A good cold opening can really make a show happen. Ben and April demonstrate that just because they’re in Washington, D.C., this season, they’re not going away. Leslie sends Ben Batman comics; Andy sends April his laundry and she cries. Laughs start the show; suddenly the audience is laughing again, and the show seems to have a lot more life than it seemed last week.
Plus, it’s still topical; last season, Pawnee experience its own form of birtherism. This season, it’s Michael Bloomberg’s notorious ban on large sugary drinks.
A few things become apparent very quickly. First, “Parks and Rec” can still be very funny. It is not as out of gas as you think. Second, Amy Poehler and Adam Scott, and the characters they play, are very funny and engaging, and their characters are terrific…as long as they are not dating one another. Separated by hundreds of miles, thought, they’re hysterical.
Third, there is plenty of development for the characters in this show—if the writers and producers want to let it happen. Leslie has to face being an elected official, and making choices that will never please everybody. Andy Dwyer wants to be a cop, and must accept a greater level of discipline and maturity. He’s come a long way from falling in the pit. Ben Wyatt realizes his interns are all far more connected to the ruling elite of the world than he is…he makes pathetic attempts to fit in, then realizes the level to which he’s failed to gain people’s respect. Chris Traeger’s chickens finally come home to roost. The hidden depths of his loneliness and isolation become clear to everyone else, after more than a season of build-up. Even April Ludgate may not get away with her deadpan lethargy anymore.
Great Ron and Leslie scene this week. Ron has not felt like the Ron of old for a bit. This week, he did.
“Soda Tax” gave a hint of the old magic again…suggesting maybe the characters in this show do have a place to go. “Parks and Recreation” has never been a show about playing it safe—it has always been at its best when it shows viewers just how dynamic and volatile life can really be. From Ron transforming himself to please an ex-wife to Andy living in a tent in the pit, “Parks and Rec” is at its best when the characters are pushed to their limits. Keep pushing.