There are some shows that I love because they’re ragged around the edges. They can feel chaotic and scattered, as if they could fall apart at any minute. They occasionally go a bit too far and not everything they do completely works, but all of that is part of their charm. One of my favourite comedies, Cougar Town, is a show that I love not despite, but because of its flaws. The antics of the cul-de-sac crew sometimes veer into cartoon territory, but that’s part of the show’s appeal.

Then, there are shows that I love because they work like well-oiled machines, because they show a commitment to getting everything perfect. Parks and Recreation is one such show, showing a meticulous attention to detail that’s unparalleled on any other network sitcom. If Cougar Town is like an unpolished but well-loved family heirloom, then Parks and Recreation is like a shiny diamond necklace.

I’m not making a value judgment here. Asking me which show I preferred would be like asking me which one of my children was my favourite (if I had kids, which I don’t). But that does mean that I like Cougar Town when it’s rough, and I like Parks and Recreation when it’s smooth. Perhaps that’s why “Meet ‘n’ Greet” didn’t totally work for me. It played like a much rougher show than P & R usually is, and I think I prefer the show’s usual modus operandi.

Parks and Recreation doesn’t make its characters likable 100% of the time. Doing so would be foolish, because flawless characters are boring as hell. So, the show often chooses to build stories around its characters’ flaws, and at the end of the day, we get the sense that the people on the show still like and care for each other despite these flaws. This is a delicate balancing act. The flaws have to be strong enough to carry some importance, but they can’t lead to behaviour so awful that having other characters forgive it before the end of the episode feels hollow.

Unfortunately, “Meet ‘n’ Greet” strayed into that territory. Andy’s behaviour in this episode was a shade too clueless and extreme – and I don’t really get what was going on with April or why she was refusing to let Ben have candy, but that’s a different story – part of Andy’s appeal is his sweet-but-dumb personality, but it works best when he’s earnest, not oblivious. For that reason, his and Ben’s story didn’t really track for me. It didn’t help that he could identify that something was bothering Ben, but couldn’t identify what. It seemed as if the episode was ascribing an arbitrary level of cluelessness to Andy without really justifying it.

Tom also took things too far in this episode. Turning Leslie’s business meeting to a giant ad for Entertainment 720 might have seemed like a funny idea on paper – and in execution, it kind of was – but it was also a horrible thing for Tom to do. So, to have Leslie forgiving him almost the second she found out that his company had gone bankrupt felt hollow. It was as if the show was awkwardly shifting gears just in time to have a requisite sweet resolution.

To bring this back to the Cougar Town comparison, that show occasionally allows its characters to push things too far. But it’s also a much looser show with a very different rhythm, one in which speedy resolutions play as a natural part of the show’s fast-paced, helter-skelter vibe. Parks and Recreation isn’t exactly a “slower” show, per se, but it’s a tighter one that doesn’t rely on gear shifts as much as it relies on smooth transitions. On a show like Cougar Town, the plot lines in this episode would probably have worked better. But on this show, they didn’t exactly land.

That’s not to say that they were bad plot lines. They generated quite a few chuckles, and I especially appreciate that the show is advancing the story about Leslie’s campaign. But I definitely found the greatest joy in watching Ron fixing up everything in the Dwyer-Ludgate-Wyatt household, with Ann at his side. Sure, it felt that Ron took a liking to Ann a little too quickly, especially since he wasn’t even talking to her just a few episodes ago, but it provided some of the episode’s greatest moments, like Ann dancing in her eggplant costume or Ann rattling off nonsense that sounded like something a hardware pro would say. Plus, it gave us Ron describing the contents of April and Andy’s toolbox. I’m still cracking up thinking of Ron pouring the jellybeans out of their flashlight.

On the other hand, despite some promise in the previous episode, the story about Chris dating Millicent didn’t work at all in this installment. It repeated too many of the same jokes from the last episode, and Jerry’s discomfort was a pretty one-note gag. However, I did get a smile out of April stealing Chris’s car keys, as weird and unexplained as that was.

So, overall, this wasn’t the strongest outing for the show, but I enjoyed it on the whole. I don’t think Parks and Recreation is going to continue to play things this loose, so I’m not worried. I just find myself wishing that “Meet ‘n’ Greet” had been an episode of Cougar Town instead.

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