leave.

    • Verity

      Yes, Adam Scott is my favorite addition to this show. I also liked when Leslie asked if she could blame him for letting the town meeting derail and he was cool with it.

      • Elizabeth

        He’s almost got an Andy Bernard-esque quality to him how he defers to Leslie to make her happy.

      • Jace

        I love Mean Ben!! He’s a great addition to the cast. Is there any word on how long he will be around this year?!

      • Verity

        Elizabeth, that must be why I like him :) Andy is my favorite character on The Office. Jace, not sure but I hope they make him a regular! When Leslie said “You’re leaving soon….” my heart dropped for a second. Surely they can find a way to keep him and Rob Lowe around.

    • Mr. Holloway

      YES. The “Again?” was perfect!

    • ChristineOH

      I <3 him and I love how he <3's Leslie.

  • Casey

    Parks and Rec was wonderful tonight. The one continuity issue that really bothered me was Eduardo’s on-off ability to speak and understand English. In the previous episodes and parts of this one he doesn’t speak a lick of English but then moments later he’s practically fluent, speaking to Andy and comprehending everything he’s saying with unbelieveable accuracy. As much as I loved those moments, it really took me out of it. It would have been great to see them become friends despite the language barrier.

    • Continuity Divide

      Agreed. Where did that come from.

      One other nit to pick: at the end, Rob Lowe left the movie to go get a pretzel. His character wouldn’t do that.

      • Nicole

        Ah, but it was “literally” the best pretzel he’s ever had in his life, so how could he pass it up? The question is, what made him try the first one? That seems very un-Chris.

      • orville

        Yeah, a soft pretzel doesn’t seem like a snack choice for a guy with a microchip for a body.

      • Sara

        Salt is a conductor, isn’t it?

      • Verity

        He’s a runner so he appreciates carbs.

    • Karen

      I was sad to hear April say that Eduardo had left town. I was kind of hoping we’d get a chance to see him and Andy driving April nuts with their jam sessions. Oh and where does Andy live???

      • Flyer

        Wasn’t there an episode where April helped Andy find an apartment to rent?

  • Sharada

    Everyone on this show is absolutely fantastic. If this is a show that goes the way of The Office (as in stops being hilarious and clever) I don’t know what I shall do.

    • Maharishi

      Somehow, life will go on, Sharada. Somehow.

  • Lou

    I loved that Leslie is a HP fan ha. Another great episode, especially Tom getting addicted to Twilight.

  • erin

    I love everything about this show. All the Pawnee slogans were funny. That Leslie can get into the history of Pawnee, put it in book form from memory but can’t get into Twilight.

    • no cars go

      looooved the slogans: welcome german soldiers, welcome vietnamese soldiers, welcome taliban soldiers, home of the famous julia roberts lawsuit, etc. so good.

      • Jace

        The Welcome German soldiers follow up, “After the Nazis took France, the mayor panicked” was even better.

      • Lissa

        Hands down the best one was “It’s safe here again!”

      • Sadie

        Part of me wonders if these are ad libbed. The delivery and absurdity lead me to believe that these are off-the-cuff. Either way, funny stuff.

      • Tom

        @ Sadie-
        They’ve discussed those type scenes (i forget what type of shot they call it) before. Its a combination of both written material and ad-libbing. They script a fair number of them but then allow the actors to roll with some of their own.

    • Mr. Holloway

      “And finally, our current slogan: Pawnee, first in friendship, fourth in obesity.” (Step your game up, Pawnee!)

      • Jace

        I feel like they were third before so maybe they’ve lost a little weight? Lol! I don’t remember though, the last time they mentioned Pawnee being one of the most obese towns Ann said it so I wasn’t really listening.

      • Mr. Holloway

        Maybe Chris and Ben temporarily moving into town reduced the obesity rate and made them slide into fourth place.

  • Madox

    This show is brilliant. Every week is laugh out loud funny.

  • Verity

    Gotta go with the quick Leslie/Ben exchange where she says “Some guy handcuffed himself to a pipe in my office because we won’t put the Twilight books in our time capsule.” And Ben replies “Damnit, again?” In his most sarcastic voice to date. I actually fell off the couch from laughing at that one.

  • Jane

    Kristen Stewart = Skinny-Legs McGee!!!!!

    • Sadie

      Love Donna.

      • Michiko

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  • marymary

    As much it pains me to say this, P&R is the funniest show on Thursday nights ! Still loving the Office but hating the impending doom of Michael leaving the show. Community is just getting a little too weird for me, wish they would get back to their roots of the first season and quit doing the type of shows they have been doing.

  • Sean

    Pawnee-1st in friendship 4th in obesity

  • jk

    Parks & Rec is becoming my favorite show and I can’t stop watching it – to the point where the other night, I dreamed that Rashida Jones and I were best friends (seriously). And I have never found Adam Scott attractive in the least, but he’s so hot in”Parks & Rec” for some reason.

    Anyone else thing they do a pretty good job making it seem like it’s really set in Indiana? I’m from the Midwest and went to school in Indiana, and I hate when shows/movies are set here just for the hell of it and don’t actual connect to it. But “Parks & Rec” does pretty well, especially Ron Swanson, who I feel like could be a real person in practically any town in Indiana. But the murals are the best part – is anyone else familiar with the murals in one of the academic buildings at Indiana University Bloomington? They depict the history of Indiana, and include a pretty big section on the Ku Klux Klan (which does have a big history in Indiana). The content of the murals, obviously, gets a mixed reaction/protests, and I love that the Pawnee murals wink at that. My one complaint is that no one ever calls Indianapolis “Indy,” when in reality they would say Indy most of the time. Oh, and it’s far too sunny all the time to actually be the Midwest, but what are you gonna do?

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