‘Parks and Recreation’ Review: “Donna and Joe”
Wedding episodes are typically always sweet and funny, bringing everyone (along with a few old and new faces) together to celebrate a wonderful union, which marks the next chapter in the life of a friend or loved one. Tonight on ‘Parks and Recreation,’ Donna and Joe (Keegan-Michael Key) finally tie the knot—it’s just too bad that Donna doesn’t get nearly enough of the spotlight in an episode named for her.
I’ve been looking forward to the Donna and Joe wedding for a few weeks now—Donna is one of the greatest and sometimes under-appreciated characters in this great ensemble. She consistently surprises us with quick anecdotes about her past and she plays against type: always the baller, always popular with the men, and always a voice of (hilarious) reason. Retta’s done some excellent work over the last seven seasons, but she’s usually caught up in someone else’s drama or paired up with Tom. For once, Donna gets her very own episode devoted to the majestic queen that she is, and yet, we spend so much of “Donna and Joe” with Leslie and Ben, trying to decide if Ben should run for the House of Representatives, or with Tom and Lucy, who get into an awkward situation when Tom impulsively tells Ron that he’d marry Lucy “tomorrow.”
Much of the episode revolves around that ol’ foot-in-mouth disorder, with Ben proving that he can remove his foot and be quite charming when the occasion demands it—but give him a little booze, and he’s right back to saying things he might not want to say while sober, like calling Jen Barkley and agreeing to run for office. Oops. And while I am disappointed that we spend too much time on non-Donna plots, I am always delighted when Ben and Leslie get hammered because those two dorks somehow become even dorkier.
Tom also suffers from sticking his foot in his mouth during his convo with Ron, whose natural approach to everything is being direct and honest—an attribute some might perceive as sticking his foot in his mouth, but that only really applies when you’re embarrassed by what you’ve said. And Ron is never embarrassed. Though he can feel remorseful, and he does, forgoing his interesting conversation about Michigan limestone and church construction to try and remedy the Tom and Lucy situation, which is so unnecessarily awkward and kind of immature, but still cute in a way.
There’s so much drama on the periphery of Donna’s wedding, reflected in how deftly April handles corralling all of Donna’s drama-hungry relatives and forcing them to behave (yes, even Ginuwine). All of the potential trouble is diverted away from Donna, but by the time her wedding reception rolls around, she’s kind of bored, so April engineers a visit from her long-lost brother (Questlove!) to stir things up a bit. We don’t really get enough of Donna, or her fascinating and hilariously eccentric family through the half-hour, with her wedding serving as a function to instigate problems for others. Even the actual ceremony is a bit glossed over, giving us the perfunctory, glowing shots of friends and relatives all misty-eyed and in awe of the occasion, but not enough of the actual ceremony or the reception itself.
Donna’s wedding is merely a setting for the stories of everyone else, just as Donna has merely been an accessory in their lives. This is our final season of ‘Parks and Rec,’ and each of these beloved characters deserves to have their stories tied up in ways that give them the time they deserve. This has always been mostly Leslie’s show, but she wouldn’t be who she is, and this show wouldn’t be what it is without the supporting characters. I demand more for Donna!
- Dratch! Rachel Dratch is one of the great ‘SNL’ cast members who’s never gotten the spotlight or affection she deserves. I’m always thrilled to see her pop up as a guest star in something.
- “Easy peasy lemon…sneezy.”
- Pearl Jam’s “Vitalogy” album was written about Donna. She is just filled with wonderful surprises.
- Even Jerry/Larry/Whatever gets a lovely and well-deserved (but still hilarious) conclusion: Donna slyly puts his real name, “Gerry,” on his place card at the reception, knowing that their friends and co-workers would take to calling him by that name immediately as a joke. It’s insanely sweet.