Review: Parks and Recreation ‘The Johnny Karate Super Awesome Musical Explosion Show,’ ‘Two Funerals’

When I saw the title of the first of two Parks and Recreation shows – “The Johnny Karate Super Awesome Musical Explosion Show “ – I dared not dream that the episode would be dedicated to Andy Dwyer’s (Chris Pratt) children’s show, a hyperactive mash-up of about 89 different children’s shows we all know and rabidly despise. But it was. It really was. And it was awesome.

There wasn’t much plot to the episode save a surprise farewell party thrown by Andy’s friends as he celebrates his final “Super Awesome” show, which is perfectly emceed by Pawnee’s own Perd Hapley. There may be some grousing about that, but I think it’s just fine. What better way is there to celebrate the puerile madness of Andy Dwyer before he joins April (Aubrey Plaza) in Washington, D.C.?

During the episode, Andy dons the persona of F.B.I. Agent Bert Macklin, loses a Goliath Bird-eating tarantula, is knighted by the British Empire, is made an honorary member of the Pawnee Police Department, and has his Johnny Karate uniform retired. Through all of this, it’s evident that Andy has actually created a perfect children’s show where he makes something, learns something, karate chops something, tries something new, and is nice to someone. The perfect fit of the job to Andy’s personality is too much for April to take as she doesn’t want the responsibility of taking him away from something he both loves and excels at.

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The episode culminates in a very sweet sequence between Andy and April where he professes his undying love for her as only he can. This episode is the perfect example of honest sentiment that earns its tears. In its own oddly perfect way, it completely recapped the personalities of all our Parks and Recreation favorites. It’s one of the best Parks and Recreation episodes I’ve seen in a very long time and a huge risk at that. Thanks for the gift. The risk paid off in spades.

If you didn’t enjoy this one, then you clearly don’t have enough joy in your life, and you’re dead inside. Good luck with that.

The second episode, “Two Funerals,” has such an ominous title that I thought twice about watching it immediately behind the joy fest that was “Super Awesome.” But this one had some brilliant touches as well. Followed by the announcement of Donna’s (Rhetta) move to Seattle and Leslie’s (Amy Poehler) official move to Washington, the first funeral of the title revolved around the death of long-time Pawnee mayor Walter Gunderson (an unexpected cameo by Bill Murray). The best sequence of the episode was the eulogy by Ethel Beavers who reveals that she participated in Gunderson’s open marriage.

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“For 46 wonderful years, he spent night after night exploring every nook and cranny in my body,” Beavers says. “I loved that man, and not just because he was a dynamite lay.”

Given all the love drama, Leslie convinces Tom (Aziz Ansari) to immediately propose to the love of his life, Lucy. She throws herself, in her very Leslie way, into helping Tom prepare a big enough proposal event to satisfy his massive ego. That involves a hilariously filmed black and white James Bondesqe sequence.

After Gunderson’s passing, Ben (Adam Scott) must appoint an interim mayor and asks April and Garry to assist with the task until a new mayor can be elected. This gives them an opportunity to interview the potential candidates that include the moronic Bobby Newport (Paul Rudd), the fantastically trashy Joan Callamezzo (Mo Collins), the insane Mona-Lisa (Jenny Slade), and The Douche (Nick Kroll) who wants to turn the “mayoral office” into the “oral office.” The choice quickly becomes clear that Ben is the best candidate for the job if, as April says, only to erase the Ice Town debacle that plagued him for years.

The second funeral, should you worry that someone we know and love dies, is for Ron’s (Nick Offerman) barber, Salvatore. During the funeral, Ron proclaims, “The three most important people in a man’s life are his butcher, his barber, and his lover. I have lost one of those.”

Wrapping things up, Ben decides to tap Garry as the new mayor of Pawnee, and Tom decides to find his own way to propose to Lucy. It didn’t involve flashy graphics or elaborately filmed sequences – it was a real, heartfelt proposal to which she readily said, “Yes.”

As it culminated with a massive Leslie-endorsed celebration of Garry’s inauguration day (complete with Roman soldiers, a hot air balloon, and fireworks), the episode settled into a more standard Parks and Recreation groove as the cast prepares for next week’s series finale. “Two Funerals” wasn’t a stunt episode like “Super Awesome” or a brilliant satire like “Gryzzlbox.” What it did offer was a flawlessly executed half-hour of traditional sitcom jokes, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

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