Finally, our long national nightmare is over! Parks and Rec is back, and in the post-Office time slot it deserves, and maybe it was my pure excitement to seeing the show back, but I laughed pretty damn hard throughout the entire thing, even during the odd “Previously on Parks and Recreation” thing. The cold open, of Leslie going to gather her co-workers who have been doing other things throughout the government shutdown was priceless. I can’t decide what I found funnier, Tom’s kiss-off to his manager at Lady Footlocker or Leslie heaving Jerry’s painting into the water. The show started with a bang, and never looked back.
“Go Big or Go Home” set in motion our basic story lines that we’ll be seeing, at least for the first string of episodes. Trying to get her foot in the door with Chris, Leslie sends Ann on a date with him, a plan that goes completely off book when Leslie not only shows up, but Ben does as well, suspicious of her plan. Meanwhile however, Ann finds she actually does like Chris, which looks like it will be a story that will keep Ann in the equation a little more, something that has occasionally seemed forced. On the other end of the spectrum, we perhaps see a budding relationship for Ben and Leslie, with the two of them butting heads throughout.
Meanwhile, on the goofier end of the show, you have Andy and Ron squaring off as youth basketball coaches, with Tom as their referee. I about died during Ron’s speech, featuring the “Swanson Pyramid of Greatness,” as he stood in a Bob Knight sweater (the chair throw later was priceless), and Andy’s line, “When they call me coach, I remember that I’m their coach,” was like a cherry on top of a sundae of hilarity. Once the game started however, we got to see Tom’s childish anger at Ron over him dating his ex, Wendy. There were a lot of shades of Michael Scott in that scene, but Aziz Ansari carried it pretty well, leaving poor Natalie Morales a little confused on the sideline.
And then of course, we have Andy and April. Poor, doofy Andy keeps trying to call her, like a dog that won’t leave it’s master alone, no matter how many times they say no. When April finally returns, she tells him she’s been in Venezuela, where she picked up a handsome new boyfriend. But as Andy is down in the dumps, he gets a nice pick me up speech from Leslie, to go big or go home, which works just as much for her as it does him. As Andy sets off to win back April, Leslie and the department persuade Ben and Chris to let them put on a Harvest Festival, a big event that could either save the department or get rid of it forever. It’s a risky move, but Ben approves it, thus setting in motion our first string of episodes.
The show fired on all cylinders last night, without any dull moments. There was a little bit of everything in the episode: hating on Jerry, The Bulge, Chris’ “point and name” move, a fantastic Ron Swanson scene, and many more. Even though these episodes were shot months ago with the anticipation of being aired in the fall, this one felt fresh, and not like one that had been tacked on to the end of a full season run last year. Rob Lowe and Adam Scott were little more than guest stars at the end of last season, but both got a chance to shine in “Go Big or Go Home,” and I look forward to seeing even more of them and watching their characters grow over the season.
Now, the real question surrounding Parks and Rec was how the move to the post-Office slot would pan out for them, and this morning, it’s all good news. The show got it’s highest ratings ever in all important 18-49 demographic, and it had a much higher rate of viewer retention than Outsourced did in the same time slot last fall. If that holds, NBC will be very happy.
But all that ratings jazz aside, it was just great to be back in Pawnee.
Michael’s Score: 90
TUiW Grade: A