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Thursday Night 'Lights: End of the World

Group wide shot of the cast of Parks and Rec: It's not the end of the world as they know it, and they feel mostly fine.

This week, I'm going to focus on this week's episode of Parks and Recreation. The Rapture-inspired plot not only yielded a lot of wackiness (long live Zorp!) but also some interesting character introspection.

"If the world was ending tomorrow, I'd want to be with him."

Pawnee has its very own Harold Camping, a genial guy named Herb whose Reasonableism cult believes the end of the world will be brought about by a lizard named Zorp. The group's end-of-the-world bonfire impacts the show's characters as they are confronted with what the end of the world means to them.

In Tom's case, the world might as well be ending, since his company is kaput. Entertainment 720 is shutting down for good, and he and Jean-Ralphio are commemorating the end with a party to literally end all parties. Most shows would introduce Tom's ridiculous party (complete with shrimp wall, drumline, and a Bengal tiger) only to have it end up a colossal bust. But Parks and Rec doesn't treat Tom as a joke, or punish him for daring to dream big. Not only does he pull off the event, he's even given a chance to rekindle his relationship with his ex Lucy.

Now that Tom's broke, it seems like he'll have to return to his old job at the Parks office. But what I like a lot about Parks and Rec is that it allows its characters to have aspirations that take them beyond the show's premise. Even if Tom does return to work, he has been changed by his first foray into entrepreneurship and the party's success. I predict the show's writers will let start another business, perhaps with Ben as his financial advisor. (And I propose he and Donna take their "Treat Yo Self" concept and turn it into a personal concierge-type service.)

Andy and April's reaction to the Reasonablists' prediction was to accomplish everything on Andy's bucket list. So April encouraged her husband to check off as many items as possible, including holding one thousand dollars in cash, pretending to be an action star and making the world's greatest cheese sandwich. (If only there had been a way to arrange for him to outrun a hippo.) Due to Andy's goofball innocence and general cluelessness, the two's storylines tend to be on the zany side. But their relationship is grounded by their genuine feelings for one another. In particular, April's love for Andy humanizes her. She takes his dreams seriously, even going so far as to drive thirty hours so he can see the Grand Canyon. At times, April comes close to being unbearably sarcastic, so it was nice for her to admit that even she couldn't be annoyed by the majestic beauty of the Grand Canyon. Too bad Andy was expecting to see Mt. Rushmore, but no doubt he'll get over it pretty quickly.

The only hiccup in the episode was the Leslie/Ben storyline. The two finally shared scenes for the first time since their breakup in the season premiere. It's surprising that it's taken her this long for her to get upset by the notion that her ex was single and free to mingle with other people, such as the awesomely named Shauna Malwa-Tweep. Leslie connives a way to get Ben alone, blurt out her feelings, and have Ben remind her that being single sucks for him too—and at the end of the episode, Leslie apologizes for her behavior. 

But this storyline has me worried that we're in store for an entire season of romantic misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and wistful longing. Parks and Rec took a welcome risk by having Leslie commit to her political aspirations over her relationship. Now that the two have finally aired their feelings about their breakup, it would be great if Leslie could make a run for City Council without interminable romantic angst. The last thing this show needs is for Ben and Leslie to become the Ross and Rachel of Pawnee. 

Random asides:

  • Chris, Ann, and Ron were mostly non-entities in this episode, but Chris's delight in learning about Zorp was pretty entertaining.
  • R.I.P Entertainment 720. Glad you have Pets.com and Ask Jeeves to hang out with in company heaven.
  • Andy and April's road trip was turned into a four-part web series, and you can watch it here

Previously: Thursday Night 'Lights: Ho-Hum Halloween, Thursday Night 'Lights: Which Characters Need a Shake Up? 

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INSPECTOR SPACETIME

P & R was great, but as a geek I have to give big ups to Troy and Abed's Inspector Spacetime cosplay. Plus, John Goodman is shaping up to be a great villain,

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"Oh don't the days seem lank and long
When all goes right and nothing goes wrong
And isn't your life extremely flat
When you've nothing whatever to grumble at?"

--W.S. Gilber