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‘Parks and Recreation’ Review: “Prom”

Parks and Recreation Prom
NBC

On tonight’s all-new episode of ‘Parks and Recreation,’ the gang is going to prom! Leslie pitches in to help organize the local senior high school prom, and Andy is determined to take April as his date — but she’s not too happy about it, obviously. Meanwhile, Ben tries to help Tom with the music for the event.¬†

‘Parks and Rec’ goes to prom! There are so, so many laughs tonight, and so, so much heart — especially in one Leslie Knope, who is seriously considering the Chicago offer, and although she feels good leaving the department in the hands of women like April and Donna, she can’t help but feel the need to fill the hole that will remain when she’s gone. It’s that maternal instinct, in a sense — but without a child to mold, Leslie has always had her department and her employees, and she needs to know that when she leaves, she’ll be able to leave a younger version of herself behind, some imprint to continue on in her place.

So we meet Allison, a bright high school senior who has all the makings of a young Leslie Knope, and as Leslie helps plan the Pawnee High senior prom with Allison, she urges the girl to take the¬†April Ludgate Summer Solstice Druid Festival and Buffalo Wings Eating Contest, AKA the summer internship, obviously named by its amazing predecessor. But Ron just happens to be good friends with Allison’s father, so Ron and Leslie start battling over Allison’s soul like Noah and Tubal-Cain battling over young Ham (sorry, just saw ‘Noah‘ last weekend). Ron wants her to get a summer job that actually pays instead of letting the government work her like a mule for free, while Leslie wants Allison to start down the path of becoming the next April, who will become the next Leslie. And this leads to Leslie acting pretty much as crazy as Leslie can get because when Leslie has her heart set on something, she’s going to go after it at all costs — even her own dignity, or by embarrassing and pressuring a teen girl. This version of Leslie can be hard to stomach, but Ron (or one of her friends) is always there to help her come to her senses.

But let’s talk about Zoot Suit Wyatt, right?! So Ben used to have a radio show back in the day and was super into swing music, and he wants to help Tom with the music (“I hope that high school auditorium’s big enough because I’m bringing 10,000 Maniacs”). And Tom, of course, has a whole list of criteria for what makes a song a “banger.” I also just like the image of Tom having to throw away his computer once when he downloaded a Lumineers song. Tom is out of touch with the kids these days, whose tastes have evolved beyond Yeezy and Jeezy, but Ben’s classics like Weezer and Blur are a total hit because the ’90s are a thing right now.

As a B-plot, that was pretty funny and all, but the champions of the night are Andy and April, hands down. I say this because my notes about their shenanigans were written in all-caps. From Andy showing up in a limo with a bottle of MD 20/20 (for the uninitiated, it’s super cheap convenience store malt liquor that comes in fruity flavors, a step down from Boone’s Farm, if you can imagine), to Oren and Champion playing April’s mom and dad respectively, this whole scenario was stellar. But it was also sweet and a bit more contemplative than the Ben and Tom set-up, which served only to remind Tom that he’s out of touch because he’s a real, moderately successful grown-up now. April doesn’t want to be at prom, and she has to deal with some great, relatable relationship issues, like how can you love someone when you have almost nothing in common besides loving each other? April hates prom, but she’s there with Andy, who’s having a great time — does she stick it out, or, as Donna suggests, take the direct approach and make Andy leave? April’s no Donna, who keeps her men whipped (I would attend the Church of Donna), and she actually loves Andy, but she does take the advice of being direct by being honest about her feelings, which gets the couple communicating about what they both want, and they’re able to compromise happily. I love these two, sometimes more than I love Leslie and Ben.

Overall, prom was a smashing success, but not without a few hiccups — looking at you, Knope. Tonight’s episode put the ‘Parks and Rec’ under one roof, which is always a joy, and my only complaint, if I had to have one, is that we didn’t get to see Crazy Craig in the prom environment. I have a feeling he would have been wonderful.

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