The most recent episode of the great Parks and Recreation is titled “Donna & Joe” as, appropriately, the episode’s main events are the various wedding festivities for Donna Meagle (Rhetta) and the singularly named Joe (Keegan Michael Key). Oddly enough, the episode features very little of Donna and Joe, focusing instead on the rest of the cast.
But maybe that’s not so odd after all. Donna has never been a focal point of the series. Instead, she hovers in the periphery, commenting sarcastically on the main events. Perhaps it’s fitting that she similarly hovers in the background on her wedding episode.
Taking center stage are Leslie and Ben as Ben drunkenly agrees to run for the House of Representatives after Jen Barkley (Kathryn Hahn) proposes the possibility. He was initially indecisive about the task largely due to his chaotic home life, narrowly defended by their nanny (Rachel Dratch). The upcoming campaign will presumably set up the run to the series finale now that the Gryzzl plotline seems to be resolved (sadly).
Also taking focus from Donna is the budding love between Tom (Aziz Ansari) and Lucy (Natalie Morales). Tom confesses to Ron (Nick Offerman) that Lucy may be “the one,” and Ron spills the info to Lucy. It ends well though, despite the drama having been caused by Ron – something I have a hard time imagining Ron would actually do.
Back to the wedding, Donna tasks April (Aubrey Plaza) and Andy (Chris Pratt) with keeping the Meagle family drama at a minimum. Taking the job to heart, April imprisons many of them in the kitchen, including cousin Ginuwine, for bad behavior. Also popping up in a tiny role as Donna’s father is TV legend Hal Williams (Sanford & Son, 227).
Sitcom wedding episodes can run the gamut between improbably farcical (Woody’s on Cheers) to the overly sentimental (Chandler and Monica’s wedding on Friends), but Donna’s wedding doesn’t really leave any kind of impression. It’s just the framework upon which the flashier décor is hung. But the wedding did provide the opportunity to learn some pretty funny details about Donna Meagle:
- The Pearl Jam album Vitalogy was written about her.
- Donna’s childhood best friend, Michelle, is in her wedding. They were friends until college when Michelle accused her then boyfriend of being into Donna (he was). Michelle was also apparently told by a doctor that she would never walk again (she does) and is skating on thin ice with Donna.
- Donna has an estranged brother invited to the wedding at the last minute by April in an attempt to rekindle some of the absent Meagle family drama. They apparently fought over a microwave, which her brother brings and smashes on the reception floor.
As an episode, though, “Donna & Joe” isn’t actually all that funny. Not when compared to the inspired lunacy from last week’s “Gryzzlbox” outing. It’s too plot-driven, too intent on moving the season forward, to allow breathing room for great comedy. As all great comedy requires peaks and valleys, let’s call this episode a valley supporting future Parks and Recreation greatness.