A review of tonight's "Parks and Recreation" coming up just as soon as I make toilet wine in the federal prison in Terre Haute...
Earlier today, I published a two-part piece - here and here - on some of the stories and jokes that the writing staff pitched at the start of pre-production this season. (If you want a glimpse of how smart people come up with ideas, I highly recommend reading them.) You'll note that there were no Tammy One pitches there, mainly because no one at the time had any idea what the character would be like and/or who would play her. Ron marrying his Sunday school teacher was actually one of the first pitches anyone made in the room, and though they toyed with other types of women (and actresses who might play them), everyone ultimately kept coming back to the idea of Tammy One as a repressed ice queen and temperamental opposite of Tammy Two. (Tammy Two would have been the ultimate, polar opposite rebound from Tammy One.)
And that brought us to who and what we saw tonight, with Patricia Clarkson as a woman who triggered all sorts of unsettling Oedpial impulses in Ron Effing Swanson. And though it will be hard for the show to ever quite top both the surprise and hilarious grossness of the first "Ron and Tammy" episode, I thought the different side Tammy One brought out in Ron, coupled with the presence of both Tammy Two and Tammy Zero(*) helped keep this specific formula from growing stale. A clean-shaven, neutered-bordering-on-childlike Ron gave Nick Offerman a hilarious, unsettling new side of the character to play, and I thought Leslie stepping into the old-fashioned prairie drink-off was the most amusing example so far of the moment where one of Ron's friends snaps him out of a Tammy-induced trance.(**) I don't know exactly how the show tops itself next season, short of introducing a Tammy Three, but I was laughing pretty hysterically from start to finish of this one.
(*) Throwing off a very Mags Bennet vibe, no?
(**) It also gave Amy Poehler a few great reaction shots, as well as another chance to show just how funny she is at playing drunk.
And where it would be easy for the writers to just put the other characters on the sideline and let Offerman go crazy, "Ron and Tammys" had not one but two damned funny subplots involving the rest of the cast.
For anyone worried that Ben Schwartz being cast in Showtime's "House of Lies" would represent the last we'd see of Jean-Ralphio for a while, I hope you were both relieved and pleased to see him continuing to douche it up at Entertainment 720 HQ, this time not only with Detlef Schrempf, but current Pacer Roy Hibbert (who has a lot of free time on his hands at the moment). This story was in some way a rehash of the Ben/Andy/April story from "Jerry's Painting" last season, but forcing Ben to play the incredulous adult to a pair of immature lunatics is never a bad thing, in my mind, especially given the scale of lunacy that the Entertainment 720 set-up allows for.
The Chris/Ann subplot was also a familiar kind of gag, but Rob Lowe did a great job playing Chris as perfectionist actor, and the whole story nicely led its way to the moment where Ann is reminded of why she liked Chris so much in the first place. Many of you are speculating that Ben and Leslie will ultimately reunite because Chris will rescind the no-fraternization rule so he can reunite with Ann. I don't know if that's where this is going, but if so, this was a plausible step on the road back to that, and also a reminder that there's such a fine line between perfection and madness, one that Chris Traeger figuratively, if not literally, walks each and every day.
Great, wickedly funny episode.
What did everybody else think?