For my money, Parks and Recreation turned in easily one of its 10-best episodes in its painfully brief series run tonight. The episode, “Gryzzlbox,” deals with the fallout of the local tech company Gryzzl’s pesky invasion of privacy antics, bringing a little social commentary into the comedic lunacy.
Leslie (Amy Poehler) receives a package from a Gryzzl drone that is later revealed to contain “Biden the Rails,” a book of a thousand poems written by Joe Biden while riding Amtrak, and a poster of the Supreme Court justices reimagined as the cast of Friends.
That’s not all. Other Pawnee citizens received personalized gifts like genital crème (for “splotchy genitals”) and toy pigs dressed up like movie characters (think “Hamuel L. Jackson” from Pork Fiction or Tom Sell-oink). It’s Gryzzl’s invasion of privacy (they obtain this information via the Gryzzlphone) that finally unites the town with Leslie against the tech giant.
Naturally, Leslie and Ben (Adam Scott) decide to infiltrate Gryzzl’s HQ and are offered a tour by Roscoe, an employee wearing an ironic “PAWS” t-shirt that resembles the iconic Jaws movie poster. Their exploration of the tech company fondly recalls Veep’s Season 3 visit to Clovis – both hilariously skewering tech giants like Google and Apple.
My favorite part of this episode? That would be this exchange…
Leslie: OK. Good. ‘Cause just because we’re competing for the Newport land doesn’t mean that we can’t be friends.
Leslie: Isn’t that your motto: “Wouldn’t it be tight if everyone was chill to each other?”
Roscoe: Totes. I hope that you can see now that there’s nothing scary about Gryzzl. I mean, we just want to learn everything about everyone and track them wherever they want to go and anticipate what they’re about to do!
Roscoe then “Gryzzlpads” out of the scene (think a skateboard iPad).
Looking to take the case to the people, Leslie takes her case to “The Perdples Court,” hosted by local favorite Judge (Not a Judge) Perd Hapley and his judge hammer (gavel). There are complications, of course, as Gryzzl lawyers slipped a phrase into their contract with Pawnee that Ben signed on December 18, 2015 – the only day he was distracted because it’s the day Star Wars Episode VII was released (remember, this is the future).
Further strengthening the episode are April (Aubrey Plaza) and Andy’s (Chris Pratt) antics. April demotivates her near-clone intern and convinces her to seek a different path. Andy’s contract comes up for renewal, and he engages Tom as his agent. This fantastically leads to 30 more seconds of Andy’s child ninja show, complete with puppy assassins.
The topic of privacy in the tech age is ripe for comedy, and Parks and Recreation does not disappoint in this brilliantly written, balanced, and thoughtful classic episode. I’ve enjoyed what the creative team has done with the Gryzzl arc up until this point, but this episode truly takes the satire to the next level. Particularly when Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) shoots a Gryzzl drone out of the sky after it brought his son a box of presents. Is Silicon Valley half as good as this? I still need to find out…
The second episode, “Save JJs,” somewhat deals with the fallout of the “Gryzzlbox” episode as Gryzzl, in an attempt to save public face, announces a free concert featuring U2 and Beyonce at which seating is determined by income and sexual history, all of which were determined by their snooping.
That’s quickly dispersed for the main plot as Leslie and Ron drown their sorrows (Sweetums sells the prized land to Gryzzl for $125 million) at JJ’s Diner, their favorite local breakfast spot. JJ’s, however, has been bought and marked for demolition thanks to Pawnee’s economic boom. This (and too much kale) are the unfortunate side effects of progress, according to Leslie Knope.
Beaten by the Gryzzl news, Leslie and Ron decide to join forces and rally to save JJ’s Diner from the buyer, local perfume impresario Dennis Feinstein. Leslie’s speech at the rally dramatically recasts the origins of JJ’s Diner (he did not, in fact, build it from scratch), and Ron’s speech is typically Ron, an impersonal diatribe against people and praise of breakfast food. The rally is short-lived when Feinstein – defiant in his shuttering of the diner – unleashes “the hounds,” a perfume resembling wet dogs, on the crowd.
In completely unrelated news, Donna (Rhetta) and Tom (Aziz Ansari) venture on a “Treat yo self 2017” run as his wedding gift to her, which provides the show the opportunity to film in Beverly Hills. The scenes are funny enough thanks to repetitive jokes about celebrities and Tom’s epic metrosexuality. But it suffers somewhat from the feeling of a show looking to “open things up” by location shoots, something of a sitcom cliché. Despite that, it kind of works here since Tom and Donna are slaves to Hollywood and celebrity culture (bedazzled elbows and celebrity-named sushi).
As an episode, “Save JJ’s” drifts aimlessly through its comedy but not in that classic “where are they taking this next” way. Where “Gryzzlbox” was tight, pointed, and thoughtful, “Save JJ’s” is a little bit lazier and a little looser, anchored by Tom’s attempts to woo his new employee/ex-flame, Lucy (Natalie Morales). It would be a fine episode in a standard season, but, given the limited number we’re getting this year, I wanted just a little bit more.
But even after a second viewing, “Gryzzlbox” made me truly feel like it was “Treat yo self 2015.”