Deadshirt Is Watching…is a weekly feature in which Deadshirt staff, contributors, and guests sound off on the television shows we’re tuned into, from intense dramas to clever sitcoms to the most insane reality shows. This week: Parks & Rec, Portlandia, and the Super Bowl!
Joe Stando is watching…
Parks and Recreation, NBC
Season 7, Episodes 5 & 6, “Gryzzlbox/Save JJ’s”
Tuesdays at 8/9c
The final season of Parks and Rec has been barreling by unbelievably quickly, partly due to the airing schedule, but also from a clear desire to wrap up and write endings for as many characters and plotlines as possible before it’s over. This tendency is very apparent this week, as the show not only ties up the primary conflict that opened the season, but checks back in with a couple of Pawnee mainstays.
In the first episode, “Gryzzlbox,” Leslie runs up against a fairly common Parks and Rec plotline: someone (in this case, tech pastiche Gryzzl) is doing something wrong, and she needs to rally supporters to convince or force them to stop. It was a somewhat predictable story, but it had plenty of good bits (the usual suspects at the town hall meeting actually supporting Leslie for once, the Gryzzl tablet’s ‘skate mode’), and it helped to move pieces around to set up for “Save JJ’s,” the next episode.
“Save JJ’s” was a very clever episode illustrating the complexity of 2017 Pawnee. Although the local economy is on the rise, with a federal Parks Department office and a tech company bringing in jobs, property values are also going up, forcing local businesses out. It’s an interesting exploration of the difficulty of trying to help people, but it’s not quite as heavy-handed as some of the fifth and sixth season’s stories. It also provides an opportunity to bring back Jason Mantzoukas as the wonderfully hateable Dennis Feinstein. It’s good to see Leslie and Ron working together again too, and if this episode wrapped things up a little too neatly, with Gryzzl, JJ’s, the run-down part of Pawnee, and Leslie all managing to win, it’s still a pretty solid example of Parks and Recreation’s central themes of idealism and optimism.
Episode Highlight: Some of the best ongoing gags this season have just been the allusions to various pop culture and tech developments of 2017, and this week had some solid ones, like Hitch 2: Son of a Hitch, starring Jaden Smith. Feinstein’s scenes were also gold, especially with the surprisingly great comedic chemistry between Mantzoukas and Pratt. But my pick for MVP of these episodes, and probably the whole season, is Natalie Morales as Lucy. Lucy is a PERFECT fit, not only for Tom but for the world of Parks and Recreation in general, and I’m so glad they brought her back for this last run.
Dylan Roth is Watching…
Season 5, Episode 4: “SeaWorld”
I’ll admit that, when this season began, I was starting to think that Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein had lost a step. For the first two episodes of Season Five, Portlandia told half-hour stories about established characters, deviating from its tried-and-true formula of short, unrelated sketches interspersed within a slightly longer bit. There’s nothing wrong with experimenting, and I’m sure Carrie and Fred were hoping to keep the show from getting stale, but in the process they got away from what’s kept the show so sharp for these past four years: rapid-fire wit, and the ability to leap from bit to bit with unmatched agility.
But it seems this experiment was short-lived, because Portlandia has already returned to its old self, in all the ways that count. This week’s ongoing story follows four “ecoterrorists” (Armisen, Brownstein, guest stars Olivia Wilde and Shepard Fairey) on a trip to San Diego, where they plan to liberate a captive whale from SeaWorld, but they keep getting distracted by the rest of what the city has to offer (including Jeff Goldblum). It’s a fun lead story, but it wouldn’t carry a full half hour, which is fine—the longer sketches on Portlandia usually aren’t as dense or punchy as the shorter ones, which is why it’s so important to break them up with those ninety-second bits, like two goths making morbid funeral arrangements, or the Mayor (Kyle MacLaughlan)’s attempts to cement his legacy with a weird conspiracy.
This episode is the highlight of the season so far, and while I’m typically a fan of shows that test their limits and try new things, it seems like Portlandia has served itself well by staying the course.
Episode highlight: This week’s cold open was a commercial for Shocking Art Supplies, where you can buy pre-smashed TVs, baby doll parts, and other clichés of lazy hipster art majors.
Haley Winters is watching…
Super Bowl XLIX, NBC
Yes, I did! I watched the Super Bowl! And not like I do most years, either—you know, by making tacos in the kitchen while pretending to listen to the game. No, this time I sat on the couch and paid attention to the WHOLE THING. And it was a good game! Or so they tell me. It was very close. I could tell that. And there were twists! So many twists! If M. Night Shyamalan wrote an episode of Friday Night Lights, it might look kind of like this year’s Super Bowl. SPORTS!
But if the game itself was exciting, the commercials were not so much, which is a bummer, because that’s really what I tune in for. Boy, were the ad spots this year depressing! A lone puppy got caught in the rain. “Cats in the Cradle” played over a montage of an estranged father and son. A small child actually DIED at one point. What the hey, guys? Super Bowl Sunday is supposed to be about fun, not hiding your tears in a bucket of hot wings.
Katy Perry rode in to play the halftime show on a gigantic robot lion, understandably. She got some help from Lenny Kravitz singing “I Kissed a Girl,” and gave up the stage for Missy Elliott to bless us with “Get Ur Freak On” (awesomer). As a completely passive consumer of Katy Perry’s music, I thought it was pretty good. Perry performed with that same wide-eyed sexbot affect as ever. It was all Very Perry.
In the end, the Patriots won, and boy did the man tears flow. Happy man tears, sad man tears, you name it, they cried it. And as a sucker for large beefy men showing emasculating amounts of emotion, I loved it. SPORTS!
Episode highlight: Men in leggings running fast!