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TV Diary | Parks And Recreation: “Sweet Sixteen”

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TV Diary | Parks And Recreation – Episode 4.16 – “Sweet Sixteen” – Original Airdate: 2/23/12

Episode Grade: C+

The law of averages is bound to catch up to even the best of television shows. Parks And Recreation is no exception and “Sweet Sixteen” is an indication of that. Following up a classic like “Dave Returns” was an unenviable task to be sure, but “Sweet Sixteen” landed with a thud on its own merits. Built around a promising premise [1], “Sweet Sixteen” is one of the first outright duds in recent Parks And Recreation memory and, really, the less that’s said about it the better so this review’s likely going to be pretty short. Other than Jerry’s neglected birthday fitting perfectly with his character and serving as a jumping off point for the episode, the two major aims of “Sweet Sixteen” were to establish that Leslie’s dual roles as Deputy Parks Supervisor and candidate running for city council are detracting from her ability to perform both jobs in an effective manner, while also moving the burgeoning Tom/Ann relationship forward. To say that “Sweet Sixteen” failed in both regards is probably being kind. While the fact that Leslie’s Type-A personality would preclude her from half-assing anything rings true to the Leslie we’ve seen over three-plus seasons, there just wasn’t compelling enough material here to justify the time spent on something that was fairly obvious from the start. Of course Leslie would be a stickler for campaign rules, making everyone who needed to discuss her candidacy go outside before letting them speak since discussing campaign matters in a city building is forbidden. Of course she’d be working 50 hours a week on each position. Of course she’d finally understand how far she’s burning the candle at both ends after she’s the one who forgets to invite Jerry to the surprise birthday party that the Parks Department is throwing him [2] – a party that was her own idea. Predictably, the episode concludes with a heart-to-heart between she and Ron where he convinces her that she needs to scale back and everything’s all well and good again. And therein lies the problem with “Sweet Sixteen” – when you expect it to zig… it zigs. There’s no surprise anywhere. Plot developments are telegraphed from miles away and even the episode’s jokes don’t land like they normally do. Again… this happens to almost every show at some point in its run and that it’s been so long since Parks And Recreation threw out a real dog like “Sweet Sixteen” was… season one, maybe? Not a bad stretch, but all things must come to an end. However, taking into consideration how much of a well-oiled comedic machine the show is, I’d wager it’ll probably be another long while before it drops a disappointment like “Sweet Sixteen” again. And that’s a good thing.

[1] That office punching bag Jerry suffers the ignominy of being born on Leap Day, February 29, making his 64th birthday technically his sweet sixteen birthday.
[2] A party being thrown at Donna’s (!) lake house. Donna is also apparently cousins with Ginuwine. Very random reference, Parks And Rec. Very random indeed.

Miscellany:
*And the Tom and Ann thing? I wanted to give the show’s writers the benefit of the doubt but I’m beginning to wonder if that was a wise decision. Throughout the course of “Sweet Sixteen,” Tom and Ann seemingly both realize that they’re terrible for each other only to get back together in the end thanks to the drunken advice of… April? Admittedly, Tom’s “Oh No No” list of relationship red flags (including not loving 90s R&B and never having seen a Paul Walker movie) did elicit a few chuckles but I’m sorry… I’m not buying this. I was all for (finally) giving Ann and, by extension Rashida Jones, something to do but sadly, I don’t think this is it. Cut bait. Soon.
*More predictability was evident in the C-story as Chris, searching for some kind of companionship in his new glitchy microchip personality, bonds with the poor three-legged Champion after being asked to doggy-sit by Andy and April. If you couldn’t spot that he and Andy would vie for the dog’s affections by the end of the episode, go hit yourself in the head because it was that obvious. While I do like the new depressive shading of Chris Traeger, this was too Marley & Me for me to get into.
*Apparently having a lollipop stuck on the back of your sweater for four days is called “lollipopping.” According to Leslie, all the kids are doing it.
*One small victory: Pawnee continues to have some of the greatest store names in existence. The sign shop where Leslie encounters an incompetent clerk is called Signtology while Jerry evidently gets his sugar fix from Cakey Jay’s Cheesecake Facility. I don’t care… that last one is pure gold.
*”He’s a mutt. Half amazing. Half terrific.”
*”Wait… did his leg grow back?!”
*”Jerry, what are you doing standing here? Our water has poop in it!”
*”The Meagles are a cold people.”
*”What is the big emergency? Did we lose more seniors in the woods?”
*”You insist on being introduced as the Brown Gosling.”
*”We are gonna throw Jerry a sweet sixteen party no matter how agonizing it is for all of us.” “That’s the spirit.”
*”I’d also like to announce our official relationship mashup name. It’s Tann.”
*”Jerry’s work is often adequate.”
*”Is this all the eggs we have?” “Yes. What are you making?” “Eggs.”
*As per usual, I’ve embedded the episode below via Hulu for your viewing pleasure. Don’t spend too much time on this one. You’ve been warned.

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