This past Sunday, NBC aired SNL 40, an epic star-studded celebration and look back at the past 40 years of Saturday Night Live. The amount of celebrities in attendance – from former cast members, hosts, and musical guests – was so staggering, that by the time comedic recluse Eddie Murphy popped up on screen, all the surprise and awe I could muster was depleted.
Now, I’m not saying Parks and Recreation is the legendary institution and star maker that SNL has been, but the show still has featured an incredible number of talented comedic actors as memorable characters. But in tonight’s slapdash penultimate episode (yes, that means the show is ending next week. Don’t freak out, happy thoughts!) they march out so many, that by the time Sam Elliot showed back up as the anti-Ron Swanson, Ron Dunn, to offer up some mysticism and Eastern lessons, the novelty wore off.
Sure, I freaked out when BILL FREAKIN’ MURRAY, the king of cameos, appeared as deceased Mayor Gunderson, but the effect wore off once the episode dissolved into a revolving door of beloved past character. It’s not the fan servicing that I dislike, it’s just that the story in the second-to-last episode of Parks and Rec ever (!) just wasn’t there. Ben having to decide whether to become mayor or not, in an effort to make up for the Ice Town debacle, felt strange after we saw this storyline already somewhat come to a close, with Ben deciding to run for Congress. The other storyline saw Tom propose to Lucy in such an underwhelming fashion, that not even Aziz Ansari could muster more emotion than a lame “yay!” Oh, and Ron Swanson lost his barber, but quickly found another he enjoyed, a chatty, sassy male hairdresser. Everything felt rushed and under-prepared. The first negative Parks and Rec review should not be coming in the second to last episode!
Am I maybe expecting too much from this finale? Are my inflated expectations keeping me from enjoying this episode as much as I normally would? Maybe. This episode did score some laughs here and there, but it felt way too inconsequential, even with Tom getting engaged and Gary becoming the new mayor. It’s almost as if the real story of the season ended about two weeks back. The first episode of the night faired much better.
I gave up my ideas for what the perfect Parks and Rec spin-offs would be, and tonight we got to see what one of those would look like, but in miniature. Burt Macklin, FBI, gave us a glimpse of what his very own show would look like during Andy’s final taping of the Johnny Karate show. Dedicating a whole episode to show viewers just what Andy’s kids program would look like was a brilliant idea and more of what I expected from Parks and Rec’s final run. With all of the Parks crew, minus Tom, popping in for a segment on Andy’s final episode, we got to see Andy’s journey come full circle. Even the conversation that April and Andy have about moving is incredibly touching, the simple martial conversation packs much more weight than Tom’s proposal!
It hasn’t sunk in that this is the second to last time I’ll ever tune into Parks and Recreation. Perhaps me trying to grasp that concept and make the moment feel special took away from my enjoyment of tonight’s outing, but I really wanted more out of the penultimate episode. If anything, they should have flipped the order of these episodes.
The Best of the Rest
- “April’s Animal Corner” quickly dissolves into “Loose Animal Disclaimer.”
- The Pawnee commercials were exactly as great as I expected, with Paunch Burger really standing out. “Put it in your body, or you’re a nerd!”
- “Hopefully there’s a pit in Washington, D.C. that I can fall into.” – Andy Dwyer
- Burt Macklin’s middle name is Tyrannosaurus.
- John Cena guests on the Johnny Karate show only to be handcuffed and dunked.
- As fellow DoG TV writer Alec Bojalad pointed out on Twitter: “The reveal of who the mayor of Pawnee is makes the city make a lot more sense.”
- Shouts out to Paul Rudd, Mo Collins, Henry Winkler, and Nick Kroll, but Jean Ralphio and his sister, Mona-Lisa, are the real MVPs.
- Turning Tom’s engagement celebration into Gary’s inauguration was hilarious. One more shout out to KC and Jojo.