Devin here; I’m trying to expand our coverage of comedy in the near future, because I think some of the best stuff going on in pop culture today is coming out of places like the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater. To that end I’ve enlisted a comedy guru, Lucy Danaher, who will hopefully be able to cover more comedy stuff for us in the near future. Here’s Lucy’s first report.
Last night, NBC hosted a special screening for the season finale of Parks and Recreation at the Leonard H. Goldenson Theatre in North Hollywood. Following the event was a Q&A with the cast and co-creators Michael Schur and Greg Daniels, hosted by SNL’s Seth Meyers. Missing was Paul Schneider, as he appears in the season finale but will not be returning for season three.
The season closer, “Freddy Spaghetti” (Freddy Spaghetti is played frighteningly well by Conan Alum Brian McCann), is one of the best episodes of the series, exploring all the things that make Parks and Rec one of the most engaging shows on primetime television, including fantastically executed pratfalls, acutely timed line delivery and genuinely touching and realistic relationships. What makes P&R so charming is its ability to explore the face-palms of bureaucracy without becoming bitter; its capacity to show genuine enthusiasm is what makes the show unique.
Bringing this point home are guest stars Rob Lowe and Adam Scott, perfect foils as a good cop/bad cop budget slashing duo. Lowe’s enthusiastic athleticism contrasts with Scott’s brooding naysaying perfectly to show the true nature of each character.
This episode also firmly establishes that Ron Swanson, played by Nick Offerman, has the potential to become one of the greatest characters on television. In the post-screening Q&A Daniels and Schur discussed how a room full of pasty nerd comedy writers think of the last things they’d be caught doing (ie, caning a chair or paying more attention to the buffet than the women at Pawnee’s The Glitter Factory) in order to create the perfect man’s man that is Ron Swanson.
There are bittersweet romantic tangles, as well, as grumpus April and goofus Andy become closer to being, well, romantic and Rashida Jones’ Anne tries to avoid becoming involved with Lowe.
I’ll leave out any major plot points because, as Schur so accurately expressed, the show isn’t about the premise. He talked about times when they’d revise the plot because it had become “too interesting.” The pale minutiae of what surrounds the Pawneeans is what really allows the characters to shine. And when SNL Alum Anne Beatts (from the audience) questioned the purpose of the gimmicky mocumentary format, Schur went back to the characters, saying this format allows the cameras to follow the actors, not the other way around. This is a show about the jokes, written by comedians and acted (mostly) by comedians.
Unfortunately, the episode leaves a few loose ends that won’t be straightened until January 2011. During the Q&A it was established that this hold til mid-season is not due to Poehler’s pregnancy, as the first six episodes of season shree are now being filmed. It’s a shame considering the show has really started to become its own thing, not just a The Office spin-off starring Amy Poehler as a female Michael Scott. Poehler’s Leslie Knope has evolved into a strong female character that may be occasionally misguided but is ultimately intelligent and wistfully hopeful. The show has accumulated a great group of young staff writers who will only become more hilarious as they are more comfortable with the characters (See: Harris Wittels’ work with The Sarah Silverman Program) and an unbelievable cast rounded out by fantastic guest roles.
Hopefully P&R will return sooner than later, for momentum’s sake. Prime time comedy needs more jokes, not premises.