In the comedy world, there’s been good news and bad news. The bad news is that “Parks and Recreation” is taking a hiatus. However, with that came an exciting day for sitcom fans. Many rejoiced to learn that the wacky, meta styling of NBC’s “Community” would once again grace their small screens (and Hulu accounts!) with new episodes starting March 15.
“Community” has appeared to be teetering on the brink of cancellation since November when NBC shelved the second half of the season due to low viewership, but the netwok is making it possible to enroll at Greendale once more. It’s no guarantee for the “six seasons and a movie” the show’s enthusiasts demand, or even a promise for a fourth season, but it’s good news nonetheless. Unfortunately, with that good news comes the sacrifice of five weeks without “Parks and Rec.”
That’s five weeks without Leslie Knope (Amy Pohler)’s campaign woes, without Donna’s (Retta) sassy reactions, without April (Aubrey Plaza)’s near-continuous disdain and without Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman)’s anything. Hell, I’ll probably even miss Jerry (Jim O’Heir).
Last Monday’s strong episode, “Dave Returns,” didn’t make the separation any easier. In the show Leslie’s ex (Louis C.K.) returns and tells her that he still has feelings for her, to the chagrin of both Leslie and her boyfriend Ben (Adam Scott).
Dave does an atrociously bad job persuing Leslie, because he is somehow even more awkward than Leslie and Ben are already — and keep in mind that Ben is irrationally, intensely afraid of cops. Still, Dave wins the awkward-contest, hands down. At one point he even tells Leslie, “You look like I could use some company.”
What I’m trying to say is that there was a whole lot of awkward in this episode. That’s not unexpected from “Parks and Rec,” which resembles the early seasons of “The Office,” if Michael Scott was intelligent, endearing and your (er, my) role model for life. While “The Office” generates vicarious embarrassment, so much so that it’s sometimes painful to watch, “Parks and Rec” is buoyed by Leslie’s competence and ever-insistent optimism.
I don’t worry about “Parks and Rec” like I worry about other shows. Even when I don’t understand, say, how in the world the show will make a certain relationship believable, I have faith in the writers.
Creators Greg Daniels and Michael Schur, (the latter cameos as Mose on “The Office”) prove themselves time and time again. That’s not something that can be said for many people writing on television these days (the creator of a certain musical series comes to mind) — hence the worrying. It’s shows like “Parks and Rec” that help me sleep at night.
But enough of my over-investment in television; let’s look at something even more awkward, such as the romantic relationship developing between Tom (Aziz Ansari) and Ann (Rashida Jones). This plotline was introduced as a twist ending to the episode, “Operation Ann,” which aired on Feb. 2. It’s a cute idea: two familiar, established characters start dating — after all it worked for the relationship between April and Andy (Chris Pratt).
Still, it’s hard to really imagine Tom ending up with anyone,much less Ann. Ann is rational and down-to-earth, and Tom is…well, Tom. In the first scene of “Dave’s Return,” Ann makes Tom go into a random office so they can discuss their relationship. Tom dramatically clears the desk so they can have office sex. He later admits that he “might have misread the vibe.”
It’s a weird dynamic. It’s tempting to wonder if the creators of the show paired them together for lack of anything better to do with the characters — after Tom’s “Entertainment 720” plotline ended, the writers must have been looking for new ways to develop the character. Ann has been single all season long. Perhaps this relationship was a match of convenience — or at the very least, narrative economy.
Ann and Tom might work in the end. They have a similar sense of humor, and there’s always the old maxim of “opposites attract.” It’s clear Tom really likes Ann, if his eagerness to further their relationship is anything to go by. But can she put up with his immaturity in the long run? I’ll admit, I get a little concerned when one half of the romantic pairing says to the other, “Why do you have to be so you all the time?”
But I have faith in “Parks and Rec.” Ann and Tom’s relationship is definitely an interesting dynamic to explore, and I hope I root for them in the end. Add in the uber-awkward, rather lopsided love triangle between Leslie, Leslie’s boyfriend and Leslie’s ex, plus a humorous secret collaboration between April and Ron, and you get “Dave Returns.” It was an unsurprisingly wonderful episode, full of familiar, lovable characters and their endearing comic foibles.
I’m just saying, those five weeks without “Parks and Rec” are going to feel a little bit lonely.
Cohen is a member of the class of 2012.