Thursday, January 30, 2014

REVIEW: 'Parks and Recreation' Sends Ann & Chris Off to Michigan with a Trip Down Memory Lane in 'Ann and Chris'

NBC's Parks and Recreation - Episode 6.13 Ann and Chris

On Ann and Chris's last night in Pawnee, Leslie throws a grand farewell party and attempts to fulfill one last promise. Meanwhile, Tom, Ben, Ron and Andy struggle to find the perfect going away gift for Chris.

Before the sixth season premiered, the creative team announced that Rashida Jones and Rob Lowe would be departing the series after the 13th episode of the season. It all stemmed from a creative direction to take those characters out of Pawnee and to the next phase of their life. Jones and Lowe have been amazing on the series. In the early days, Jones was often called to be the straight-woman to Amy Poehler's flashier Leslie Knope - but when called to be funny she delivers - like last week's rant about being pregnant. Lowe had the funniest line in the funniest episode - back in the third season that still makes me laugh uncontrollably. Sure, they could have stayed on the show for as long as it lasts. But their departure is enough of a shakeup for the show to keep it fresh and exciting. Parks and Recreation has never been afraid to go there in its narrative - often facilitated by their uncertainty of the show's future. This change-up is the next progression of that idea - what is it like when this collection of characters move away from Pawnee and onto the next phase of their lives.

"Ann and Chris" is just a really good sendoff for those two characters. This season may not have felt like a proper goodbye to them - with it too often feeling like the show was just marking time with them by putting them in little subplots where they don't interact with anyone else of the main cast. But this episode did, and that's largely what counts. We got some great Leslie and Ann hijinks, camaraderie from the male cast all together, Ann's interactions with April and Ron (always classic pairings) and many callbacks to Ann's love life - she went out with Perd once!

Plus, it wouldn't be a farewell to Ann if the show didn't once again revisit Pawnee Commons - which Leslie manages to break ground on before sending her best friend off to Michigan. It's a very nice moment that's simultaneously respectful and rewarding of the past while also looking forward to the future.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Ann and Chris" was written by Aisha Muharrar & Michael Schur and directed by Dean Holland.
  • Leslie: "If she casually mentioned three years ago that indoor fireworks would be cool, then you're gonna give me indoor fireworks."
  • Leslie: "Ain't no party like a Leslie Knope party cuz a Leslie Knope party is actually 30 parties."
  • April: "Ann's leaving town and saying painful goodbyes to everyone, greatest day of my life."
  • Ron: "Goodbye Ann, I have enjoyed parts of our time together." Ann sobs.
  • Chris: "Donna are you grabbing my butt?" Donna: "Can you blame me?"
  • Ann imitating Perd: "I am going to kiss you now, by putting my mouth on your mouth."
  • In good sight-gags, we had Leslie's 103 scrapbook collection, Ann & Leslie's 'Kickass' helmets as well as Chris in a JFK mask - which is funnier when you recall he just played the former president last fall for the National Geographic Channel.
  • April saying I love you to Ann was a great moment and as brief as it needed to be. The guy's final present to Chris - a box for the future - was also just the right thing to send him off with.
  • It wouldn't surprise me at all if NBC tried to link up Jones & Lowe's exit here with Donald Glover's from Community - which happened last week. You know they probably thought about it - it just couldn't work scheduling-wise. Instead we have those two comedies, each doing a take on characters increasingly having to do favors to various people.