The Moth Chase

Elevating the Art of Procrastanalysis – Academics wasting time on pop culture

Pawnee Commons

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PNR Pawnee Commons

Leslie Knope, Balloon Ben Wyatt, Ben Wyatt, Balloon Leslie Knope

Bryan,

I don’t know about you, but I’m always up for a visit to Eagleton, land of beautiful people, segway tours, and free iPod touches (they’ve probably upgraded to putting iPads in their goody bags by now).  Like Springfield and Shelbyville on The Simpsons, Pawnee and its evil sister city have been bitter rivals since their inception; however — as befitting a community whose founders stole all the money in Pawnee’s bank and ran off to start their own settlement — Eagleton is distinguished by an overwhelming material, cultural, and even geographical* advantage over its neighbor.  I’m a big fan of these kinds of institutional rivalries on sitcoms, and the lopsided nature of the Pawnee-Eagleton competition fits perfectly into the universe of Parks and Recreation.  

*Due to the hot springs over which it’s situated, Eagleton naturally enjoys its own tropical mini-climate zone.  For good measure, it’s also on higher ground than Pawnee.

Our latest glimpse of the Stepford-esque town and its comically utopian environs was prompted by the ongoing Lot 48 storyline.  After Leslie makes a plea for park design submissions on Dary Merbles’s radio show (another great showcase for NPR jokes and Dan Castellaneta), the submission of a superior design by the wonderfully-named Wreston St. James forces her to contend with her revulsion for Eagletonians.  Elsewhere, Tom overcompensates for the sins of business ventures past by becoming overbearingly penny-pinching when Rent-A-Swag moves into its new storefront, and Andy and April have what I imagine is going to become a typical weekend day role-playing as Bert Macklin and Judy Hitler, spoiled only daughter of Adolf Hitler, during Andy’s security guard shift.

Amy Poehler is called upon to overreact to things quite a bit on the show — along with her workaholic nature, it’s practically her defining characteristic — but I thought “Pawnee Commons” did a good job grounding its humor in the tension between Leslie’s over-the-top antipathy and Ben’s growing infatuation with Eagleton in general and Wreston St. James in particular.  While Ben processes Eagleton’s perfectly manicured lawns, instant litter pickup, and friendly, patient architect with wide-eyed wonder, Leslie is blinded to Eagleton’s beauty and Wreston’s fundamental decency by the ongoing “blood feud” between their towns.  In the end, both Leslie and Ben are right — while St. James is on the level, his two architecture firm colleagues are representative of the smugness and superiority* that Eagletonians are known for in Pawnee.

*For a second I wondered if the Eagleton architects were actually well-meaning and had planned their “park” according to common Eagleton stereotypes about Pawneeans.  Turns out they were just evil.

I appreciated this week’s development of Andy into someone who is remotely able to do the job of a security guard, a capacity I was starting to doubt a little bit this season.  That doing so would necessitate Bert Macklin hanging up his shades was unexpected but satisfying.  No amount of action movie bluster and gravel-voiced posturing will make Andy a good public servant, let alone police officer, but his genuine goodheartedness makes him a great candidate to help people with mundane but important crises the way he helped a kid find his mother.  Andy will need to set aside at least some of his adolescent qualities in order to carry out the tasks Bert Macklin wouldn’t have the patience for (such as anything not involving explosions, shootouts, sexually charged interrogations, and necklaces containing all of Germany’s war secrets), and the latter’s April-aided retirement was a perfect button for a very funny subplot.

Bryan, what did you think of Rent-A-Swag’s new digs and the rest of the episode?  Is it a bad sign that I didn’t mind the yellow paint and sympathized with Tom’s fiscally responsible attempts to stock up on breakfast food?

Jotsy-thoughtsy section:

  • Leslie does a good job introducing a “Jazz + Jazz = Jazz” segment featuring a recording of Benny Goodman played over a separate recording of Miles Davis.  Not to beat a dead horse, but it sounds kind of like the Homeland credits.  
  • Label on a prospective park design by a prison inmate who protests his innocence: “Worm Park/I’m Guilty”
  • “Say what you want about Pawneeans, but we never give up!” “We have a mural called ‘The Many Surrenders of Pawnee!”  “Oh, so now you’re listening to me?”
  • “Oh, let me also get 12 eggs, uncooked, and some toast.  20 slices of toast, untoasted, in a row in a bag.”  “You want a carton of eggs and a loaf of bread?”
  • I would have the same reaction to learning woodworking as Chris, who is literally filled to the brim with questions
  • So did the park design include a dog park, or will that idea be abandoned in favor of a Lil’ Sebastian Memorial Fountain?

Daniel

—————-

Daniel,

I agree. I love taking a nice trip through Eagleton. This episode is fantastic in its study of two towns. As you pointed out, the comparisons to The Simpsons (that we have made before) are expanded when you compare Eagleton to Shelbyville. And, while Parks and Rec has always maintain more linear structure and more sincerity than The Simpsons, The glory of Pawnee as a character (with it’s own nemesis in Eagleton) is something that really sets Parks and Rec in a different category than other faux-documentary sitcoms. And reintroducing Dan Castellaneta as host of a public radio show is just a great way to make Pawnee more Springfieldian. And, it’s good to see that the radio show knows it’s audience and how much they love jazz (good burn on Homeland credits too Daniel).

Since you handled the main storyline so well, I’ll handle a little bit of the Rent-a-Swag part of the story. I am interested to see how well Tom Haverford can be funny in his new role. Hopefully, the writers are speaking to themselves through Ann when she explained to Tom that there has to be a balance of crazy “chicky-chicky parm parm” Tom and penny-pinching “one small pizza for several adults” Tom. I have no reason to believe that the writers won’t find a way to keep Tom interesting and hilarious, but I am not sure I see how it will work long term. Which brings me to the only consistent thing that I don’t like about the show. I find Chris to be fairly unfunny most of the time now. While this episode in particular had some nice contrast to Ron moments with Chris, I usually find Chris’s parts to be forced into the storyline. It’s like they knew they could have a storyline with Tom that needed the help of everyone else in the office, so Chris needed to be there and needed to have an angle. I would have rather seen more with Donna then Chris.

As for the actual location of Rent-A-Swag, I didn’t think it was that bad either until they showed the improved version of the store, and it made more sense. I guess Ron saying, “I hate all of this, which probably means it’s good for your business,” sums up the things we missed in the original Rent-A-Swag design.

As for the passing of Bert Macklin, it is similar to Tom in the sense that for Andy to move forward in life, there needs to be a balance between the craziness that makes Chris Pratt perfect for the role and some actual responsibility. And what better way for Bert Macklin to go off into retirement than a one-gun-iPhone salute?

Looking ahead, what is the showdown between Councilman Jamm going to be like over this new park? It will be fun to see what crazy thing becomes an obstacle to what is obviously a great idea for a park. Any ideas? Just Paunch Burger? Or will there be something new to make it equally outrageous?

Don’t bother trying to lie to me because I’m amazing,
Bryan

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  1. […] Chris and Ben’s hang out session (it looks like they may be turning a corner with Chris. Maybe they read last week’s entry from me) and anything in the episode that I […]


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