Time jumps on television are a tricky thing to master, and I’d say that it gets even trickier when it’s thrown in at the end of the sixth season of an established half-hour sitcom. While I was grateful for Parks and Recreation‘s surprising twist at the end of last season’s finale (mostly because it meant no stereotypical pregnancy sitcom silliness), I was still a bit anxious about how the series would handle it. Of course, this worry was pointless — it’s Parks and Recreation after all, one of the most consistently hilarious comedies on network television. The season premiere did not disappoint.
There are plenty of ways to approach a time jump with the most popular being weird new technology and different haircuts (don’t worry: Season 7 has plenty of both) but “2017” and “Ron and Jammy” wisely narrows in on the internal character changes, both big and small, that have occurred during the last three years. For example, April is, as she puts it, “Executive Director of Regional Whatever” while Andy has his own television show (!!) based on his character Johnny Karate (but more on them later). Donna is getting married to Joe (who was played by Keegan Michael Key last season; let’s all cross our fingers that he returns) and Tom is finally a legitimate mogul with his successful restaurants. As we all gathered from the Season 6 finale, Leslie has now moved into bigger politics in the federal government at the National Parks department. But the biggest reveal is something that is devastating to the show’s very core: Leslie and Ron are now sworn enemies, for reasons that have yet to be explained — just some cryptic mentions of “morningstar” — and have been for two years now. A war is brewing in Pawnee and I can’t believe it’s between these two.
This new hatred of each other is only exacerbated by the series’ long arc wherein Leslie, on behalf of National Parks, and Ron, on behalf of Gryzzl (the tech company that has taken over Pawnee and helped it to achieve a — holy shit — economic boom) are going head-to-head each trying to buy a huge plot of land from the Newport family. Their rivalry is good for the show, injecting something different into the waters of Pawnee although we know, obviously, that they will make up and Parks and Recreation will go back to the status quo. Parks and Recreation is about stasis just as much as it is about change. Still, there’s something delicious about watching Leslie and Ron, the former unlikely best friends, circle each other as enemies, lobbing immature insults and prat falling into a cake. To further up the ante, it has also divided our old parks department: Jerry, April, and Andy are on Leslie’s side while Donna and Tom are working with Ron.
The other most interesting aspect of “2017” is April and Andy aka TV’s Best Couple. I love these two, and have such an unhealthy investment in their relationship (“Fancy Party” is the only wedding episode of any show, sitcom or drama, that has made me cry happy tears), so it was a relief to see that they are still together and happy with each other — though there was never really any doubt — even if April is feeling bored. She’s not bored of Andy, exactly, but she’s scared as hell that they are becoming one of those old, boring couples who uses slowcookers and plans out their old week. I mean, Andy even takes pills for his heartburn! How weird is that? They haven’t exactly become stagnant, but they are getting close, and April isn’t happy about it. She tries to find ways for them to be silly and spontaneous again but, as spontaneity goes, their relationship is rejuvenated in the oddest of ways: They both fall in love with a creepy, haunted house (by a creepy, wonderful Werner Herzog) and decide to buy it.
“Ron and Jammy” feels more like our old Parks and Recreation, mostly because it provided far more laugh out loud moments for me (Andy proclaiming “Chicago! The Big Apple!” in his usual clueless way; Ben’s “I’m scared of death” was pitch-perfect delivery by Adam Scott; Leslie’s awkwardly silky impression of Tammy was a wonderful Amy Poehler moment; and Joan Callamezzo is always amazing — the hardest I laughed was her very casual “I think that America should have a Purge night”). It was more on the silly side, and even had Ron and Leslie sort of working together, even if they’re still at each others throats.
The centerpiece of the episode is Jam and Tammy (Megan Mullally is back!) who are now in a relationship although Tammy is still trying to get Ron back. True to her succubus ways, Tammy has completely destroyed Jam while simultaneously trying to turn him into Ron, and it’s so awful and pathetic that even Leslie temporarily puts aside her distaste for Jam to help him out. Ron joins in, too — he knows the horror of falling victim to Tammy firsthand — and the two deprogram Jam in a series of hilarious scenes.
There’s more silly stuff happening, notably Joan’s induction into the Pawnee walk of fame. She’s a reliably crazy character and has only gotten crazier in the last three years: a stint in rehab, a show from rehab, a show where she called her ex-boyfriends while sitting on top of a washing machine, a ninth memoir titled A Fame of Joans (amazing), and so on. Now she thinks she’s Batman and would like Buddy Holly to perform at the induction ceremony. April, predictably, adores this walking, talking mess of insanity but Joan’s crazy speech sends April into a career spiral. It’s not so much that she thinks she’s unhappy at her job, it’s that she’s not even sure if she is. This career crisis leads to April thinking back to what she wanted to do at age 10: Work in a funeral home. Her and Ben take a trip to one (Ben, of course, is absolutely hilarious in these scenes) but that’s not what she wants to do, either. It’s an odd plot for April but I can’t wait to see where it goes and I do love that Ben has reached a point where he’s so happy with his career that he’s eager to help out April (and their friendship is super sweet).
Also having a personal crisis is Tom, who has a budding career and has made it onto those coveted 35 under 35 lists but now wants to find love. Isn’t that always how it goes? He’s still not over Lucy (Natalie Morales!) so he and Andy take a drunken cab ride to Chicago to woo her. But Tom can’t go through with it, instead panicking and offering her a job in Pawnee — right before learning that she has a boyfriend. But she takes the job, setting the two up to fall in love, as Andy says. Parks and Recreation isn’t reinventing the wheel with these episodes but it’s clearly a show that knows how it wants to end and it’s going to get there on its own weird little terms.