Tuned In

Parks & Recreation Watch: …Or Forever Hold Your Peace

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Spoilers for last night’s Parks and Recreation:

A note to anyone planning to throw me a surprise party: I can pretty much be fooled about anything. Yeah, I remembered the kerfuffle several weeks back when NBC mistakenly ran a promo referencing an April-Andy wedding, then said it should have referenced Ron and Tammy’s wedding. I remember thinking that seemed fishy, and then I must have played some Angry Birds or something and forgot about it.

All of which is to say that when it turned out NBC’s “correction” was a white lie (see Alan Sepinwall’s blog for an explanation / apology from producer Mike Schur) I was still taken by surprise when it turned out that April was wearing her wedding dress at the shindig she and Andy threw. But I don’t think knowing or not knowing would have changed my reaction: that this was a lovely, weird and yet perfectly fitting turn of events, in an episode that showed Parks and Recreation in top form.

The TV thing to do would be to steer the car away from the marital cliff at the last moment: Andy or April would get cold feet, something would go wrong or fate would otherwise intervene to make the two of them realize what Leslie restrained herself from pointing out, that this was all too fast. And look, I have no guess (clearly) where this is going; maybe they’ll stay together and maybe they won’t.

But in retrospect, this impulsive, casual, yet deeply felt move was the one that made sense for their characters. To have them pause and take it slow, to take them through a seasonlong arc of picking out china patterns and sampling wedding cakes—for a girl who mocks traditions of any kind and a guy who changes his band’s name mid-concert, that would have been truly sad, a kind of defeat. Getting hitched on 24 hours’ notice (I’m assuming you can do that in Indiana?) may or may not have been a mistake, but it was them taking charge of their lives on their own terms.

It was also an affirmation of principles for a sitcom that manages to be hilariously funny without ever being snarky or cynical: simply, embrace joy. And it was incredible that Andy, of all people managed to movingly express this, while introducing the new song he’d written with his band. Here, again, the TV thing would have been to have the enormity of what he had just done hit him right there, mid-speech, and have him have a freakout. And what’s beautiful about Chris Pratt’s delivery is that you can see it does hit him—maybe he even has a sudden tense, oh-crap moment—but he’s also hit by how awesomesauce what he has just done is. And the episode managed to point out the obvious contrast with Leslie—who has never met a life decision she could not capture in a three-ring binder—without bludgeoning it.

The execution of the party/wedding scenes were gorgeous as well, avoiding too much sentiment but being all the more touching for it. As I noted with the playing of “American Girl” in the “Harvest Festival” episode, the fact that Parks and Rec uses little soundtrack music (and only in-context, like a sitcom The Wire) makes it more effective the few times it does work music in, and I am not ashamed to say that when “April Come She Will” came over the stereo, I damn near lost it:

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Was it worth a little white lie from NBC and the producers to preserve the effect (for those less easily fooled than I am)? Let others throw tomatoes; all I’m throwing is rice. And a quick hail of bullets:

* Best cold open ever? Oh, the tooth-pulling fooled me too.

* The Ann-Donna subplot at the singles’ night was a kind of reprise of their Harvest Festival interaction, but it was a nice way of integrating her with the story while recognizing that having her at her ex’s wedding would be a lousy idea even by Andy’s standards. (Good episode for Donna generally: “I’m supposed to bring cooked steak.”)

* One constant problem with weddings in workplace comedies is that they inevitably exaggerate the importance of coworkers in the bride and groom’s lives, so I was glad the party at least acknowledged that April and Andy have friends and family outside the office. (Though I might not have expected all their family members to take the sudden wedding so well—see the web-exclusive clip, above.)

* God, I love Nick Offerman’s delivery. Re the vegetable loaf:  “So not only does this exist, but you’ve also deprived everyone of cake.”

* By the way, weddings are moving and all, but did anyone else out there mist up as much at April telling Leslie she loved her?

* “All right, that one is dead. We know that.”