Archives for category: TV Reviews

Space Dandy

Warning: Spoilers for the plot of Space Dandy 1.1 ahead

It’s hard to think of anything harder to review than a media product made in Japan. On one hand, you need to give the show/game/whatever some slack, because it’s usually aimed at an audience that has vastly different tastes than the average American/British/other audience. On the other, some of this stuff has very, very, very creepy, disturbing, or offensive subtexts.

Thankfully, Space Dandy is not your average anime.

What we have in Space Dandy is a comedic throwback to pulp-era space opera directed/showrun by Shinichiro Watanabe and written by a staff that includes a man who rates Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon as his Game of the Year for 2013. Watanabe might be best known for directing and showrunning Cowboy Bebop, a 26 episode series about bounty hunters in space Adult Swim reran from 2001 until partway through 2013.

This isn’t really important beyond these facts: 1) Watanabe makes shows that work for mainstream Japanese and non-Japanese audiences, 2) his works are more popular in the west than Japan, and 3) Space Dandy is premiering on Adult Swim’s Toonami block, meaning a Japanese show is world premiering in English for the first time ever (I will be reviewing this version, not the original Japanese).

Space Dandy Dandy And Robot

Space Dandy revolves around the adventures of Dandy (Ian Sinclair), a dickish alien hunter searching for new, undiscovered species to catalog in order to get paid and desires to own future space Hookers, aka Boobies (the single most groan worthy element in the episode). QT (Alison Viktorin), is Dandy’s long suffering robot companion, whose firmware is so outdated that she has to use an alien encyclopedia book to figure out if a species is or is not new. Both characters are aware of the narrator (R Bruce Elliot) and acknowledge his presence in the first five minutes, setting the tone of this show – this is an absurd parody, if Dandy philosophizing women’s breasts and buttocks didn’t tip you off.

That said, the episode flounders a bit because it’s setting up a bunch of things at once. Dandy, QT, and the narrator are all introduced and established upfront, so we get a great taste of Dandy and QT’s chemistry, but most of the other characters don’t get much to work with.

Meow, a cat looking alien from Betelgeuse and one-time voyeur, manages to be somewhat likable thanks to Joel McDonald’s performance and some good one-liners in the back half of the episode. Honey (Alexis Tipton) and Dr. Gel (J. Michael Tatum) get a few lines as Dandy’s love interest and pursuer, respectively, but they’re not important… yet.

It should be noted that Honey is a victim of a strange localization change – she had a line of dialogue changed from “You’re an ass?” to “Asteroid Belt?” for some reason, making her look like an idiot. I wouldn’t have even been aware of this if a Tumblr post by one of the animators wasn’t circulating Twitter, but it’s worth mentioning for future viewers because of the rushed nature of this dub. It’s a bizarre blemish on a pretty solid dubbing and localization job, one that needs to be fixed before the show gets released on Blu-Ray and DVD (although it’s too late for all the people who bought the digital copies of the episode).

Space Dandy being thrashed by aliens

The animation is top notch, although I worry about whether or not it’ll hold up later on – anime studios tend to pump tons of money into the first few episodes to hook viewers and cheap out on later episodes. Hopefully Adult Swim’s investment in the series will keep the show looking great, as the hordes of aliens attacking Meow and Dandy toward the end of the episode was one of the high points of the show. The bright color palette might irk people, but it fits the retro scifi vibe perfectly and is a welcome break from the desaturation theory tidal wave that’s drowning global media.

In all honesty, Live With the Flow, Baby is a lot like a lot of other scifi series premieres – appreciated for establishing the characters, universe, and story, but not one that will rank high on the list of fan favorites. It’s most memorable element is killing the crew in a spectacular fashion at the end of the episode – but even if Space Dandy wasn’t a comedy, it would be pretty clear the show wouldn’t end there. With a “get out of jail free” card already set up earlier in the episode, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out Dandy and crew are going to continue their alien hunting antics. The question is how, and that’s worth keeping up with one of the few new space adventures on TV.

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Arrow 2 4

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

This week’s instalment of Arrow marks an interesting progression, with two plot points that will dictate the attention of the second season and several minor plot points to seemingly fill in the gaps between. This week the Glades is over run by a gang led by a man called “The Mayor”, a former orphan, who steals military grade weaponry and uses it to terrify the people in the Glades and control what goes on. This week also saw a turning point in the Black Canary story line, maintaining her exposure to last week and revealing her identity to the audience, and also to Oliver. We also saw further developments in the flashbacks, continuing on from Oliver’s capture and imprisonment on the boat off the coast of the Island.

Finally there are a few other smaller developments that take place, including the establishment of some sort of relationship between Thea, Roy and Sin, as well as the introduction of the main bad guy for the season. This weeks episode returns to the slowish pace of the start of the second season and seemed to fail to capitalise on last week’s episode. While there are a few great scenes that stand out, and certainly the flash backs are amongst the most interesting that they have been in a while, it still doesn’t make up for Thea/Roy/Sin plots which are slow and drawn out. While the plans for the Thea/Roy/Sin relationship seems to have something planned down the track, at the moment the scenes dedicated to that specific plot feel like they bring down the rest of the episodes, so hopefully it leads to something worth while.

This episodes villain, The Mayor, is a return to the standard Arrow villain after last week’s introduction of the incredibly terrifying Dollmaker. Arrow seemingly has an infatuation with the more “physically present” bad guys, and The Mayor is just another in a long string of these bad guys that try to take control of the city, only to lose in a fight to Arrow and be either killed or arrested. While the Dollmaker’s appearance brought hope that the writers of the show would vary up the villains a bit more, and potentially introduce a more psychological villain to the mix. After stopping The Mayor from stealing another shipment of army grade machine guns and stripping the gang members of their guns, The Mayor makes his first public appearance, crashing a “Cash for Guns” exchange hosted by Oliver and Sebastian Blood, announcing that nothing goes on in the Glades without the express consent of The Mayor. After killing a few officers, wounding Sin and almost killing Thea and Blood, who were saved by Roy and Oliver respectively. Oliver enlists the help of The Canary to intercept the next shipment, and the two work together as an effective team and manage to not only intercept the shipment, but also allow the police to arrest all the gang members, including the Mayor.

Arrow 2 4 Edited 1

Within the first minutes of this weeks episode, Oliver manages to finally track the Canary down. After Felicity makes a connection between the Canary and Laurel, Oliver tracks the Canary down watching Laurel at her apartment, he manages to trap her with one of his trick arrows. The two have a short discussion in which the Canary reveals that she knows that it’s Oliver under the hood, having recognised the Green Hood that they mentioned in the news. After unmasking the Canary and realising it to be Laurel’s sister, Sara Lance, whom Oliver presumed to be dead. While the revelation of the character was nothing new to many of the audience members, it certainly plays an interesting point for where the writers will take the Canary plot, and certainly what this means for the Canary/Arrow partnership that was established in this episode. Aside from the revelation of her identity, and the two fighting together, the rest of Oliver and Sara’s conversations revolve around whether or not she lets her family know that she is both alive and back in Starling City. While Sara seems to be reluctant at first, it seems that by the end of the episode, she consents to Oliver’s request taking his hand. Certainly, the answer of what that last scene meant, and how she will break the news to her family members will be revealed in the upcoming episodes.

The flashbacks in this episode continued on from Oliver waking up on the boat just off the coast of the island. Oliver was soon interrogated by a member of the boats crew, who asked Oliver about the graves on the island, what had happened to the soldiers on the Island and how many other people were on the island with him. After Oliver refused to answer, the crew member shot Oliver in the stomach, seemingly leaving him to die for not talking. However, in the later flashback it is revealed that the crew have given him tools to take the bullet out and stitch himself up, and the gunshot was later revealled to be a sort of rite of passage on the ship, with the other prisoners having the same bullet wound as Oliver. After recovering from the gunshot, Oliver is removed from his cell and placed in a larger empty room. After still struggling to get up, Oiver realises that someone else has joined him in the room, and as the camera pans up, the person is Sara Lance, showing that Oliver had known that she had survived the Queen’s Gambit’s capsizing.

Arrow 2 4 Edited 2

Finally, there are other numerous smaller plots that are given some air time, including the growing relationship between Thea, Roy and Sin, as well as Laurel’s seeming descent into drug abuse and alcoholism. After Sin spots Roy at the Cash for Guns event in the Glades, she makes fun of him for dating heiress Thea Queen, but after The Mayor crashes the event, Sin is shoot and Roy gets Thea to get help, taking her to Starling City hospital. Roy then seems dedicated to staying by her bedside, with Thea also contending to stay there despite not really knowing Sin that well. After Sin wakes up, she thanks Roy, then insults him to Thea by calling him an idiot, to which Thea agrees and Sin states that she likes Thea, seemingly seeling the relationship between the three.

In another minor plot point, Laurel is recovering from the events of the previous episode, after being kidnapped by the psychotic Dollmaker criminal as well as coming to the realisation that she was the reason that Tommy died, and that it wasn’t the Arrow’s fault. Laurel had a marked decrease in scenes in this episode, allowing for the dramatic use of the fact that she rarely is seen without a glass of wine or champagne throughout her entire screen time, often taking big unsightly gulps as she is approached by another character. The whole alcoholism seems rushed, and copied straight from her father, but the writers did a fantastic job splicing a scene of Laurel popping pills and drinking with Quentin Lance at an AA meeting, with the juxtaposition of Laurel’s spiralling descent into drug abuse contrasted with Quentin’s attempts to recover from his previous issues with alcohol.

Episode Highlights

  • Oliver and Quentin’s talk, with Sara listening
  • Laurel’s pill scene, spliced with Quentin’s AA meeting
  • Arrow and Canary working together

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Under The Dome Exigent Circumstances

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

You know, if you ignore pretty much every episode that came before it, “Exigent Circumstances” could be considered a pretty decent hour of television. Its plots worked together and they moved well without too many glaringly nonsensical moments (which isn’t to say there weren’t any, but by Under the Dome‘s standards they were at least minimal), and it was probably the most exciting episode since the pilot. But if the only way a season’s penultimate episode can be seen in a positive light is by divorcing it from the rest of said season, is it really such an accomplishment? “Exigent Circumstances” does little more than demonstrate how much better Under the Dome would have been were it a much shorter miniseries rather than the thirteen episode crap-fest it’s been.

At this point we’ve finally reached the stage the pilot so desperately wanted audiences to see, it’s just a shame the set-up has been such a silly, convoluted mess. Barbie’s on the run as Big Jim rallies his minions against the scapegoat and even the one legitimate police officer left in Chester’s Mill is behind the would-be dictator. This brings us to my first issue with “Exigent Circumstances.” As I already discussed in my review of the previous episode, Linda has just as much reason to hold Jim under as much suspicion as Barbie – if not much more – yet she consistently follows Jim’s every order like a mindless lapdog. Even when she begins to protest Jim’s approach she immediately acquiesces. As the only actual, trained law enforcement officer in the community she should be much more mindful of avoiding mob mentality and its dangerous and slippery slope. But no, turns out Under the Dome actually means to convey that the police are merely the means by which corrupt politicians uphold a broken system, a message I can actually get behind, ironically. But Linda’s actions are so senseless they undercut the plot by preventing it from holding anything audiences can connect to.

At least there is a balance to Linda’s stupidity. Caroline has reappeared after hibernating mourning the loss of her wife and just in the nick of time to try defending the rights of her daughter and Joe as Jim and his goons search Joe’s barn for the egg and detain them for questioning. Jim’s interrogation of Joe and Norrie was probably my favorite scene (other than Dodie getting shot, but more on that in a minute). Not that I actually like any part of this show, but if I had to pick one, Norrie is probably my favorite character because she is the only one besides Barbie who seems to consistently see through Jim’s bullshit, and she stands up to bullies be they high school jocks or used car salesmen with illusions of grandeur.

Dodie also stood up to Jim, but only after she decided of her own free will to completely ignore the fact that Jim sabotaged the radio because the miitary witnessed him murder the reverend, and after he pulled a gun on her. I was happy when Jim shot Dodie not only because she was a weak character (in that she was poorly developed), but because it made sense and was consistent with what we know of Jim. Plus, it added the faintest sense of stakes to see just how out of control Jim is know that he has accepted he’ll do anything to make sure he remains the big fish in a small pond.

Like his scene with Dodie, and because of its conclusion, the exchange Norrie had with Jim carried real tension. Both scenes where Jim intimidates women who suspect him of his malicious intent were adequately written which, again, by this show’s standards is practically Oscar worthy in comparison to the rest of the show. I liked these scenes because their dialogues illustrated just how slimy and greedy Jim is in his quest for power.

As much as “Exigent Circumstances” worked to illustrate Jim as the villain he’s gradually revealed himself to be, his status as an actual threat to the lives of those in his way and the rights of the citizens of Chester’s Mill is tenuous at best and undercut by its lack of credibility. Where does Jim seem to get his endless supply of goons? (I cracked up when that nameless dude in the glasses at the town hall meeting kept conveniently demanding Jim to do more because “It’s been two weeks,” since they’ve been trapped. He means to communicate how dire their circumstances are, but the exclamation only emphasized how laughably ridiculous the situation is. ) Why is Junior constantly flip-flopping between wanting to kill his dad and protect him? I understand patricide isn’t exactly a light decision to wrestle with even for a psycho who’s harbored aggression against his father for years, but Junior’s gone back and forth on this issue more than a ping pong ball at Forrest Gump’s house, which doesn’t exactly help audiences take his dilemma seriously since he’s just as likely to change his mind six more times before the end of the next episode. Why does Linda follow his orders when she knows he’s manipulating people to secure his own position of authority? I guess one could argue she may only be following his lead to get answers, but there’s nothing to suggest she wouldn’t literally jump off a cliff if Jim told her “answers” were at the bottom.

While I appreciate the momentum in “Exigent Circumstances” it doesn’t come close to compensating for a whole season’s worth of stupidity. By the end of the episode it looks like the mini-dome’s about to blow and Babrie’s plea of “not guilty” at his impromptu trial/hearing/death of due process is meant to be a cliffhanger of epic proportions, but it just falls as flat as this season’s collective character development. I half expect Barbie to convince the entire flock of sheep gathering of denizens in one Jeff Winger speech that Big Jim’s the Big Bad and they should probably just hang him right then and there. I know that won’t happen though. Instead I bet the military will show up again to somehow get Barbie to black ops the egg (yeah, I just used “black ops” as a verb and no, I don’t know exactly what I mean by that, but I picture Doakes from Dexter and Mac from It’s Always Sunny doing karate when I think of it). The strength of the episode would have gone a lot further in being effective if it weren’t buried under such poor execution up until this point.

Come back next week when I’ll use io9 s Charlie Jane Anders’ test to examine whether Under the Dome can redeem itself after the domest dumbest first season I’ve ever witnessed.

The post TV Review: Under the Dome 1.12, “Exigent Circumstances” appeared first on WhatCulture!.

i

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Often times when a high concept television show is just getting started, it will spend its first few episodes trying to decide what kind of show it really wants to be. The pilot episode lays down all the cards, and the subsequent episodes decide which ones it wants to play and how much, thereby giving the show its identity. Some find its winning formula immediately while others take their time, whether or not it’s deliberate.

Now in its third episode, The Americans seems to have found comfortably found its identity, being one of the shows that find its winning formula early in its infant stages. That formula is an intense character driven drama set against the backdrop of Cold War espionage. It’s not just about two deep cover spies behind enemy lines carrying out cool spy missions; it’s about how those missions affect them as people due to the extraordinary circumstances they find themselves in. Its similar to The Walking Dead, in which each episode is not solely based on zombie killing, but how the situation as a whole affects the individuals caught up in it.

This week’s episode begins with Beeman and Phillip in a friendly game of racquet ball. In the loaded dialogue of the scene, the two men basically outline their personalities and methods through the metaphor of their game. Phillip the one willing to do anything to win, and Beeman being the more patient and methodical one. If anything, this is a precursor to what it would be like once Beeman starts suspecting the Jennings again.

As the “previously on” segment indicates, this episode is heavily centered on Robert, the operative who was stabbed in their fist mission from the pilot episode. We knew that he died and the hospital, and we also knew that this was going to complicate things for Philizabeth (I’m just gonna call them that from now on). Well, that happened a lot earlier than we thought because they receive a coded message from the now dead Robert. Knowing this is impossible, they dig further into it. As it turns out, Robert had a wife and infant child on the side. That’s a big no-no in the world of Directorate S operatives.

On the other side of things, Beeman and his team put their newly turned asset to good use, as she divulges information on the failed extraction from the pilot, and sends Beeman on the trail of Robert. This leads them to the wife and child, and the two opposing sides of the show are set on a collision course. Beeman puts a surveillance team on the wife. Naturally, Philizabeth are outnumbered, so they call on their own surveillance team. Now this is where things get interesting.

LizandGreg

Elizabeth goes to see her asset, the episode’s titular Gregory, played by Derek Luke. She sends him and his team on the job first to do surveillance, then to do an extraction job for the wife. It seems that Philizabeth have a whole network of turned assets willing to work for them. However, unlike Phillip’s somewhat shallow lovemaking blonde asset last week, Gregory has a deeper connection with Elizabeth.

See, back then when Elizabeth was unhappy with her marriage with Phillip, she took her frustration out by sleeping with Gregory. Soon it became intimate, and Elizabeth found herself expressing the emotions she’s always wanted to express in a normal relationship towards Gregory. She never got to experience it truly, as her marriage is, after all, fake. Now however, she’s just beginning to fully accept Phillip as her husband, so things are obviously even more complicated when she sees Gregory again. Is what she did cheating? Her marriage with Phillip was fabricated, but Phillip does deeply love her, as we saw in the pilot. This is one of those intriguing questions the show is adept at asking and ambiguously answering.

One big development with this episode was the introduction of Margo Martingale as Philizabeth’s new handler. After her terrific performance in Justified, this can be nothing but a plus to an already great show. She really is good at balancing the nice motherly act with the quite authoritative and even menacing attitude when the situation arises. I have a feeling we’ll see a lot more of that.

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This episode really stepped up with its character moments, once again putting Elizabeth in the spotlight and delving even deeper into Philizabeth’s already complicated relationship. Gregory certainly throws a wrench into what they have built up from the pilot, and it was all very intriguing to see it all play out. We haven’t seen the end of this for sure, and I feel Gregory will continue to be a constant reminder of how Elizabeth once was. The conflict of the week with Robert’s wife was good but that strong plot wise, as its tragic end was a foregone conclusion especially when Margo Martingale’s character was involved.

The Americans continues to deliver an ongoing, intense character study of the effects of a life of lies has on someone. There was a good balance between Philizabeth and Beeman’s side of things, all sprinkled with a healthy dose of dark drama and character development. An improvement from last week’s adequate episode, “Gregory” really delved deep into Philizabeth’s troubled past, and added another hurdle for them to get through. There is really no other romance like this on TV, which makes it that much more fascinating to watch.

The post The Americans 1.3 Review, “Gregory” appeared first on WhatCulture!.

black mirror

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The opening shot of Black Mirror II begins with a shot of a petrol station on a stormy pitch black night. That shot alone is enough to raise my excitement all over again for the latest series of underrated Television gold.

Its been a lengthy two year hiatus since the last Black Mirror miniseries aired on our TV screens, but its return has been long awaited by fans as well as Channel 4, who have awarded the return with a very creative marketing campaign. The marketing in general, captures the same eerie soft techo atmosphere that Brooker assembled so perfectly in his first series. And with that hype, it’s enough to lure in additional viewers as well as retain the original viewers from previously.

The first mini-movie of this series is titled “Be Right Back”, written by Charlie Brooker and starring Captain America star Hayley Atwell. Atwell plays the character of Martha, whose entire life is shattered following the death of her partner Ash (Domhnall Gleeson) in a road accident. During the funeral, she is introduced to a new app that keeps people in touch with the deceased. While adamant at first, Martha is slowly drawn to this new discovery, which begins to transform her entire life once again.

The first thing to say about Black Mirror is that its ideas alone are enough to lure me in. The idea of technology running amok and destroying human society slowly but surely, is going to attract some form of audience, whether its big or small. Be Right Back tackles themes and ideas such as obsession, grief, isolation and death, and does so in a bleak and bizarre manner that only Brooker could master so well. I adore his writing due to the fact that he has a rather grim and unique mind – which no other writer has right now – which presents a very unpleasant and bleak style of storytelling, which manages to gain a sizeable amount of viewers each time its displayed in a new frightening way. Hayley Atwell’s performance is very strong and her character carries the story from beginning to end. We see a character that starts off with pretty much everything: the perfect boyfriend; a new home; and a job that she enjoys and gives her creative freedom. When her boyfriend dies, everything falls apart and she struggles to move on as would most people who lose a loved one. But then, events take a surreal turn when Atwell’s character discovers the app. With this discovery, her performance transforms rapidly and she struggles to cope with a new reality that she must keep locked away from the rest of society. Ash – played by Domhnall Gleeson – is also very good, and is key to the story’s development, despite only being featured very little. You have some good supporting performances also, but most of the attention lies on Atwell to carry the drama.

The Cinematography is perfect for the mood of the writing as is the sound design and editing. These elements add to the cold lonely world that Martha is slowly but unknowingly devising around her. The Directing is also well executed and its material like this that ensures newcomer Owen Harris many strong opportunities in the future. If there were any criticisms about this story, it would be that it wasn’t as exciting or maybe even disturbing than the first story of series one “The National Anthem”. But none the less, its still terrific television and will no doubt create buzz online as well as discussions at work the next day.

Black Mirror has returned strong, and is set to maintain its following over the weeks and slowly increase Brooker’s status as one of the most underrated talents working in British Television today.

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Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

This episode may be one of the most full of debauchery of the entire series. “The Target opened with Oscar telling the camera he’s unsure if Angela actually realizes he and her husband are having an affair. I don’t know how there could be any ambiguity left in this situation after how the last episode ended, but before I could roll my eyes at the thought of the show prolonging this confrontation we see just before the opening credits begin rolling that Angela has indeed figured it out and clearly has some definite plans for revenge. Well, maybe not definite plans, but at least definite intentions. As much as I’ve previously mentioned that in the last few episodes regarding this plot, Oscar has really stolen the show, in “The Target” it was Dwight who really carried the story this time.

I was really curious to see Dwight’s referral to Angela after he informed her that if he isn’t in her panties then no vigilantes. Trevor turned out to be the exact type of weirdo you’d imagine Dwight would call for a surveillance job. I liked that it was Dwight, the most seemingly amoral character of the series, whom proved to be the voice of reason and morality in this story. When it was revealed that Angela actually wanted to hire Trevor to murder Oscar, something Trevor was apparently up for, Dwight was genuinely concerned with not only protecting Oscar from Angela (and Trevor), but protecting Angela from herself. Though a contracted homicide is a bit too ridiculous even for The Office, I was able to buy into it because as anyone who’s had their heart broken can testify, love can make you do extreme things you never thought yourself capable of, even hiring a stranger to kill one of your coworkers. In the end Dwight successfully thwarted the plans he helped set into motion and everyone’s kneecaps were saved. Angela and Oscar had the confrontation that the show has spent far too much time setting up and although I don’t think it was really worth it, the writers were able to pack a decent amount of solid laughs into this particular plot which could have easily been an overly dramatic sob story that couldn’t justify itself.

I think it’s interesting that the first subplot of “The Target” was actually a convergence of two characters’ arcs. At the beginning of the episode we see that Pam is about to start the mural in the warehouse she’s been commissioned to paint by Nelly after much priming and apparent procrastination. We also learn that Pete, whose new shaggy hair may be a bit too obvious for my taste as he is gradually being established as the new Jim, has been tasked with not only entering the latest collection of customer complaints into the computer system but also with rewriting them on a set of index cards (even though the information is not only already in the computer system, but also already on a ton of index cards the character uses to practice some architecture). These two characters have no obvious connection but eventually we watch as Pete’s new project of constructing an elaborate tower from the complaint cards serves as a catalyst for Pam to realize that everyone makes mistakes and therefore she shouldn’t feel so trepidatious about starting her mural.

I don’t think this plot worked that well because for the majority of it I didn’t see why the audience was supposed to care that Pam wasn’t noticed during the complaint festivities when she was supposed to be painting anyway. By the conclusion of the story we see that Pam was able to take a lot away from earning her first official complaint (and losing the company a client), but only at the very end. I would have much rather seen more of Pete winning over Erin, but I suppose the couple big smiles she made at Pete during his various moments of chivalry in defending Kevin (who’s once again too dumb even for The Office‘s standards) and rallying the troops were enough. As Pete touched on at the beginning of the episode, Andy, the office manager, isn’t around to manage his office because he decided to spontaneously take a leave of absence to sail his family’s boat to the Bahamas before its sale is finalized. How nice for him andhis job security that he can do that. However, Andy also isn’t around to keep Erin from falling for Pete. Who knows if he’d be able to prevent that even if he were present, but I guess we’ll find out if he ever returns.

I know we suspend our disbelief when we watch silly sitcoms that aren’t meant to be incredibly realistic, but it bothers me that when Jim calls David Wallace to arrange for part-time status so he can be present in Philadelphia to help with his new company, Wallace is hesitant because he needs someone physically present in case of any emergencies – oh, you mean like Andy Bernard, the office manager?! No, no; I’m sure Wallace thinks Stanley and Phyllis are good enough. Anyway, watching Phyllis get absolutely plastered and begin to question who her hands belonged to was amusing enough in that we didn’t have to watch too much of it and in the end her and Stanley admit to knowing they would cover for Jim the whole time; they just wanted to grind his beans, peel his grapes, and shuck his peas. Too many weird euphemisms aside, when Jim hugged both of his drunkenly laughing colleagues I thought it was lovely.

Double Nostalgia. (Caption from Season 3 Episode 17, “Cocktails”)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I’ve always praised Parks for its consistency in delivering lots of laughs contained within its plots that almost always have successful resolutions to genuine conflicts. “Pawnee Commons” is no exception, but this is one of the few times where despite all the right ingredients and proportions I feel the end result was a bit weak. “Pawnee Commons” is almost too by the book.

The main plot finds Leslie pleading with the listeners of Pawnee Public Radio for design submissions for the park she’s been working on since the pilot. As tantalizing as “Worm Park” is, turns out the only real applicant worthy for consideration is an Eagletonian. Restin St. James seems too good to be true and despite Ben’s admiration for the man Leslie can’t bring herself to trust him. After she finally succumbs to Ben’s ever present reasonability, Leslie appears to have been proven right when two of Restin’s employees submit a mock design including fast food troughs and showers with instructions for those Pawnee citizens who aren’t familiar with the concept of bathing. While Leslie plans (and eventually executes) her revenge, Bens learns Restin is as genuine as he appeared and despite getting a shaving cream toupe, still delivers a perfect new park design pro bono including a Lil’ Sebastian fountain.

The rest of the cast (save April and Andy) are helping Tom renovate his new business’ space. Can someone remind me as to whether Tom is still a Parks Department employee? If so, why is Chris okay with Tom’s new business venture? I know this episode was all about how Tom has transformed into a “responsible tycoon”, but I couldn’t help but be a bit bothered by those questions. This story included an appearance from DJ Roomba, which warmed my heart, and a nice bit of banter between Chris and Ron, but even with Jerry’s barely restrained righteous anger over the small, topping-less pizza, I think this is the plot that I liked the least. Ann ends up reminding Tom that although he’s moving in the right direction with his new business venture, his swagger, confidence, and showmanship are still needed to make the place work – as long as it’s used well.

My favorite plot from “Pawnee Commons” is definitely that which followed Andy Dwyer, part-time City Hall weekend security guard, and his lovely wife, April, A.K.A. Judy Hitler. Though watching the adorably odd couple role play was immensely entertaining, and served as another reminder that this may be the best married couple on a sitcom ever, it was watching the two as themselves help find Lil’ Joey’s mom (why were they wandering around City Hall on a weekend anyway?) that was the most rewarding because it demonstrated that although she knows when to indulge in the fantastical, April also knows when to remind Andy of the reality that he is super awesome sauce all on his own. I truly hope this isn’t Bert Macklin’s last appearance.

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