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TV That Matters 9/28: Parks and Recreation, Community and Boardwalk Empire

By Matt Ern, Columnist

Parks and Recreation- "I'm Leslie Knope"


Based on the massive improvements Parks and Rec has made over the past two seasons, I was expecting a little more from the premiere.  But I'm willing to forgive whatever was lacking this week because the episode did a great job setting up what are sure to be some interesting stories for the season to come. 

The big news is that Leslie is going to be running for mayor, which means she has to break up with Ben to avoid a potential scandal.  Tom is courting Andy to come work at his new company but Andy ultimately decides to become Leslie's assistant (personally I think Andy working with Tom is hilarious and I hope that somehow ends up happening).  Ron is getting audited which brings about the arrival of Tammy 1, his first ex-wife.  All of this is setting up some great stories down the line.

The episode's other action revolved around a series of naked photographs getting emailed around city hall. The plot culminated with the reveal that Jerry has an abnormally large penis.  Like the biggest penis that doctor had ever seen.  We were also treated to more glorious Ron Swanson facial hair, which pretty much made the whole episode worth it. 

The thing that worked best this episode was Leslie's struggle to break up with Ben.  From her reasoning for delaying it (He bought her an éclair!) to the tear-jerking breakup scene everything was very well done.  Parks and Rec has created characters that you can't help but love and really care about.  They all feel like real people (even Tom who is essentially a cartoon), which make it extra hard to watch Leslie and Ben have to end what was one of the sweetest relationships I've ever seen.   

Although the episode was a bit of a slow start, it promised good things to come in the future. 


Community- "Biology 101"

Grade: A-

Community doesn't always bring in the biggest laughs of the night, but it is the most creative and innovative show on television right now.  Last Thursday's premiere found the perfect balance between meta-creativity and hilarity.  

Jeff's horrific 2001: A Space Odyssey delusion was one of the best parodies to ever air on TV.  And the opening musical number was perfection.  It addressed the fact that Community is often so dark and strange the show has a hard time drawing a casual audience ("We're going to have more fun and be less weird than the first two years combined!"). 

The main storyline involving Jeff getting kicked out of Biology, and thereby out of the study group, was fairly well worn territory for Community.  The best parts of the episode came from the subplots.  Abed freaks out over the new season of Cougar Town getting delayed, so Britta tries to help him find a replacement show.  Abed quickly falls in love with a British show called Cougarton Abbey.  Unfortunately Cougarton Abbey ends after six episodes with the entire cast killing themselves, because as Britta points out, British shows always give you closure.    

Dean Pelton has grown a goatee and decided that this year he is going to be a no-nonsense dean.  At first this merely applies to making the security guards pump the vents full of "monkey knock out gas" but soon he runs afoul of the vice dean of Greendale's air conditioner repair school annex.  The vice dean is played by John Goodman, who is a remarkably good villain.  He's signed on for five more episodes this season, as he attempts to set up an evil empire of air conditioning repair. 


Boardwalk Empire- "21"

Grade: B

I really can't decide if I like Boardwalk Empire or not.  It's certainly a good show, but no matter how hard I try I can't seem to care about it.  If this week's episode is any indication, we're in for another slow burning season. 

The show premiered last fall with a pilot everyone was buzzing about, and then almost instantly fell off the radar.  It's similar to Mad Men in that the plot all season slowly builds to a payoff in the last few episodes, but I find myself much more compelled to care about the characters on Mad Men and see how they develop. 

Boardwalk Empire did deliver some stellar episodes at the end of last season, but the ride was almost not worth it.  There were a few exciting moments along the way (I thought Jimmy in Chicago made for much more compelling TV than anything that was happening in Atlantic City) but I'm hoping this season doesn't suffer from the same pacing problems.  

Based on the premiere it seems as though the Klu Klux Klan will become big players this season, considering their raid on Chalky's warehouse.  Jimmy is plotting…something against Nucky but we don't really get a sense of what yet.  Al Capone is back, as is Van Alden and Richard Harrow the masked-marksman.

There's a lot of potential for this new season, but it needs some quicker pacing.  Personally I'm just hoping for a lot more Harrow and Capone screen time.   

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