Friday, September 30, 2011

"Parks and Recreation" - "Ron and Tammys"

Spoilers for the latest "Parks and Rec" after the jump:

Most people who watch "Parks and Rec" seem to love the episodes centered around Ron and his ex-wife Tammy. I'm not one of them. The first "Ron and Tammy" was very funny, but hardly one of season 2's best offerings. The third season's Tammy-centered outing also drew rave reviews, but to me it was just a moderately enjoyable half hour in a sixteen-episode run that, for the most part, didn't settle for just being enjoyable. It also was a case of diminishing returns. One episode of Ron turning into a sex-crazed maniac is funny. The second time... not quite as much (although this being "Parks and Rec" it still delivered plenty of laughs).

So rather than going to that well a third time, the show's creative team has decided to give us a look at the other two Tammys in Ron's life: his first wife and his mother. And once again, it resulted in an episode that didn't quite feel like "Parks and Rec" at its best, though it's possible this had more to do with a pair of forgettable subplots than with genuinely hilarious scenes like the Tammy-Tammy-Leslie drink off that concluded the installment. Seeing April take one sip of Swanson liquor and spit it out (letting out a few choice words at the same time) was particularly priceless.

In other words, I did enjoy the episode. Patricia Clarkson's portrayal of Tammy 1 remains superb, and Ron's explanation of how he met her (as well as Leslie and Andy's very different reactions) extremely entertaining. Leslie getting drunk on the Swanson liquor was a gag that was cut a bit short, but it was funny nonetheless. And yet I still didn't laugh as much at any of it as I think I was supposed to. I know I'm in the minority, and so the Tammy episode will probably remain a yearly tradition on "Parks and Rec" for as long as the show winds up airing: which is hopefully at least another year or two. It's not something I dread watching by any means, but last year's was the weakest episode of that superb season. Hopefully this one will be too.

Again, the Tammy stuff (while not completely hilarious throughout) was certainly entertaining enough. The B and C plots were less so. I enjoyed the Entertainment 720 storyline only because of Adam Scott's pitch-perfect  "is this for real?" reactions and his line about them going bankrupt by the end of his sentence. The idea of it may have seemed funnier on paper than it played on screen. The Ann-Chris stuff had some similar and equally brilliant facial expressions from Rashida Jones (who's so good at just reacting to the other actors on the show), but outside of that I don't think I laughed once.

This is "Parks and Rec" we're talking about, folks. I laughed, was amused, found the actions of the characters engaging, etc. As such, I'm definitely not going to give it a bad or even a less-than-good grade. But when a show's been as consistently brilliant as this one has, even a merely "decent" installment tends to stand out. I expect we'll be back to A-range territory by next week, but this one just didn't do too much for me.

Grade: B

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