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I like TV. Probably more than any human should.

Posts Tagged ‘Parks And Recreation

Review: Veep

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Grade: A

Comedies don’t often arrive as fully formed as HBO’s new Veep. They just don’t. They usually take a handful of episodes to find their voice and their style, but damn it if Veep doesn’t hit it out of the park in its first appearance at the plate [1]. After watching Veep’s first episode, “Fundraiser,” three – THREE – times, I’m left struggling to think of the last comedy pilot I liked as much as this one. Community back in 2009 is the only one that comes immediately to mind. I wasn’t a huge fan of Louie’s pilot in 2010, such was the jarring tonal shift of the show. Parks And Recreation’s was pretty close to bad in 2009. Hell… even the vaunted Arrested Development took a handful of episodes – give or take – to get itself off the ground. But Veep was note perfect throughout its entire first installment, immediately throwing down the gauntlet and announcing its candidacy for the best comedy on television. Coming from the mind of Glaswegian writer Armando Iannucci (In The Loop), Veep is a workplace comedy set in a rather unique setting – the office of the Vice President of the United States. Seinfeld vet Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays Selina Meyer, the Vice President who is shown to be someone with lofty ambitions but who is marginalized in her job even as she’s a breath away from becoming the leader of the free world. Louis-Dreyfus noted during an interview with Jon Stewart on The Daily Show back in April that part of what drew her to the series was that no one ever really aspires to the Vice Presidency, and the show uses that paradox to its advantage. There’s a nice running gag that develops where Meyer asks her executive assistant whether the President has called each time she enters the office, and the answer is always no. The show is also very wise not to alienate one political party or the other by never specifying which party Meyer belongs to, so everyone trying to paint Veep as some kind of Sarah Palin parody can shut their faces right now. Since the office serves as the base for much of Veep’s action, Meyer is surrounded by her staff; Chief of Staff Amy Brookheimer (Anna Chlumsky, looking a loooong way from My Girl), personal aide Gary Walsh (Tony Hale, playing a slightly more self-aware version of Buster Bluth from Arrested Development), hapless press secretary Mike McLintock (Matt Walsh, Upright Citizens Brigade), smarmy and ambitious Dan Egan (Reid Scott, The Big C), and executive assistant Sue Wilson (Sufe Bradshaw). It’s clear after the show’s first 30 minutes that there are no weak links in this cast. Every character is well-defined – another rarity in pilots – and each of the actors are capable at worst and exceptional at best. Iannucci has a gift for creative profanity [2] and the cast delivers his delicious lines perfectly. “Fundraiser” portrays the myriad fires that the office of the VPOTUS must put out on a daily basis, from currying favor with an egotistical senator after running afoul of the oil industry, to dealing with the overzealous liaison from the President’s office (Timothy Simons), to managing the controversy when Meyer jokingly (and in very un-PC fashion) refers to a fired staffer as a “retard” during an event. Granted, it’s just one episode but Veep has the potential to become a show for the ages. Iannucci is an incredibly talented writer who’s assembled a crack cast unencumbered by the shackles of over-the-air television, taking full advantage of the freedoms that premium cable affords [3]. Again, if Veep can sustain the momentum generated by “Fundraiser”… watch out. People like myself won’t be able to recommend it highly enough because it’ll be television’s next great comedy. It really is that good.

[1] Us writers love our hoary sports metaphors.
[2] Selina, after realizing that much of the speech she’s due to give minutes later has been censored by the President’s office: “This has been pencil-fucked?” “Front and back. Very little romance.”
[3] Witness this monologue from Amy after Selina solicits her opinion of the slimy Dan – Amy: “Oh, Dan is a shit.” Selina: “You want to expand on that?” Amy: “Sure. He’s a massive and total shit. When you first meet him you think, ‘Surely to God this man can’t be as big a shit as he seems, but he is. Like if there were a book with covers made of shit you’d think, ‘That’s intriguing. I wonder what’s in this book that they saw fit to give it covers made of pure shit. And then you open it, and… shit.” Or this one, from the senator that Meyer meets with to perform a little damage control after the snafu with Big Oil: “You piss off plastics, you piss off oil and you don’t want to fuck with those guys because they fuck in a very unpleasant fashion.”

*Louis-Dreyfus also noted in that same Daily Show interview that we will never see the President himself, which is another smart move on Iannucci’s part. It’s also a nod to the history of sitcoms like Cheers and Frasier, both of which had characters that played a large role in the goings-on but were never actually seen.
*Matt Walsh is a very talented comedian and has always been great when he’s shown up in spot roles here and there, so I love seeing him finally get a showcase here.
*Another sign that Veep is on to something: its attention to the little details. There’s a great scene where Gary wants to put down a super-hot cup of coffee only to have Selina tell him that she needs to tell him something, but she can’t remember what it is, so he just ends up standing there with the coffee burning his hands. The expressions on Tony Hale’s face throughout are incredible.
*I like how, much like how I’d imagine that offices in Washington work, the show moves seamlessly from crisis to crisis. In the first 30 minutes alone, Meyer pisses of oil with her clean jobs initiative, needs to ingratiate herself with a senator for help, puts her foot in her mouth by making a retard joke, hires a new aide, all while the office manages a hilariously clandestine op to retrieve a condolence card for a senator that Amy mistakenly signed her own name to while trying to forge Meyer’s signature. Veep uses every one of its 30 minutes, and it uses them efficiently.
*”Glasses make me look weak. It’s like a wheelchair for the eye.”
*”Mike, talk to me. I’m in a room with three people and a fuckload of quiche.”
*”She’s mediocre. Really. Of all the ‘ocres’ she’s the ‘medi-est.'”
*”Next time pack an espresso machine in your big fuckin’ bitch bag.”
*”Rapey Reeves.” “He was the first senator to welcome me to the Capitol. You know… he was old – even then.” “Was he full of wisdom?” “He was full of bourbon. And he grabbed my left tit. Remember that?” “And God rest his soul.”
*”Did you fire your tweet monkey yet? Because that guy is a weapons-grade retard. I think you might have been hoist by your own retard there.”
*”You know my motto: I don’t want to know. Anyways, what motto? I don’t have a motto.”
*”That address makes me hard. Kiss you, miss you.”
*”I’ll redact your fuckin’ face.”
*”What if Tom Hanks dies?” “How did you get your job? You want to base your strategy around whether Tom Hanks dies?”
*”Hey, good lookin’. What you got cookin’? Dickwad pie?”
*”When a sexual harasser dies, we sign his wife’s card. That’s how Washington works.”
*”Is this going to become like Moonlighting where we fall in love and start fucking?”
*”Well… good luck, Gary. I’m convinced that you can probably do this.”
*”Amy… here we go. Shrimp linguine and a porno. I’m just kidding — it’s chicken linguine.”
*”Amy… I NEED a shit!”
*”Touch me and you lose a finger. And a ball.”


Community & Cougar Town Get New Seasons (Oh… And A Bunch Of Other Shows, Too)

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With the upfronts coming next week, yesterday saw a HUGE flood of renewals and cancellations, some of which were surprising (and welcomed), some of which were no-brainers, and some of which were head-scratchers. Also, one show got cancelled AND picked up in the same day. Say whaa now? Let’s take a look at each of them bullet-point style:

Community – We did it everyone. We. Did. It. NBC renewed Community for an (as of now) truncated 13-episode season but, by my count, 13 is more than zero so this is goddamned great news. The fly in the ointment? The feud between the superfluous Chevy Chase and showrunner Dan Harmon could possibly lead to Harmon stepping down as Community’s boss – which would really, really suck – but for now, let’s just focus on the fact that Community isn’t going anywhere. And that’s a very, very good thing.
Cougar Town – I was almost as worried about this one as I was Community and it turns out it was for good reason, because it’s not going to be airing on ABC next season. Mainly because it’s moving to TBS. You read that right. The oft-mentioned but rarely-implemented fan dream of a favorite being cancelled and then picked up by another network actually worked in this case, as TBS has purchased the rights to all 63 of Cougar Town’s existing episodes and has ordered a third season with the entire cast still intact – no small feat given the fact that it’s moving from network to cable TV. Any way you look at it, this is a win for quality television and it sounds like Cougar Town is going to finally get the network love (and possibly the new title, finally) that it deserves.
Parenthood – We’re putting this one in the win column, too. Although Parenthood stumbled a bit down the stretch in its third season but there were times in 2012 where it was network television’s best drama. Plus, we’re always gonna support Jason Katims shows here. We’re just built that way.
30 Rock – NBC’s bringing back 30 Rock for a victory lap of sorts, giving it 13 episodes to wrap up its seven seasons on the air. One wonders if Alec Baldwin is itching to move onto other things [resists urge to make a voicemail joke] but we can all admit that there’s no way that the show works without him. Figures… I finally start getting caught up on 30 Rock (midway through season five right now) just in time for it to stop being a living show.
ABC Scripted Shows – ABC picked up a whole host of scripted shows of varying quality. In order from best to… not good, Suburgatory, Revenge, Once Upon A Time, Modern Family, Grey’s Anatomy, Castle, and The Middle all received new seasons. I’m particularly looking forward to getting caught up on Revenge this summer on Hulu as its had very good buzz (and ratings, for that matter) all season long. You’ll notice that Modern Family is in the middle of that list which is fitting, since it’s the very definition of an average TV show.
ABC Unscripted Shows – ABC also picked up a bunch of unscripted shows as well, including Dancing With The Stars, The Bachelor, and Shark Tank. Insert big collective fart noise here.
• A Gifted Man – No one knew that this show was still on, right? Anyway… CBS cancelled it and I’d venture to say that, outside of those who actually work on A Gifted Man, no one even cares. Hell, I’m sure some of them don’t even care.

Basically, any day where Community and Cougar Town both get new seasons is a good one, so it’ll be interesting to see what other shows that are on the bubble (Parks And Recreation and Happy Endings, I’m looking at you) get picked up ahead of next week’s upfronts in the next couple of days.

EDIT: Parks And Recreation and Happy Endings were both picked up today, making this one helluva week for quality television. This isn’t what normally happens. I’m scared. Hold me.

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.

*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.

Morning Links: 3/13/12

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Welcome to the Morning Links. Each weekday, I’ll provide you with some interesting television-related news items culled from the various TV websites I frequent on a regular basis with a slight bit of commentary attached. Pretty straightforward – no fuss, no muss. Let’s get to the links:

*Breaking Bad. July. Start the countdown… now. (Via The AV Club)

*A new Game Of Thrones trailer hit the interwebz yesterday. I’m hyped and all… but I think this might be trailer #147 that HBO’s released in the past few weeks. Just debut already. (Ed. Note: I fully realize that I’ve probably linked all of these. I’m human.) (Via EW)

*Showtime announced on Monday that the new seasons of Dexter and Homeland will premiere on Sunday, September 30. Not really the biggest fan of Dexter as I think it’s one of the more overhyped shows on television but I’m all in on Homeland, a show that I had in my top five in 2011. Really anxious to see how they follow up a dynamite debut season. Dexter will air at 9PM and be followed by Homeland at 10PM. Mark your calendars. (Via Hitfix)

*You know that humongous beeg (tm – Ilya Bryzgalov) spoiler from Sunday’s The Walking Dead? Get some really insightful scoop from series co-creator Robert Kirkman. (Via The Hollywood Reporter)

*Not at all unrelated to the above item, former Walking Dead showrunner Frank Darabont now has the lead for his new project with TNT, L.A. Noir. (Via The Hollywood Reporter)

*BREAKING: Jon Hamm is awesome. (Via The Hollywood Reporter)

*On the other hand, Greta Van Susteren is a spiteful, hateful person. (Via Warming Glow)

*Producer Carlton Cuse seems to have found his first post-Lost project and it’s a Psycho prequel for A&E called The Bates Motel. Frankly, this could be a really interesting idea if they pull it off well. (Via The Hollywood Reporter)

*Matt Saracen is coming back to TV. Clear eyes, full hearts. (Via The Hollywood Reporter)

*This certainly puts a different spin on the Leslie/Ben relationship on Parks And Recreation, doesn’t it? (Via The AV Club)

*Sorry… not buying Will Forte – an acquired taste’s acquired taste – as a basketball player. And Modern Family’s Steven Levitan being behind Forte’s new Fox sitcom ain’t helping matters either. (Via EW)

*This is why Warming Glow’s Danger Guerrero is one of my favorite television bloggers. Plus, dude’s also a Phillies fan so he’s doubly awesome. (Via Warming Glow)

TV Diary | Parks And Recreation: “Dave Returns”

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TV Diary | Parks And Recreation – Episode 4.15 – “Dave Returns” – Original Airdate: 2/16/12

Episode Grade: A

I’ll be completely honest – the fact that Louis CK was back on Parks And Recreation for the first time in two years in “Dave Returns” predisposed me to like this episode more than your average installment of the show. We can get that out of the way right off the bat. However, Hitfix’s Alan Sepinwall made a really good point in his review of “Dave Returns” – the last time that CK guest-starred on the show, it was not only well before CK had hit the cultural zeitgeist but also before Parks And Recreation itself had developed into one of television’s best sitcoms as well. Looking at the episode through that prism, it’s obvious that not only has CK returned as a more confident performer but he’s returned to a more confident show. CK is pretty self-deprecating in his media appearances, poking fun at the fact that he’s not really an actor but two seasons of doing his own show – FX’s brilliant Louie – have clearly allowed CK’s acting to grow by leaps and bounds, culminating in an Emmy nomination last fall for Best Actor in a Comedy for crying out loud. So to watch him slip back into his role as Officer Dave – last seen joining the National Guard reserve in San Diego and asking Leslie to move out west with him – is to watch a performer whose confidence is at an all-time high. But that confidence extends to the show itself. As Sepinwall pointed out, in season two Parks And Recreation was just starting to jell into a comedic powerhouse. It had the unenviable task of trying to get past what was, politely speaking, an uneven first season that turned many people off to the show. It was struggling to not only hold onto the audience it had, but trying to coax back those who may have abandoned it after its less than stellar first campaign. Its second year was very strong, but it wasn’t until the end of that season and the introduction of Adam Scott’s Ben Wyatt and Rob Lowe’s Chris Traeger that the show really found itself and discovered the dynamic that would propel Parks And Recreation to its current status as one of television’s best shows. And that sense of confidence was palpable all over “Dave Returns.” CK didn’t feel like a stand-up comedian doing a guest shot on a sitcom – he felt like one of our best comedic actors slipping seamlessly into one of television’s best and tightest ensembles. That Parks And Recreation managed to find an organic reason for his return – Dave is back in Pawnee to interview for the police chief job just as Leslie and Ben are trying to secure the endorsement of the outgoing chief – instead of just trying to capitalize on CK’s rise to stardom just makes things all the better. And that this is the first interaction that Dave has had with Ben makes every scene that CK and Scott share [1] a rousing highlight of the episode. Dave and Ben’s continual dorky one-upsmanship of each other – Dave is still as robotic and malapropism-prone as ever while Ben still retains his awkwardness and nervousness around police officers – is a hoot and Leslie’s attempts to play referee between the two provides Poehler some great material as well. That the show also avoided the temptation to devolve Dave from the level-headed albeit low-key guy that he originally was to some sort of maniacal jealous moron in the face of Leslie’s relationship with Ben was also a testament to CK and Parks And Recreation’s writers’ ability to find the conflict inherent in the situation without relying on cartoonish crutches. Simply put, “Dave Returns” is going to stand as a high-water mark of Parks And Recreation’s pretty brilliant fourth season, and that’s a credit to both CK’s ability as a performer and to Parks And Recreation as a well-oiled comedic machine.

[1] Obviously along with the comedic powerhouse that is Amy Poehler.

*While Leslie and Ben were busy trying to secure the police chief’s endorsement, the rest of the Parks Department spent much of “Dave Returns” in a recording studio laying down the anthem – “It’s kinda like ‘We Are The World’ only I think it can have an impact on society.” – that Andy wrote for Leslie’s campaign. The plotline seems to exist for two main reasons: to show that Andy can turn into an egotistical dick when other people are recording one of his songs and as an excuse for the pseudo-return of Ron’s Duke Silver alter-ego. Seeing the usually docile and simple Andy turn taskmaster – “Was that a joke? Were you just joking right now? Because that was hilarious-ly awful.” – when he doesn’t get the results he wants from the collective is a fun switch on the usually dim-witted character, while Ron enlisting April’s help to keep his secret identity concealed and then trading on his musical skills to help Andy’s song take shape was a nice return to the Duke Silver in-joke.
*Still not completely on board with the Ann/Tom pairing – most of the time here is spent with Tom desperately trying to get another chance with her before ultimately wearing her down – but it gives Rashida Jones something to do, which I do like. Hopefully Parks And Recreation’s writers find the sweet spot in this storyline (provided there is one) before too long.
*I’ve seen things before… and watching Chris murder “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” is something I hope to never have to see again. Ever.
*Tom Haverford Playbook Item #2: Ladies love a guy waiting for them in the rain. (NOTE: They don’t actually love a guy waiting for them in the rain, as Ann proves.)
*The way Adam Scott plays Ben’s awkwardness around police officers – “Pretty sweet sauce in there, eh Ace?” – will never not be funny.
*Jerry Abuse Item Of The Week: Having cymbals slammed in his face by April after almost outing Ron as Duke Silver to everyone.
*”I feel like you’re embawwased by me.” “That is accurate.”
*”OK… here it comes… 9/11…”
*”Yes, Leslie Knope is a female person with whom I was involved. We had romantical involvement.”
*”Double Endorsement. Oooh… that sounds like an Ashley Judd movie.”
*”You look like I could use some company.”
*”He’s in love with you and he has a GUN?”
*”I got you guys some tea with honey because honey’s good for your throat but mine’s just honey because tea is gross.”
*”I don’t want to brag but I have a ton of experience with women being mad at me.”
*”Oh, for fuck’s sake.”
*”I just said one thing to you and you’re contrairing me.”
*”No offense, Ron, but what do you know about music?”
*”Now if you’ll excuse me I’m about to endorse ten beers into my mouth because this has been a stressful evening.”
*”The four sweetest words in the English language: You wore me down.”
*As per usual, I’ve embedded the episode below via Hulu for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy.

TV Diary | Parks And Recreation: “Operation Ann”

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TV Diary | Parks And Recreation – Episode 4.14 – “Operation Ann” – Original Airdate: 2/2/12

Episode Grade: B

Parks And Recreation has long had an Ann problem. Don’t get me wrong – Rashida Jones is a talented, talented actress and I’d watch her in almost anything. Whatever the problem with the way Ann’s been drawn, it’s not Jones’s fault. With that said, if there’s been one character throughout the run of the show [1] who the writers have had trouble pinning down, it’s Ann Perkins. Going from concerned citizen/Andy’s girlfriend to becoming Leslie’s best friend and sounding board to a failed relationship with Rob Lowe’s Chris to being shoehorned into a job in the Parks Department as a way of explaining why a nurse was always at City Hall, Ann has been rudderless for most of the show’s run. As such, she’s become the character that Parks And Recreation’s writers test things out on to see if they’re going to stick and in “Operation Ann” they’ve played an interesting gambit with her – romantically pairing Ann with the id of the show, Aziz Ansari’s Tom Haverford. One could argue that the seeds for such an unlikely coupling have been sown in previous years as Tom’s never been particularly shy about his interest in Ann but following up on his interest in this manner had to have been the most unlikely of possibilities. However, after seeing how “Operation Ann” played out I’m going to reserve judgment for now on the development because, surprising as it most certainly was, there were a lot of notes that did ring true to the characters as we know them. Much of the episode was based around Leslie’s attempts to find Ann a date for Valentine’s Day, including setting up a speed-dating session at a City Hall couples event and tasking all Parks Department personnel with finding potential suitors for Ms. Perkins which admittedly did lead to more than a few laughs [2] but, more than that, allowed for an angle that made sense within the show’s universe and that also provided yet more growth for one of the show’s characters. First, the angle. “Operation Ann” did manage to set up the Ann/Tom rendezvous organically with some genuine conflict from Leslie beyond Leslie simply being Leslie. After all of Leslie’s attempts to match Ann up failed, Ann begged out of the event claiming exhaustion in saying that she just wanted to head home but Leslie follows her out into the parking lot and sees Ann primping herself in her car, presumably because she has other plans. This angers Leslie because she thinks that the reason Ann lied to her was because she was meeting someone that Ann knows she shouldn’t be seeing, which leads Leslie to jump to the conclusion that she’s meeting with and attempting to rekindle her relationship with Chris. Obviously, this bothers Leslie because of the consequences of her relationship with Ben and Chris’s seeming hypocrisy, so she enlists Ben to help her tail Ann instead of enjoying their Valentine’s Day dinner together [3]. Once they arrive at the restaurant and watch Ann through a window, they’re both shocked to see that Ann is spending time not with Chris but with Tom, and they’re even more shocked when they find out that the date was facilitated by April, marking the second consecutive episode where the sardonic April selflessly helped another castmember. When Leslie doubts her sincerity, April tells her that she saw Tom and Ann having fun at the event and pushed them together because Tom was the only man that made Ann smile that entire night. I really like this new shading of April and it should be interesting to see where Parks And Recreation takes her newfound maturity. It should also prove just as fun to see where the Ann/Tom relationship is headed and, although it may seem unlikely for these two characters to get together, Mike Schur and his writing staff have earned the benefit of the doubt here. If nothing else, it should be a fascinating experiment.

[1] Outside of Paul Schneider’s boring and now-departed Mark Brendanawicz character.
[2] Random guy after sitting down with Ann: “You didn’t tell me she was beautiful. Well… not as beautiful as my sister but you know the law.”
[3] Ben: “Screw romantic dinners. Let’s go rub it in their face.” Leslie: “I love you so much.”

*”Operation Ann’s” B-story had its moments but ultimately has to be put into the “miss” category. Leslie creates an elaborate scavenger hunt for Ben to complete that’s meant to reveal the location of their Valentine’s Day dinner and Andy and – inexplicably – Ron enthusiastically help him with his search. While the fact that the normally staid Ron would be so gung-ho about puzzle-solving was somewhat incongruously amusing, it just didn’t land as well as one might hope other than watching Ron’s giddiness make him oblivious to the fact that The Bulge was, in fact, a gay bar. Beyond that… not much to see here.
*On the other hand, Chris’s depression over his breakup with Millicent Gurgich – love how he almost always refers to her by her complete name – was a new look for the character and one that, frankly, I hope we see more of. Because it’s damn funny. Watching Chris serve as the world’s most depressing DJ was a kick. Anything that includes the following exchange is A-OK in my book: “Can we change up the music? It kind of sounds like the end of a movie about a monk who killed himself.” “It is.”
*Hitfix’s Alan Sepinwall in his review of “Operation Ann” broached the possibility that Parks And Recreation could be planting the seeds of a potential April/Andy breakup between her newfound maturity and his… being Andy. Not sure that I’d be on board with that since their relationship is one of my favorite things about the show but it’s worth filing the possibility away at least.
*Nice Party Down reunion between Adam Scott and Martin Starr as an April-esque clerk at Pawnee’s snow globe museum. If the show decided to make Starr a recurring player I’d have exactly zero problems with that.
*I’m always a fan of continuity so I liked that Leslie’s made-up Galentine’s Day holiday made a re-appearance here.
*However, minus points for using LMFAO’s musical STD “Party Rock Anthem.” Why have you forsaken me, Parks And Rec?
*Leslie’s idea of attractive men: Ryan Gosling, Joe Biden, Sam Waterston.
*OF COURSE Jerry would fall for Tom’s “Does she have a little Indian in her?” joke while Leslie spots it a mile away.
*Yachter Otter seems like a perfectly reasonable Leslie dream as does Ben’s decision to have a stuffed animal of said animal made for Leslie.
*Jerry’s ad on Craigslist for a date for Ann: “Man seeking man for night of casual fun.” It ends pretty much like you think it does.
*”Consider this alternate plan. We’ll have a drink, get to know each other, whatever. And then we’ll go back to my place and snuggle up like little bunnnnies.” Great Aziz Ansari line reading.
*”I have several men in rotation. One’s waiting for me out in the car.”
*”It’s really hard to say ‘congrats’ without sounding sarcastic.”
*”You beautiful spinster. I will find you love.” “Did you say something?” “Nothing. I love you.”
*”Millicent Gurgich has literally torn my heart from my chest and replaced it with a thick slab of sadness.”
*”I know what things are.”
*”April hates Valentine’s Day. And brunch. And outside. And smiling.”
*”Did you try ‘fuck’?”
*”I hate riddles and other such nonsense. I want that stated for the record.”
*”Where to begin. I’m an amateur juggler.” “No, stop. You shouldn’t have begun there.
*”Can I just look at your car keys for a second? I just need to see something on your car keys.”
*As per usual, I’ve embedded the episode below via Hulu for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy.

Morning Links: 2/24/12

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Welcome to the Morning Links. Each weekday, I’ll provide you with some interesting television-related news items culled from the various TV websites I frequent on a regular basis with a slight bit of commentary attached. Pretty straightforward – no fuss, no muss. Let’s move forward towards the weekend the right way:

*FX intelligently renewed its genius animated comedy Archer for a 13-episode fourth season which really wasn’t a surprise when you consider that: A. It’s the best thing on television right now; and B. That it’s a solid performer for the network. Coupled with the news that the network has also signed a deal with Archer creator Adam Reed’s production company, The AV Club speculates that this means that the show will ultimately run at least through a seventh or eighth season so that the show can be sold into syndication, which is extra great news. EW also has the first look at the character Bryan Cranston will be voicing in the show’s upcoming two-part season finale (I has a sad since that’s less than a month away).

*Friday Night Lights-related news? You’re damn right I’m linking it. Julie Taylor herself, Aimee Teegarden, has been cast as the lead in The CW’s Hunger Games­­-recalling pilot The Selection. You have just sealed my participation in this show, CW. (Via The Hollywood Reporter)

*Remember that cult drama for NBC that I pooped all over the other day? Yeah… might be changing my tune now that Terriers’ Michael Raymond-James has been added to the cast. Just like Friday Night Lights, I will follow a Terriers cast member almost anywhere. (Via TVLine)

*People apparently can’t get enough of a British soap. The second-season finale of PBS’s Downton Abbey notched 5.4 million viewers, becoming the highest-rated show on PBS since 2009. (Via The Hollywood Reporter)

*Stevie Nicks… Up All Night<tries not to hyperventilate> (Via EW)

*Ben got a show so OF COURSE Noel got one too. Decide already, universe! #Felicityjokes (Via The Hollywood Reporter)

*Dennis Quaid and Michael Chiklis in a 1960s set Western for CBS? Color me intrigued. (Via The Hollywood Reporter)

*Sweet Jerry from Parks And Recreation mash-up, The guy might currently hold the position as TV’s best punching bag. (Via Hitfix)