[Contains pixelated “penis hats” and SPOILERS!!!]
Unfortunately for all, the major story arc dominating Season Five of Parks and Recreation (2012) was newly-elected-council-woman ‘Leslie Knope’s (Amy Poehler) clashes with overbearing butthead ‘Jeremy Jamm’ (Jon Glaser), who is easily the worst recurring character this show has introduced to date. I mean, I understand that he was intentionally written and played as an irritating antagonist, but that doesn’t make the irritation that I felt every time he appeared any less off-putting… like a car alarm blaring away in the street at night, the knowledge that it’s just doing what it’s designed to do doesn’t make the actual noise any less annoying to hear. On the other hand, Leslie also came off as quite a judgemental and controlling dick in a couple episodes, most notably ep #5.7, when she took exception to ‘April’s (Aubrey Plaza) proposal to turn Lot 48 (aka the-muddy-patch-formerly-known-as-“The-Pit”) into a dog park. Leslie’s vehement opposition to this idea seemed especially odd since she hadn’t even mentioned the Lot in a looong while (maybe a couple seasons?), having been otherwise engaged running for a seat on the council (among other projects), so she kinda came off like a selfish child throwing a tantrum because her little sister had started playing with an old toy that she’d otherwise forgotten about. Of course, they eventually reconciled and joined forces, after ‘Ann’ (Rashida Jones) made them both apologise to each other, but I really don’t believe that April had anything to apologise for, besides being more awesome than the both of them combined! Also, when is Leslie going to stop ragging on ‘Orin’ (Eric Isenhower) for being who he is? Gah! Thankfully the other characters aren’t oblivious to the fact that she often tries to steamroll them into thinking/acting more like her, and she does get called up on it from time to time… and more often than not her conscience leads her back towards the side of the angels. Phew!
On a happier tip, Leslie and ‘Ben’ (Adam Scott) finally tied-the-knot, in ep #5.14, which went some way to satisfying my soppy sentimental side, though the actual ceremony left me a little cold… partly because I’d already seen the “makeshift workplace wedding” twist play out in Brooklyn Nine-Nine (which technically came out after this show, but I saw it there first, so that’s the association I made), and partly because the vows were spoken over a montage of not-always-very-romantic clips from previous episodes, which kinda killed the mood for me. Meh.
April also had a rather hit-and-miss year, with fewer meme-worthy one-liners and wicked looks-to-camera, though there were still plenty hilarious highlights for her admirers to cheer/chuckle over: Such as the way she cracked the whip (and deployed random forehead kisses) to unsettle a preppy intern (ep #5.2)… The super-cute retirement ceremony she organised for ‘Andy’s (Chris Pratt) alter-ego “Burt Macklin”, complete with a super-fancy certificate of being-in-the-FBI-ness (ep #5.8)… Pretty much the entirety of ep #5.11, from April snarkily trolling a former-councilwoman (Bonnie Bartlett) with regressive post-feminist claptrap, to enthusiastically embracing Leslie’s plan to work on a garbage truck (to prove that female trash-collectors could be just as capable as the men), to eagerly digging through an old high-school enemy’s bins for embarrassing evidence, to thoughtfully wrapping a gift-box of rubbish for Leslie as a memento of “the best day of my life” (Aw! Ew!)… Her unconvincing attempts to channel/impersonate Leslie while chairing a series of public meetings, leading Andy to accidentally-on-purpose “lose” her bag of disguises, and trick/encourage her into being her scary badass self instead (ep #5.12)… Singing an impromptu, but surprisingly passionate, rendition of Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” with Ann and ‘Donna’ (Retta) (ep #5.16)… The snarling revelation that she was “part wolf”, followed by her brainwave to absorb Animal Control into the Parks Department, thus earning a promotion to “deputy director” (ep #5.18)… The way she played ‘Ron’ (Nick Offerman) and ‘Chris’ (Rob Lowe) against each other, in order to avoid attending a management training course (and “earn” herself $20 pizza-money in the process) (ep #5.19)… And the great fake-out in the finale, implying that she might be pregnant, only to reveal that she had in fact applied to veterinarian school! (ep #5.22) I was especially warmed by that twist, because it validated Andy’s wide-eyed belief that she would have told him straight-up if they were “with child”…
Speaking of which, Ann got a very enjoyable and engaging storyline this season, following her decision to get sprogged-up via a sperm donor… besides giving Jones a lot of great comic and emotional beats to play, it also made me actively care about her character again, for the first time since… er… she kiboshed Andy and April’s budding romance back in S2. Tch! Ron also found himself contemplating fatherhood, albeit via unofficial “adoption” rather than actual conception, when he began dating a single-mother with two young daughters… and while the girls themselves (Sadie Salazar and Rylan Lee) were an ear-splitting, chaos-spilling, glitter-spewing assault on the senses, it’s easy to see why Ron would tolerate the disruption and destruction, in order to spend more time with no-nonsense matriarch ‘Diane’ (Lucy Lawless). His appreciation for strong women is well-documented, and they don’t come much stronger than Xena, do they? The couple first met-cute in ep #5.3, when Ron (and his staff) was roped into answering complaint calls from the public, and he got so sick of listening to Diane berate him about a pothole outside her house that he drove around to fill it in himself (while Andy played princess-dress-up with the girls, and later encouraged their mother to contact Ron, who would never have pursued the relationship if left to his own gruff devices)… they then weathered a couple storms together, before falling foul of the aforementioned positive pregnancy test in the season’s cliff-hanger ending! Dun-dun-dunnn! (ep #5.3/5/9/11/22)
Another note-worthy addition to the cast was Jenny Slate, as ‘Tom’s (Aziz Ansari) terrifying new employee/“love-interest” ‘Mona-Lisa’, who’s variously described as a “monster” and “legit insane”, but is also blessed with an irresistible sex-appeal, to compensate for her slack work-ethic, roving eye, and random threats of violence (eps #5.16/21-22). Meanwhile, Esther Povitsky had a small role as ‘Julie’, a local student roped into serving snow-cones at a mini-golf course to help Leslie schmooze Jamm (ep #5.21), and Autumn Butler made a rare on-camera appearance as a stylist giving Leslie half-a-perm, echoing her real-life day-job as head of the makeup department on this series, and dozens of other shows.
Regular recurring Pawneans included: Mo Collins as “first-rate newswoman” Joan Callamezzo, who experienced an unfortunate on-air black-out caused either by “allergies” or a “booze cruise” bender, depending on who you ask (eps #5.3/13/15)… Christie Brinkley, Sarah Wright, Katie Gill, and Maliabeth Johnson as ‘Jerry’s (Jim O’Heir) inexplicably attractive wife and daughters, respectively (ep #5.4)… Megan Mullally’s annual outing as shameless sex-terrorist “Tammy Two”, once again scrapping with Leslie for Ron’s soul (ep #5.9)… Alison Becker as super-cute newsie ‘Shauna Malwae-Tweep’, who covered various stories throughout the season, including Ben’s “crazy rotating bachelor party”, which resulted in her hooking-up with a lonely-hearted Chris (eps #5.10-11/15/22)… and Mara Marini as local celebrity ‘Brandi Maxxxx’, who became Leslie’s literal pornalike in ep #5.16, when she paid homage to her bailout of a failing video rental store (which then switched from stocking art-house films to “adult” flicks, in order to stay afloat) in a movie titled “Too Big To Nail”, before singing her “hero’s” praises at the town forum in ep #5.22!
I also have to give a belated shout-out to Darlene Hunt, who played ‘Marcia Langman’, a “family values” agitator who’s challenged Leslie on numerous previous occasions (ep #2.1 (gay penguin marriage), ep #3.3 (Twilight time capsule), and ep #3.11 (Jerry’s nudey painting)), but had a much larger role this season, disrupting our heroine’s attempt to teach “sex education” to the elderly (ep #5.4), and cheering on the campaign to have her recalled in the finale. Fun fact: Hunt is also a television producer and writer, who’s worked on shows such as Will & Grace, The Goldbergs, and the ill-fated Roseanne revival, as well as creating the Showtime series The Big C (which scored multiple award wins/nominations during its run). Meanwhile, Katie Dippold, who played ‘Mindy Marfan’, a scaredy-cat candidate for the Animal Control vacancy in ep #5.18, and previously appeared in ep #2.9 (as “Woman in Line”) and ep #4.19 (as “Mindy”), is credited as a writer/story-editor on numerous episodes of P&R, as well as co-writing Ghostbusters: Answer the Call (2016) with Paul Feig.
Last but not least, Ben’s out-of-town (mis)adventures brought us Kathryn Hahn’s brief return as his Washington-based boss-lady ‘Jennifer Barkley’ (ep #5.5), and Annabeth Gish’s one-off appearance as his ashamed/unsupportive sister ‘Stephanie’ (ep #5.17). Boo to her!