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Monday, September 30, 2013

PARKS AND RECREATION Skips Over to "London"

Article first published as PARKS AND RECREATION Skips Over to "London" on TheTVKing.

For the season six premiere of NBC's Parks and Recreation, our favorite city employees hopped across the pond to "London" so that Leslie (Amy Poehler) could receive a civic award. It was a fun and funny trip, with some big opportunities, nice emotional moments, and a couple of major turning points. What a fantastic start to the year!

"London" begins with the quickie proposal and wedding of Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) to Diane Tammy Lewis (Lucy Lawless). Just kidding about that middle name, by the way, but when Diane calls herself that I literally yelled at the screen; awesome bit. Anyway, no sooner does Ron pop the question than they rush upstairs, coincidentally running into April (Aubrey Plaza) and Leslie on the way, whom they invite to be best man and maid of honor, respectively. A few minutes later, before the opening credits even begin, the ceremony is done and they retire to their individual homes to celebrate the reception separately, or so Ron orders.

This is a perfect wedding for Ron's character. He has such an easy relationship with Diane, who loves Ron for who he is and has similar sensibilities. She rolls with the punches when his friends get involved, though he keeps the whole thing in check and on course. It's a little hokey that the exact two people who should be invited to attend get to, but that's easy to overlook in such a perfect sequence.

Then, it's off to London, England. Leslie has been down on herself. She tries to win the voters over one by one to avoid being recalled from office, but despite working her rear end off, nothing seems to be helping, and leaving the country is used against her. Frustrated, and feeling out of her league next to her fellow winners (including a mostly-accent-less Heidi Klum), Leslie unloads, complaining about the residents of her fair town that do not appreciate her. The moment is, of course, webcast, and bumbling Jerry (Jim O'Heir) has even arranged a viewing party, so the blunder does not escape notice.

It's hard to blame Leslie for her outburst. Even though Ron advises her to be the adult and treat her represented public like her children, any one would get upset at what Leslie is going through. All she does is try to help the people she's been elected by, and no one notices, always dumping on her. It's not fair.

This makes me think Leslie will lose the recall election. Despite how far she has come and the fact that this will rob her of a major triumph, it seems to be in the cards that she has far more obstacles to overcome before she gets her happy ending. I have to believe it will all pay off in the end, but we're not at the end, with Parks and Recreation showing no sign of losing steam. So for now, more bad news.

Of course, with Chris (Rob Lowe) slated to be leaving the series in a few months, along with Anne (Rashida Jones), that does possibly leave a vacant city manager job open, and since it's not an elected position, Leslie could slide in and begin working without worry about what people think. I'm just saying...

Speaking of Anne, though, it's great that she and Chris, also beaten down by the lack of caring from the locals when announcing Anne's pregnancy, go to Leslie, knowing she will react with the enthusiasm they seek. This shows that Leslie is the source of support people need, if only they know to go to her.

And it's not like Leslie has given up completely on being her cheerful, helpful self. She still does things for those she cares about. She arranges the perfect (solo) honeymoon for Ron, finding the one place in Europe Ron will enjoy. That is a beautiful gift and a testament to not only their friendship, but the amazing person Leslie is.

One person does notice Leslie's efforts and that's April, the girl who wrote the latter to win Leslie the award. April is really growing up, and her show of faith in Leslie, as well as taking the time to cheer her up proves this. Perhaps with Anne leaving, April can reluctantly step into the position of Leslie's best friend?

Another sign of April's maturity is how she encourages Andy (Chris Pratt) to take a several-months-long job in London with an important man (Peter Serafinowicz, NTSF:SD:SUV). Besides providing a convenient reason for Andy to be gone while Pratt makes a film, it also shows a step forward in their relationship, considering grown up priorities and her putting his needs first. This is huge, and I think they'll weather things OK because they go into it with just the right attitude. Good for them!

The other subplot unfolding in "London" is that Tom (Aziz Ansari) finally figures out who the competition that is running him into the ground is: the father of Jean-Ralphio (Ben Schwartz) and Mona-Lisa, who just so happens to be Anne's doctor. This man (played by Arrested Development's Henry Winkler) wants revenge for how Tom allegedly treats his children, but even exonerating himself from his friends' lies does Tom no good because their dad has now built a successful business he's not willing to give up.

I love the kooky family these three funny actors have built to plague Tom's life. I'm sad for Tom, of course, as he has as many troubles as Leslie in fighting for his goals, more than he deserves, but unlike her, there's real humor in the episodes that bring down Tom. For now, anyway. The longer this goes on, the sadder it gets. Though I'm still not rooting for Jean-Ralphio and family to stay away.

"London" serves just about every one of the central characters well, providing some really good humor and excellent character development. Parks and Recreation is maturing just as nicely as April is, and I'm enjoying watching these people become who they are meant to be, surely dreamers who will eventually see their wishes realized.

Parks and Recreation airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.

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