The Moth Chase

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

Article Two/Jerry’s Retirement

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Parks and Rec S05E19

Daniel,

The closer we get to the end of this season and potentially the end of the series, the more sad I am about what we will be losing as an audience. Parks and Rec’s ability to get basically all of my favorite comics on the show is something that will definitely be hard to see go. We get to see Aziz every week. We got to spend a few weeks with Louis C.K. playing the dopey cop who is in love with Leslie, and now we got to see Patton Oswalt play the history-loving, filibustering citizen who can churn butter (Andy’s favorite food!) as well as anyone. As the show is able to expand and add more and more characters to the Pawnee world, it is able to lean less on the tropes that have been built around the main characters (even though those tropes are awesome and hilarious). And that’s something not many shows are able to do. 

I’m not sure that Patton Oswalt is a great actor (I’ve heard wonderful things about his performance in Big Fan, but I haven’t seen it), but it doesn’t really matter. He basically hams it up pretty hardcore in this episode, but that’s more than OK. His fantastic filibuster (which could only really be done that well by Patton) would have been plenty, but his super-cheery outlook on 1800s living was also heartwarmingly funny. And, the door is open for more guest appearances from Patton in the future (if there is a future of the show).

Besides Patton, all of the “old laws” jokes were really great, also (buffalo meat is legal tender in Pawnee). And that was only the first half of the night.

In our second episode, Jerry retires (although he doesn’t seem to be gone because Ron mercifully hires him back for a few volunteer hours so that Tom won’t forever be known as Filo Pilo). I’ve always enjoyed the idea of Jerry’s home life being fantastic and having a super beautiful wife and daughters, but they got pretty creepy in this episode. The super cutesy “everyone is happy in the Gergich household” felt almost a little cultish (ie. The Hug Machine). But, I guess it worked. I do love that Jerry’s wife being so beautiful keeps Ben up at night because it makes no sense.

While the “A” story of Jerry’s retirement didn’t feel super strong, the episode was still filled with good moments. And for the sake of story, we had a lot of Chris and Ann time. It looks like Chris and Ann are going to try and work things out as a couple for the sake of the child. I don’t know about you, but that idea seems like a huge mess. In Pawnee, things work out for our main characters, so I’m sure the child will be fine. But, if you had two friends who were in this situation, don’t you think that you would be pretty worried about it? Overall, it seems like they are trying to be able to provide a measure of closure to this storyline just in case there is no season 6. But, we will see where it goes.

There is plenty more to cover, but I’ll you get to that.

Yes, I will go on a date with you, but I know you are a modern woman, so I will let you pay,
Bryan

Bryan,

When viewed in a vacuum, Parks and Rec’s series-worst-on-average ratings would seem to spell certain death.  However, network television (especially the kind that’s not CBS) has been losing so many viewers so fast that it’s really hard to know what NBC is going to do with one of its most critically acclaimed comedies/commodities*.  You’re right about quality guest stars being one of the show’s many pleasures — while The Office and even Community have had bigger names, Parks has made better use of a larger stable of guest actors and stand-ups; in the last two seasons alone we’ve seen mostly-memorable turns from Kathryn Hahn, Paul Rudd, CK, Nick Kroll, Jon Glaser, Jason Schwartzman, Megan Mulally, Matt Walsh, JK Simmons, Lucy Lawless, Jonathan Banks, Christie Brinkley (!), Jenny Slate and now Patton Oswalt, to say nothing of the Joe Biden-Newt Gingrich-Roy Hibbert Holy Trinity the show managed to snag in Season 5.

*If they wanted to make the internet explode, they could fire showrunner Mike Schur and replace him with Dan Harmon.

Most of these actors and sort-of-actors have been given roles that play well to their strengths/personas/general wheelhouses, and Patton Oswalt (who’s terrific in the right role — check out Young Adult sometime) was definitely well within his King-of-the-Dorks comfort zone delivering hearthy “Huzzahs!” in period-appropriate garb and spouting off the aforementioned epic filibuster, which was tantamount to geeksploitation in its incorporation of pretty much everything an 11-year-old boy has ever thought was cool.  While Oswalt’s Garth Blundin was less of a character in the way that, say, CK’s Officer Dave is a real character, he was a terrific joke machine and all-around delightful presence in “Article Two”.  My only complaint about his room-clearing speech is that I wish I’d been able to stay away from it — specifically the incredible, 8-minute video of a single take that made the rounds on the internet this week — before the show aired, to better appreciate the speech itself and the show’s funny-in-its-own right editing of it in the moment.  This should probably be the new definition of a first world problem.

While I don’t disagree that Jerry’s home life is so cute it’s creepy/cultish, that’s always been part of the joke to me – all the hug machine (!) stuff just made it more explicit.  The Gergiches’ incessant smiles and breakfast sing-alongs are so bizarre and inhumanly sunny that they inevitably become kind of disturbing in the process.  While I don’t think Parks is actually trying to undercut Jerry’s inherent goodness or happy home life, the implicit suggestion* of Jerry-as-kindly-paternal-cult-leader is darkly funny to me.  As played by Jim O’Heir, you could pretty much pluck Jerry unchanged out of the Pawnee universe and make him a super-creepy fringe-group figurehead on a mystery show or crime procedural.  In fact, that might have improved that one season of Dexter.

*I don’t want to get all Room 237 about this, but I’d guess that the writers/directors would have noted any creepiness about the Gergiches with enthusiasm, just because it’s funnier if their wholesomeness crosses over into unsettling territory.

Until next time, just call me Tall Tyrion Lannister.

Daniel

  • Speaking of geeksploitation, this is fantastic.
  • Speaking of creepy things, Ann’s Leslie Knope waffle doll was either adorable or terrifying.
  • One of my favorite recent sight gags: after Chris is handed a cup at the sperm bank and told that if he fills it up he gets his picture on the wall, we cut a to picture of a beaming Harris.
  • During most of “Jerry’s Retirement” I was thinking pretty much what Tom was thinking — you can’t get rid of Jerry!  He’s the office punching bag.  I haven’t heard anything about Jim O’Heir leaving the show, so I’m going to assume we’ll see a disproportionate amount of Jerry’s volunteer hours in the remaining couple episodes of the season.
  • Ann and Chris have taken a by-the-book, mature, and considered path towards preparing to have a child.  On the relationship side of things, they’ve just thrown caution to the wind, which is sort of the point — their attraction to each other is trumping all other considerations.  I have no problem with Ann and Chris hooking up again — which I think every viewer of this show knew was pretty much inevitable — but I do wish that Parks had handled the rekindling of their relationship a little more artfully, especially after a couple seasons of character development aimed, at least in part, at getting them back to this point in a way that felt natural and honest for both characters.
  • No objections to your picture, but I feel the need to document several wonderful things:
  • parks-and-recreation-season-5-article-two1 article 2 nighties article 2 JerrysFamily
  • Wait, how did Hannibal Lecter find his way into the Lucasfilm-Marvel Universe throwdown?  I guess when Thanos has the reality gem, all bets are off.

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