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Parks and Recreation Special Review- Leslie Knope’s Response to COVID-19

PARKS AND RECREATION SPECIAL -- Pictured: "Parks and Recreation Special" Key Art -- (Photo by: NBCUniversal)

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The amazing cast and creators of Parks and Recreation returned with a half-hour special to help raise money for Feeding America’s COVID-19 Response fund.

We got to see our favorite characters deal with quarantine and social distancing measures, and it was everything we could’ve dreamed of and more. Not only did the entire main cast return, but several fan-favorite guest stars made an appearance.

The episode starts out with a message from Bobby Newport, a.k.a. Paul Rudd, explaining the mission behind the special and what we can do to help. He was as charming as ever. Bobby Newport has always been a reflection of Americans who are completely out of touch with the world around them, so it’s not surprising he has no idea what COVID-19 is. Hopefully, someone will explain it to him.

Leslie Knope, on the other hand, is well-aware of COVID-19 and the affects it’s having on the world. She’s closed all the parks in her jurisdiction and is taking her job very seriously. She’s the perfect person to count on at a time like this. She’s even set up a phone tree to make sure all of her best friends are being checked on during this time. Whether or not they want to be checked on is a different story, but it’s impossible to say no to Leslie.

Everything about this special was so perfectly in character. The different ways people were experiencing the quarantine made perfect sense. The magic of Parks and Recreation was always its distinctive characters, and it’s refreshing to see how well it holds up five years later. Time flies, but it feels like we never left Pawnee.

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Most of the episode takes place in a video-call format, which lends really well to filming an episode about quarantine while everyone’s actually in it. They had to be a bit creative to explain why the show’s married couples weren’t in the same room, but they pulled it off.

Andy locked himself in his shed and refused to ask for April’s help getting out. That’s very typical Andy Dwyer. Bert Macklin would never accept defeat. I wish we got to see more of April in the special, but a thirty-minute time slot kept most characters’ appearances pretty short.

Chris Pratt also reprised his role as Johnny Karate, beloved Pawnee children star. We may not be able to karate chop the virus away, but at least he’s still trying to motivate the kids! Johnny Karate assured us that things will get back to normal eventually, anywhere from a week from now to a couple of hundred years or so. Hopefully, the former.

Parks and Recreation explained that Ann and Chris were quarantined in separate parts of their home because Ann had gone back to work as a nurse. The healthcare system needs all the help they can get, so it adds up that Ann would be back out on the front lines. Chris is quite literally the healthiest man alive, but he wouldn’t want to risk exposure for him or their children. Especially since he’s now been selected for testing to help build the vaccine. His red blood cells are apparently so large they can be seen with the naked eye, so if we could bottle his immunity, we’d all be set. Sadly, Chris Traeger isn’t real, but maybe Parks and Rec is onto something about Megan Rapinoe…

Ben and Leslie’s separation was a bit harder to explain, but it ended up being boiled down to Leslie’s need to work during this pandemic. She does her video calls from the office whenever she gets a break, while Ben’s at home with the kids. Unfortunately, this isolation has taken a toll on Ben. That’s right, he’s making more claymation.

Requiem for a Tuesday was a cry for help if I’ve ever seen one, so it’s safe to say the quarantine was affecting his mental state. He comes around by the end of the special, but Leslie might need to keep an eye on him! It was genius for the writers to bring back claymation and The Cones of Dunshire to show how Ben’s doing. His short film is one of the most referenced jokes from the show’s seven-season run, and it was inevitable that all of this time alone would make Ben revert back to his most useless habit. We’ve all found ourselves reaching new levels of boredom the longer quarantine goes on, but I beg, please do not make a claymation film.

Tom and Donna’s parts in the special showed the two are still treating themselves the best they can in a pandemic. They’re pretending to go on a beach vacation now, but I’m sure they’ll go on a real one as soon as this all ends.

Ron ran away to his cabin with Dianne and the kids when Tammy II shows up. It’s convenient that Ron and Tammy II’s actors are married in real life, so they were able to be a bit more creative with that storyline. Their violent relationship has always been horrifying to watch, but it’s nothing if not hilarious. And Ron’s right, the wolves should be scared if she’s loose in the woods.

We also got to see brief appearances from recurring characters like Joan Callamezzo, Perd Hapley, Jean-Ralphio, and more. It’s nice how many actors came back for the special on such short notice.

And of course, it wouldn’t be a Parks and Recreation special without Li’l Sebastian. Ron got the whole gang together (virtually) to surprise Leslie with Mouse Rat’s hit single, “5,000 Candles In The Wind.” The tribute song would make anyone cry (unless you’re Ben), and it certainly warmed Leslie’s heart, as well as the rest of ours.

Parks and Rec came back exactly when we needed it most. It was such a special show, and hopefully, this won’t be the last time the cast reunites. Under better circumstances, another reunion special would be a great idea. We miss you, Pawnee!

Oh, and as for Jerry’s appearance-


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It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – 2020 Season Premiere: A Year In Review/The Gang Makes Lethal Weapon 7

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It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia "2020 A Year in Review"

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia has changed quite a bit in its 15 years on air, despite its characters not really changing at all. I expect the show to deliver on its classic formula of outrageous, character based humor, and I’m sure there will be several episodes this season devoted to that, just as there are every year.

As the show and its writers have grown, however, Sunny has branched out into real-world commentary, offering its unique exploration on topical issues such as gun control, human rights, freedom, and more. But has Sunny achieved a balance of its “responsibilities” (if you can even call them such) between entertaining its audience and saying something meaningful? Or should the show “stay in its lane?”

The first two episodes of Season 15 are both heavy on topical conversation, but each episode’s story is, per usual, delivered through the characters. It’s been quite a while since the season 14 finale, and “2020: A Year in Review” has a lot of ground to cover. I’m not always a fan of how shows utilize vignette structures, as they often feel more like a handful of half-baked ideas that couldn’t flesh out a full episode, and I do have a few issues with Sunny’s premiere, but on the whole I felt this structure works wonders to cover a lot of ground in a small amount of time.

Breaking up the year into smaller stories allows each topic to have a clean focus while giving each character a highlight to welcome them back to our screens, and the fact that the gang is unified in their desire for another loan keeps the group feeling as a unit despite their separate stories. The chemistry between the actors is as natural as ever, and their focus on current events keeps their jokes and humor fresh. I wouldn’t say any of these vignettes pushes these characters into new places, but in this case that’s okay. Sometimes an episode prioritizes an idea over character work, and this can succeed if the characters are used to effectively explore that idea.

In the case of “2020: A Year in Review,” I think it works. The gang is an excellent engine to explore 2020 through, as the situations that happened throughout that year were almost as unbelievable (and maybe even more so) than the gang themselves. What is interesting about this episode is that it doesn’t actually dive all that deeply into the meaning of these events and how they affected people’s lives – instead it highlights something else we all should be concerned about: How did any of this happen?

By giving us the answers to the how, Sunny succeeds in making the viewer question the reality of these situations. How insane was that election and how did we ever get to a point where an election could be that crazy? Of course Mac and Dennis weren’t responsible for the confusion in Philadelphia during the voting period, but what was? How do we avoid it in the future?

While questions like this are suggested, poked fun at, and even dismissed (as Gary dismisses the gang at the end), the episode never seems to take a solid stance on what is right or wrong; and I think that’s the point, as the following episode uses a similar approach.

“The Gang Makes Lethal Weapon 7” is another Always Sunny entry with a heavy focus on current social issues, however, unlike the premiere, it’s a bit more explicit with its message. The episode heavily criticizes the notion of people proudly parading their ethics around so they can be perceived as ethical, despite not quite understanding the issues at hand.

What makes the message work is that the criticism doesn’t jam itself down any single group’s throat. Dennis explicitly criticizes the younger generation for fishing for praise, while the gang spends the episode fishing for praise. This means the point isn’t “young people suck” or “old people suck,” it’s that all of us suck.

This is what separates Always Sunny’s approach to sociopolitical issues. It rarely stamps a foot down and explicitly states “this is wrong.” That approach can be alienating to the audience you’re trying to convince, and the final few moments of “The Gang Makes Lethal Weapon 7” seem to agree, as the gang, feeling attacked by the film they attempted to be “woke” with, dig their heels deeper into the ground and revert right back to their old insensitive selves.

Ramming your ethics over someone almost never results in positive conversation or change, and I feel Always Sunny understands this and uses its platform to promote a more productive approach to these issues – don’t just take a side, think about it and understand it.

To be clear, I’m not saying there isn’t a wrong side, as there definitely is; and Sunny thinks so, too. The beauty of the gang being as awful as they are is that no one wants to be them – therefore the writers can suggest their personal morals by having their characters do the opposite. In other words, if you ever find yourself relating to the gang in too many ways, maybe it’s time to take a look at yourself.

So does Always Sunny balance its responsibilities? I think so. A show doesn’t remain on the air for 15 seasons if it isn’t satisfying its audience with its humor, so it certainly has the entertainment side down. Regarding sending a positive message, I also feel the show succeeds. As the show has aged, its writing has matured. It raises awareness to important topics and encourages viewers to explore these ideas by contrasting their own thoughts with the characters’.

You don’t have to be looking for or even catching the commentary to enjoy these episodes, and many people won’t – I’m sure I missed a lot of subtext myself – but I’ve caught enough to take a look at the last few years and a look at my own actions, which is a lot better than just nodding along to a message I already agree with and moving on with my day. Are these first two episodes the gang at their best? No, definitely not, but they are entertaining and thought-provoking, and if that’s what they are aiming to be, I think they succeed.

Other Thoughts:

  • The Four Seasons fiasco was a true gift to the writers of Always Sunny.
  • I go back and forth on whether or not I like when a television show implies that its character impacted real world events, as sometimes it can feel forced or take me out of the show’s universe. By the nature of implanting them into real-world events, the episode highlights when the gang doesn’t sound or act like real people. In this case it mostly works as it helps contextualize the ridiculousness of these events, but using “our guy” to refer to a candidate sticks out because it isn’t the way anyone refers to their preferred candidate. I immediately knew they were talking about Kayne, as I’m sure many did, which hurt the reveal at the end.
  • Rob McElhenney tweeted out before the premiere: “Tonight, Sunny will become the longest running live action sitcom in TV history. What is wrong with you people?” And I think this is a great summation of what these first episodes encourage us to ask ourselves.
  • I’ll try to focus more on the actual jokes and plots next week. The show came out swinging for relevant topics this week so I felt it was best to focus on that.


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Legacies

Legacies Review – Someplace Far Away From All This Violence (4×07)

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The Super Squad did their best to restore Hope’s humanity, but even their best efforts weren’t good enough. 

On Legacies Season 4 Episode 7, Cleo, MG, and Josie dug deep to find inspiration that might break through Hope’s turned off humanity. They even tried to take a lesson from when Caroline Forbes turned her humanity off to stop the pain of her mother’s death, but that didn’t do the trick either. 

Hope is just too determined to push down all that pain and trauma that came with losing her family and killing Landon. 

And can you blame the girl? That’s some heavy stuff. It’s not a surprise that she’s running away from that. 

In fact, it’s more surprising that no one anticipated this. 

Hope has never been good with dealing with her emotions, particularly when they involve killing her soulmate. 

Salvatore Idol may have been a cute idea in theory, but it just felt like a wasted episode, especially when they brought out the likes of Wade and Pedro to try to inspire some feelings within Hope. 

I like Wade and Pedro, but those are not the people that are going to get through to her — sorry not sorry. 

Cleo’s attempt at impersonating Landon and reading his final words didn’t do the trick, MG getting real with Hope also failed, and while Dark Josie may have seen a smidge of fear in Hope’s eyes, she also didn’t stand a chance. 

Now, this doesn’t mean that the squad shouldn’t try, but they have to get slightly more creative. 

Maybe Finch was onto something when she suggested weakening Hope by draining her blood?

Josie promised Hope she’d be there for her, and I love her loyalty. That’s what a friendship is all about, but it was also naive to put herself in that situation. 

Hope basically said “stupify” and locked Josie away in the therapy box so that she wouldn’t stand in her way. 

And even then, Josie was like “well, she didn’t kill me.” Talk about looking on the bright side. 

But she had a point — Hope only showed emotion around Josie. She was the only one that was able to get to her even in the slightest. 

She has no humanity, yet she couldn’t bring herself to kill her, And by locking her up, Hope admitted that Josie has what it takes to bring her back. 

Now, how do they get her out? Is it as easy as passing a test as Lizzie did? And can they before Lizzie does something reckless?

Lizzie’s therapy box scenario played out like an episode of Walker. She navigated the situation in hopes of avenging her father and getting revenge on Hope. 

And eventually, she did. She had the guts to shoot the White Oak bullets into Hope using her Damon and Stefan guns, naturally. She also killed Josie who had been turned into a vampire. 

Does this mean Josie will go to the dark side? Or did she predict Josie would be an obstacle in her plan?

Lizzie realized that Alaric’s pacifist ways landed her in this dire condition, so her theory was that the only way to stop Hope is by killing her. 

Will this scenario lead her to the actual weapon in real life?  Because we know it exists thanks to Cleo, who grappled with whether or not she should tell the Super Squad about it. 

She used a manifestation of Kaleb to gauge his opinion and realized that the information probably wasn’t safe in their hands. 

As fake Kaleb pointed out, they do dumb stuff all the time. Using the White Oak would be permanent. 

Of course, Cleo didn’t necessarily check her surroundings when revealing the information to fake Kaleb, and Finch was sleeping on a couch nearby.

When she finds out what Hope did to Josie, she might just do that dumb thing. 

I hate to say it, but I can see Finch’s impulsiveness and love for Josie getting her killed. 

This has been the strongest season thus far, and humanity-less Hope is such a ride, but the episode didn’t do it for me, sadly.

Elsewhere, Kaleb channeled his inner-Game of Thrones while hunting the Argus with Jed. They beat it, but also learned that its victims revived themselves as fleshless corpses. Fun!

And finally, who is the triad? The woman’s voice on the other line kind of sounds like Emma.

Their introduction reminds me of the early TVD days where they teased the arrival of Klaus. We didn’t even know we were going to meet the greatest misunderstood villain of all time. 

Can the triad live up to the hype? Does it tie into the Mikaelson’s past in some way?


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La Brea

La Brea Season 1 Finale Review – Topanga

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La Brea Review Topanga Season 1 Episode 10

A finale that had me sitting on the edge of my seat waiting to see how this would unfold.

Throughout its freshman run, La Brea has managed to deliver several unexpected twists with the latest being yet another jump to a new time period.

At least, that’s definitely what it seemed like happened on La Brea Season 1 Episode 10 when Josh, Riley, and Lilly got sucked up by the blue light in its final hoorah.

The light was the portal to 1988, so while we didn’t see where they ended up, it’s safe to say, the 80s are the new 2021. 

And that happened juuust as Gavin, Izzy, and Ella jumped into the sinkhole in Seattle to set out on their quest to reunite the family. 

I mean, could the timing be worse?

Just when you think everyone in the family is in 10,000 B.C., Josh goes and screws it up. 

I kid, of course. While I love all the adventure and drama that the pre-historic ages offer, I’m intrigued to see how the trio navigates the 1980’s. 

More specifically, how Josh can exist in the same timeline as his father, who is a young boy by the name of Isaiah. 

The original story is that Gavin and Ella walked down a road together before they got adopted by different families in 1988. Since they didn’t go through the portal together this time, does that mean the present has been changed?

Gavin and Lilly also didn’t remember anything when they arrived in 1988 — hence why we’re filling in all these blanks. Does that mean Josh and Riley won’t have any recollection of what happened either?

Hey, at least the map of past and present sinkholes made it there safely with Lilly. Or did it? What if they didn’t go to 1988 at all? What if they went back to a different time period or even to the future? What’s to say? And how would Eve and Sam know?

The episode largely focused on the journey to get Isaiah to the portal that would transport him to the 1980s. And it wasn’t without its fair share of hiccups as Silas aimed to stop Eve at every turn. 

While we still don’t know much more about Silas or where he’s from — though, I really enjoy a theory that a reader left suggesting that Silas is also Gavin! — Rebecca Aldridge revealed that he was a scientist like her who was also partially responsible for the sinkholes opening up. Are these two early researchers of time travel?

Once again, I’d really love if Rebecca was just a teensy bit more forthcoming with information, but at least she took Scott and showed him the skyscraper she built. And yes, it qualifies as a skyscraper in 10K B.C.!

It’s unclear how she got all the materials and managed to do all of this, but let’s not get bogged down by minutia (as the creator told TV Line ahead of the finale.) 

It’s also unclear what is inside the building that stands out like a sore thumb, but my guess is research and, for everyone’s sake, some kind of garden that would provide them with nourishments. 

La Brea Review Topanga Season 1 Episode 10

LA BREA — “Topanga” Episode 110 — Pictured: (l-r) Eoin Macken as Gavin Harris, Zyra Gorecki as Izzy Harris — (Photo by: Sarah Enticknap/NBC)

These people have been putting in the miles — they need to refuel somehow and mushrooms simply aren’t going to cut it! 

This, however, proves that Rebecca has been in this time period before and managed to get out. She’s the key to getting them home, so again, why isn’t she more forthcoming with information?

What is she hiding?

Going off of the theory that Silas = Gavin, I can’t shake the fact that I think Rebecca is Lilly. How else would she know so much and know Ella and Gavin’s real identities?

And why else would Lilly trust Rebecca wholeheartedly? Another solid theory is that she’s Gavin/ Isaiah’s mother. I vibe with both theories. 

Back to Isaiah, though. Once Silas gave up trying to stop his grandson from abandoning him, he safely made it to 1988 because both Izzy and Josh stopped experiencing pain. 

Shortly after, Josh disappeared, while Izzy made the conscious decision to leap into the sinkhole with dad and Ella. 

I know that they’re desperate to save their family, but this sinkhole opened up in Seattle, which is 1,200 miles away from Los Angeles.

There aren’t cars, trains, or automobiles in 10K B.C., and while riding a wooly mammoth sounds fun in theory, I don’t think it’s advisable. Making a 1,000 plus mile trek without food or any kind of weapons seems daunting, risky, and downright stupid. I expected better. 

That is unless they were somehow thrust into Los Angeles despite entering in Seattle.

Anything is possible.

Ella, who was pretty adamant that she wasn’t from the prehistoric ages just a few episodes, eagerly took the jump because she wanted to save Veronica after seeing a vision of herself as a child leaving behind her sister/kidnapper. 

While the hatred towards Veronica was initially understandable, she’s made great strides in becoming a better person. She, too, was a victim of a kidnapping, and she had no other family aside from Lilly. It makes sense that she would want a fresh start with the girl she considered her sister. 

However, it was also valid that Lilly wanted to reunite with her real family. Yet, she still has plenty of love for Veronica because she didn’t want to give up on her when she got caught by the trap. 

While Lilly couldn’t make good on her promise to come back and save her, Ella definitely could. It was a heartbreaking scene but hopefully one that leads to a sweet reconciliation. 

Other 10K B.C. Musings

    • Paraa and Ty’s connection is so pure. He knows he’s dying, and while he could go back and ease his pain, he chose to stay behind because of his feelings for her!
    • Markman definitely put his career on the line by trusting some map from the prehistoric ages, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. By taking action, he was possibly avoiding another catastrophe. Plus, now the government has another sinkhole to study that is more off the radar than the one in La Brea. 
    • Also, Markman has to be a believer now, right?
    • Riley and Josh are also really adorable. 
    • Marybeth died! But is she really dead? She’s resilient, so I’m not convinced. However, if it is a death that sticks, at least she and Luke made amends before she took her last breath and she was able to die in his arms. All she’s ever wanted was to make up with her son. And while he’ll likely never forgive himself for wasting so much time with his mother, at least he stepped up when it really mattered. 
    • Can you imagine how things will go down once Gavin arrives and Eve is torn between her husband and Levi?

What did you think of the La Brea Season 1 finale? How obsessed are you with the show?

Do you have any theories?


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