February 25, 2015

Finale Reviews: Parks and Recreation: "One Last Ride"

Source: nbc.com
I don't know where to begin. This final season of Parks and Rec had its misses, sure. But they were eclipsed by the precious, heartfelt moments we were given this season, especially last night. And that is worth something. Even in a final episode that was not perfect, and a final season that felt rushed, the audience was given a satisfying, happy ending. Lots of happy endings, actually.

Some of the highest points of the episode were those that rewarded longtime viewers. Tom's glamour shot, the Halloween costumes, Cones of Dunshire II, Leslie's scrapbooks, a library (of all things) in Leslie's name, and even a flash forward easter egg that revealed Jean-Ralphio's ultimate fate. There were a few delightful cameos from recurring characters - Ethel Beavers, Kyle, Brandi Maxxxx, and Dr. Saperstein were some of my favorites. And of course the actual cameo from Vice President Joe Biden was a treat.

Though I wish we'd seen a little more of it, I enjoyed the overarching theme of one final parks project for the gang to tackle, and I think its triviality made sense in the little Parks and Rec world we've come to love. Leslie in particular has never shied away from the smallest of tasks if it could make a difference to someone she served. That's what made her Leslie Knope. I have two favorite quotes from last's night's episode, and both of them are about what was at the heart of this show: hard work for the greater good.

"Show up on time. Speak honestly and treat everyone with fairness." -Ron Swanson

"Work hard at work worth doing." -Leslie Knope

Those, dear viewers, are words to live by.

My biggest complaint is that there was too much plot to fit in the single hour finale, but it's still ok. While the episode might have been a little too full, what is was full of was happiness. Parks and Rec is quite possibly the happiest, brightest, most optimistic show on television. And Pawnee is definitely the happiest little TV town since Mayberry. So yes, the episode was abundant with plotlines that weren't as completely developed or masterfully executed, as say, those in The Office finale, but each one gave us a happy ending. They showed us the happy future:

Chris and Ann will find health and happiness literally anywhere they go. 

Jerry/Larry/Terry/Garry eventually found his place, and never stopped smiling. 

April and Andy will always be a great team. 

Donna will never stop treating herself - and coming through for others. 

Tom will always land on his feet with a new idea. 

Ron will always (reluctantly) find himself working happily for the government. 

Leslie and Ben will obviously support each other as flawed individuals and perfect partners - no matter what. 

Leslie and Ben: perfect partners, obviously.
Source: nbc.com
One last thing about last night's finale. It represents more than just the end of a funny, sweet, special show. It represents the end of a special era of NBC comedy - one that included The Office, 30 Rock, and Community. These shows were a big part of the sitcom revolution; they helped re-introduce the single-camera sitcom to US audiences. Parks and Rec is more than a special little show. It's an important show. For TV, for comedy, for public service, and for small-town diners serving waffles everywhere.

February 23, 2015

The Odd Couple: "Pilot"

The last couple of times I've reviewed a new sitcom on this blog, things have not gone well for said sitcoms. Both Back in the Game and A to Z met their demise rather quickly, which is a shame because both had promise. And a shame for me, because I liked them both.

Yep. That's what my face looked like
while I watched the pilot, too.
Source: cbs.com
This review of the new CBS sitcom The Odd Couple will be (spoiler alert) entirely negative. So perhaps in a turn of poetic injustice, this show will last. This Atlantic reviewer seems to think it has a better shot than any of Matthew Perry's previous attempts at a comeback.

Before I start my review, a disclaimer of sorts. I have never seen the play, the movie, or the tv show that this new show is based on. So I suppose there may have been some nods to these sources (that I missed) that made it worlds better, but I doubt that. I'd bet that the basic characters, their names, and a jazzed up theme song were the only homages paid to the original.

So here we go. What went wrong last week when The Odd Couple premiered on CBS:
  1. Timing - It was almost unsettling how quickly the dialogue was delivered. Perry and co-star Thomas Lennon barely stopped short of stepping on each other's lines. There was better comedic timing in the promos I saw for the show than in the show itself. 
  2. Lack of Context - Quirky high-strung guys and obnoxious pickup-artist guys can both be endearing, if we have a reason to like them. In the pilot of The Odd Couple, we were given no reason. The writers plopped us down in the middle of a friendship we had no reason to care about. I couldn't care less what happens next to either of these - frankly - losers. Not a good way to start your new show.  
  3. Too many jokes and not enough plot - Keep in mind, when I say too many jokes, I mean too many of the same joke. We get it. Felix is uptight and Oscar is sarcastic. Writers, from now on, you get one joke to that effect per episode. ONE! Even a joke that could have been well done fell flat. The play on Felix Unger's initials and the abbreviated insult of the same two initials was poorly written and so hastily executed, you didn't even give the savvy viewers a chance to chuckle at it before the punchline dropped. Moreover, the show was jammed so full of lousy jokes that they didn't have time to give us any semblance of plot.
Now, some critics are claiming the show has promise. Telling us to give it time. The chemistry of Perry and Lennon will be enough! I don't buy it. Will the rest of the viewers? Time will tell.