More Stuff I Like on Parks and Recreation S03 E05

Leslie, Ben, and Tom at the radio station

Tom: Your boy’s a nightmare.
Leslie: I know, but we need him. If they ask us about the budget, he’s our numbers guy.
Tom: Well, we should just slap a pair of Ray-Bans on a calculator ’cause that would be way more charming.

Alright, just a quickie post on Parks and Recreation because it’s Friday night and girlfriend’s got plans. Y’all already know that I absolutely love this show, but last night’s episode included a wonderful television conceit that was used to great comedic effect.

One of my favorite narrative devices on television takes place over the course of two fairly distanced episodes. In the first episode, current characters, and their viewers, have recently become acquainted with a new character. An off-hand remark is made by either a current character or the new addition that addresses an event in the new character’s past. Jokes are made, the new character quickly changes the topic, and the show moves on.

Then, episodes and episodes later, if the new character has by now become a current character, the issue from his past is revisited so that we can learn more about him, mentally assimilating him into the existing characters we’ve come to expect on every episode. On this episode of Parks and Rec, Leslie, Tom, and Ben prepare for the upcoming Harvest Festival by staging a media blitz. As the Parks Department is scrutinized by various local media outlets, Ben’s past as the 18-year-old mayor of a small Minnesota town is revealed. Radio personalities and morning show hosts pounce on young Ben’s error: the creation of a giant ice rink that bankrupts the town, which is subsequently known as Ice Town.

The remainder of the episode depicts Leslie and Tom’s attempts at damage control, as well as Ben’s inability to coherently engage with interviewers who question him about the glacial disaster. As viewers, we glean a considerable amount of information about Ben’s past, making us feel as though we know him even better than a supporting character like Jerry or Wendy. At the end of the episode, we also learn that contrary to his dispassionate appearance, Ben is quite capable of laughing at himself. This is a crucial revelation when we consider Ben’s imminent romance plotline with Leslie, a woman who is always able to diffuse tense situations with humor.

Will the writing stay gold on Parks and Rec? And more importantly, will Amy Poehler be my second mom? Stay tuned!

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