‘Parks and Recreation’ Review: “Gryzzlbox; Save JJ’s”
After the stressful tug of war between Leslie and Ron in the first few episodes, it’s nice to see them united against a common enemy once again in this week’s two new episodes of ‘Parks and Recreation.’ While there were plenty of heartwarming moments to last week’s episodes, they definitely felt a bit more dramatic, but “Gryzzlbox” and “Save JJ’s” are wholly hilarious and both feature some perfect comedic rhythm.
There are just some episodes of ‘Parks and Rec’ that really get into a groove, punctuated with fantastic comedic timing and snappy dialogue. In “Gryzzlbox,” Gryzzl deploys drones to deliver boxes filled with the perfect gifts for the citizens of Pawnee, based on the data they’ve immorally mined from texts and e-mails. We also get to spend more time with Jorma Taccone’s Gryzzl exec, who proves to be the absolute best choice for the part. Imagine if Harris (I miss Harris; please tell me we’ll get to see Harris this season) got his crap together enough to land a respectable and professional job. That’s basically Taccone’s character.
As it turns out, Gryzzl took advantage of Ben being distracted by the release of ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ to add complicated clauses to their excessive contract, ensuring that their data mining is legal. And while Ron is initially disinterested in the practices of the private company, he certainly becomes interested when Gryzzl delivers a package tailored to the interests of his son.
Everything comes together beautifully in tonight’s first episode, from Leslie and Ben’s visit to Gryzzl to their non-confrontation in Perd Hapley’s TV courtroom (petition to make ‘The Perdples Court’ into a series of webisodes or something), as Ben fears that this is just Ice Town all over again. And although so much of the episode is just brimming with amazing jokes, Ben’s small but important speech in the courtroom is the heart of it, as he delivers a thoughtful argument illustrating that, just because something is technically legal, doesn’t necessarily make it moral or OK. This speech reflects so much of what the series has been about from the start, as Leslie and Ben and the entire Parks team have fought against dumb bureaucracy in the quest to do what’s right for their citizens and their city. And hey, even the citizens of Pawnee are on Leslie’s side!
“Gryzzlbox” also flows very naturally right into “Save JJ’s,” with Gryzzl stealing the land out from under Leslie with extra cash, and Leslie momentarily conceding defeat. But when Leslie’s been defeated, that’s sort of when she’s at her best, so the threat of losing JJ’s Diner inspires her to rally everyone together in an effort to save or relocate the space. This leads them to the shady part of town (where Andy and April live, obviously), where a hugely amazing idea is born: get Gryzzl to come to this side of Pawnee, renovate and clean it up, plant their campus there, and donate the Newport land to Leslie. Not only do they get a cheaper and larger campus, but they earn great PR for cleaning up the area and donating the other land. Everyone wins!
Sure, it’s a bit neat and tidy, and it raises the question of where the season is going next, since I was almost certain that the fight over the Newport land would occupy the entirety of the final season. But this is the final season of the sitcom, which means we’re likely to get a bunch of neat and tidy (but still heartwarming) conclusions.
Meanwhile, April makes a bad call in deterring an intern from joining the Parks department, but it also inspires her to do the right thing and find potential replacements for Crazy Craig. In the process, she learns that she enjoys bossing people around, which is another requirement she can add to her dream career list. I’m enjoying April’s quest for a meaningful career this season, and the way the show is using conflicts in her day to day life to help her figure out what she wants to do. She’s grown so much from that unimpressed, eye-roll of a girl in the first season, becoming an adult in her own unique way without forsaking the stuff that makes her essentially April. This is how you evolve a character on a sitcom: you allow them to grow without ever betraying those essential qualities that make them special, but still finding ways to elevate them.
This week also gives us the return of TREAT YO’ SELF, and as it’s the final season, Tom and Donna head off to do something they’ve always wanted: treating themselves in Beverly Hills, with elbow bedazzling, fingernail LASIK, repurposed celebrity sushi, and a cameo from Josh Groban. The only disappointment is that Groban didn’t get a bigger part—say what you will about his grandma jams, but the guy has legitimate comedic talent, and it’s always a joy to see him acting. (Someone please let Josh Groban host ‘SNL,’ but maybe don’t let him sing.)
And things seem to be going well for Tom with Lucy, who conveniently breaks up with her boyfriend and conveniently also still has feelings for Tom. Yes, this week’s two new episodes sure do feature a lot more convenient plotting than the first four, and I’m anxious to see what major conflict they brew up to take us through the end of the series, but I think we—and the characters—definitely needed a break from the major stress of that whole Ron and Leslie issue.
- Craig’s therapist is the oft-mentioned, never-seen Dr. Richard Nygard, who was also Chris’ therapist.
- Burt Macklin’s back! And he’s brought a puppy army with him!
- A scary mermaid that lures sailors to their deaths sounds like my dream job, too, Jen.
- “…when you ladies need some new ‘pons.”
- I didn’t talk about Andy’s adventures with Johnny Karate, but it’s adorable how he uses his tiny cast of kids as real-life ninja helpers, and how he also uses the persona to try and enact real-life justice…even if he fails at it. Plus, Tom helps him secure the rights to the character along with better pay, which is yet another victory in the life of grown-up Andy Dwyer. Hard to believe this is the same lazy dude who wouldn’t get off of Ann’s couch way back when.
- Voldemort Putin. Les Vegetables. The name jokes are on-point this week.
- I love Craig. Billy Eichner is a treasure.