While many TV shows took a little hiatus this week, there were still plenty of memorable moments to get us from Sunday to Sunday. The week began with playoff football, and the fallout from one of those games dominated much of the television landscape this week in the form of nonstop talk about “Deflategate.” On Monday, Castle featured a trip into the dramatic world of telenovelas. And Tuesday’s hour of Parks and Recreation offered plenty of laughs and even more tears.
“Leslie and Ron,” the second half of Tuesday’s Parks and Rec double-header wasn’t just the best thing I’ve seen on TV this week. It was the best episode of television I’ve seen so far this year (and probably this whole TV season). The phrase “instant classic” is often hyperbolic, but I honestly believe it’s the perfect way to describe “Leslie and Ron.” It was a series highlight for a series filled with highlights—that’s how special it was.
While it’s difficult to select just one moment in the episode as the best, I can’t stop thinking about the unforced emotion in the scene where Ron told Leslie what motivated him to leave the Parks Department. That scene was a testament to what happens when great writing over the course of an entire series combines with performances given by actors who love and understand their characters even more than their passionate fans do. Ron admitting to Leslie that he missed his friends so much that he was willing to ask for a job with the federal government only resonated the way it did because of who we know Ron Swanson to be as a character and the emotions Nick Offerman and Amy Poehler brought to that moment. It was sweet, it was sad, and it was simply perfect. Such a brilliant, effortlessly moving scene could only be achieved by writers and actors at their top of their game. I’m so glad that my favorite show on television seems to be going out on top creatively in a way few shows I’ve loved ever have before.
What was the best thing you saw on TV this week?
As you know I was compelled to watch in anticipation of this post and by sheer force of emotion I watched people experience around this episode. You don’t have to be a fan of a specific show to appreciate a show give its fans a crescendo in and around a character. I feel like this is what happened with Ron. I’ve seen only a handful of episodes of Parks and Rec and in my long list of TV it’s a show I will likely only ever casually watch. But even without an emotional connection to these characters, I viscerally connected to the subject matter and the handling of a friendship that had been fractured by assumptive silence. As we change in life and move into different phases of our lives we all inevitably leave people we care about behind. It’s never intentional, it’s almost always situational. We graduate from school, move to different cities, take on different careers, get married, start families, etc. All of these things necessitate different needs. I’ve been the one left behind and I’ve been the one who moved onto a new adventure. It isn’t without a fair amount of melancholy that both happen. That’s what drew me in and that was the truth of the episode. There are no villains, just circumstance. It’s easier to hold a grudge, to place blame and to deflect responsibility. This episode did a wonderful job of honoring all aspects of that whether it was Leslie’s attempts to get Ron to talk, Ron’s confession or Leslie’s acceptance of responsibility for being unaware. It made for an honest 30 minutes of TV and I can so easily see why it was your best moment.
Speaking of honesty, My best moment on TV this week was the episode of MOM. If someone had asked me this time last year if I would even still be watching this show, I would have been doubtful at best. It’s first season was erratic and uneven in tone. While Allison Janney was terrific, the plot line and Anna Faris’ performance both lacked. Then came season 2. Faris found the middle ground and understanding of her role as the ‘straight man’ and the show was able to break free of last year’s plot line while navigating into one that was centered on Faris and Janney. It also added some stronger supporting actors and jettisoned ones that weren’t working. All of this paved the way to a sitcom that is risky, honest and sincere. The tone shifts are 90 degree turns. But the strength of this group makes them believable and work. That was never more true than in this weeks terrific episode that faced the truths of the delicate space people in recovery stand on and what happens when they let down the guards and mechanisms that protect them from the downward spiral that addiction once masked. This episode was funny and affecting often at the same time. Janney was unsurprisingly masterful and Faris stunning. This show went from falling off my DVR list to being a priority watch on the night it airs. This past week’s episode is pack full of 30 minutes worth of reasons why.
Honorable Mention: Jane the Virgin. After a not strong episode sent us into a hiatus, this show came back bitingly strong. It managed to achieve hilarity through an especially opinionated narrator this episode, while building a story that allows us to not hate our villain, leaves us even more torn than Jane about her choices and put the real face, fear and challenges surrounding mixed status families that they face every day with great dignity. The show ended on a note that felt like a punch in the gut. I couldn’t have asked for a better start to the second half of the season.
First of all, watching your love for Mom grow and change over the last year has been so much fun. Even from the commercials that looked like a fabulous episode, and I’m glad to see my initial impression was correct.
I absolutely loved your take on Parks and Rec, by the way. One of my favorite things about this show is its emotional honesty. Whether its a proposal or a discussion of what happened to a friendship, these writers and actors have a gift for making the big moments resonate even with people who only watch the show casually. It’s a rare thing to be able to call a TV comedy a beautiful show, but that’s exactly how I’d describe Parks and Rec. Its heart is always in the right place, and you know that’s how I like my TV.
If we are talking about the best thing I saw in general last week, I am pretty sure that goes to Colin in a cowl neck sweater. 😉
But as far as TV goes, I definitely have to give it up to Parks and Rec. It made me feel good about humanity, which Parks and Rec does better than pretty much anything else on TV.
I also enjoyed having The Flash back. The villains were pretty weak this ep, but I really like how they are handling Barry’s feelings for the female lead, and I love the growing tension between Barry’s two main male role models, his foster father Joe and Dr Wells. Joe is Barry’s mentor, and Dr Well’s is the Flash’s, and while Barry works to have a balance between these two sides of himself, it makes sense that the two male adults in his life would also be at odds at times. The show continues to surprise me with the very unique and complex relationships it portrays and I am looking forward to see where they rest of the season leads.
Gorgeous Irish men in cowl-neck sweaters tending to flowers automatically go on my shortlist of Best Thing I Saw in My Entire Life. 😉
I echo your sentiment that Parks and Rec makes you feel good about humanity. And I’m pretty sure there’s no higher praise you can give a TV show.
I also always love reading your feelings about The Flash. There’s nothing I enjoy more than secondhand TV joy.