' ' Cinema Romantico: Episodes: Time Capsule, Parks and Recreation

Friday, August 05, 2011

Episodes: Time Capsule, Parks and Recreation

Andrew of Encore Entertainment is a hosting a blog-a-thon in which we are asked to name our "favorite scripted television episode of the last TV season." I was so glad when he decided to do this because I've been looking for an excuse to write about this episode for months.

Earnest, eager Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), deputy director of the Parks and Recreation department of Pawnee, Indiana, "the Akron of southwest of Indiana", has come up with an idea to bury a time capsule filled with hand-picked items by her department's staff to document what life was like during their time in Pawnee. It seems innocent enough, until a man, Kelly (Will Forte), turns up and asks that the "Twilight" book series be added as one of the pieces of documentation. Sweetly, Leslie refuses. Kelly therefore adamantly, but pleasantly, chains himself to a pipe in Leslie's office with the proclamation that he won't leave until "Twilight" find its way into the precious capsule.

The expectation at this point is obvious. An escalating war of wills between Leslie and Kelly as he harasses her and eventually gets her to read "Twilight". Except......eh, not quite. Kelly does give Leslie a copy of "Twlight" to read, yes, but she doesn't much like it. Instead she discovers the book is the property of Kelly's daughter and ferrets out the root of the protest: Kelly got divorced a couple years ago and now hopes to win his way back into his daughter's heart via this stunt. And having come clean he concedes that it seems like a fairly ridiculous notion and shakes his head and says "You don't have to put 'Twilight' in the time capsule." Cut to Leslie with all her colleagues saying: "I think we should put 'Twilight' in the time capsule." These developments are soooooooooooooo true to its main character that in this era of senseless plotting it almost kinda baffles.

But, of course, once she agrees to this request there will be more requests which leads to a town hall meeting where the citizens of Pawnee debate what should and should not go into the time capsule which leads to the potential formation of at least nine different time capsules before finally Leslie hits on the idea of simply having the only capsule artifact be a video tape of the town hall meeting.

He's Ron Swanson and he's pretty much The Man.
Here's the thing: the episode isn't really all that funny. I mean, it's funny, sure, of course, but in little ways, in Nick Offerman's Ron Swanson (i.e. The Best Character On TV) dismissing the town hall meeting as "a crackpot convention" or Adam Scott's endless parade of subtly hilarious reaction shots to various absurdity throughout the "crackpot convention" or Aziz Ansari's ultra-not-as-suave-as-he-thinks Tom Haverford upon being asked by Kelly "Do you know who else knows something about heartbreak?" replying "Kenneth Babyface Edmonds?" But it's rarely, if ever, knee-slapping, laughing-so-hard-I-can't-breathe kinda laughter.

Okay, I take that back. Actually the part where Rob Lowe's (an actor I've never liked in anything but who I love on "Parks and Rec") Chris Traeger (at present the acting City Manager) - who has chosen to assist the hapless but good-hearted shoeshine-stand man Andy Dwyer in his quest to re-win the affection of the uberly, ginormously dry April Ludgate - says to the camera "Why do I want to help Andy? Because he's a good person. And I like good people." at which point Andy makes like a monkey in the background with Chris's souped-up athletic shoes at which point, like a proud father, Chris beams at the camera is side-splitting.

"Parks and Recreation" is an embodiment of that term you so often hear tossed around - character comedy. And that's critical, and it's critical because I like these characters. I like all these characters, even the unlikeable ones because, God bless 'em, they are who they are and make no bones about it. They are defiantly themselves, which, in a way, is the whole point of that lone video tape placed in the time capsule.

Like us, love us, can't stand us, indifferent to us, this is Pawnee and this is who we are. And we're okay with it.

1 comment:

Andrew K. said...

Ugh, it's as if you could take ANY episode of this season and make an argument as to why it's the best thing ever (and yet I'm not sure I'm writing on a ParksandRec episode...and yes, I've not chosen what I'm writing on for my own blogathon).