Parks and Recreation, “Donna and Joe,” (7.7) – TV Review

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Parks and Recreaction, Season 7, Episode 7, “Donna and Joe”

February 3rd, 2015, 8:00 PM, NBC

As Donna and Joe’s wedding approaches, Maid of honor April is tasked with the duty of keeping the perpetually-feuding Meagle extended family from tearing into each other. Meanwhile, Craig passionately plans Donna and Joe’s wedding while making himself the center of attention, a romance-minded Ron tries to get Tom to admit to Lucy that he wants to marry her and Ben and Leslie’s plans for a romantic weekend away from their chaotic lives is disturbed when Jen Barkley asks Ben to run for an open congressional seat, leading Leslie and Ben to ignore their problems by becoming very drunk at the rehearsal dinner. The fallout leads to Ben accepting Jen’s offer before he and Leslie have successfully hashed the situation out.

Plot complications fly fast and furious in this episode, but while there’s some nice closure afoot for Donna here – her proud bachelorette ways were, after all, one of the character’s strongest traits and here she is throwing in the proverbial cigar in exchange for a little domestic bliss – the episode manages to grate a bit anyway. That doesn’t mean it’s not funny – reception drama, Ben and Leslie’s drunken dancing and a bunch of Ron lines ensure that it is – it just feels a little bit ill-fitting, like a suit one size too small. It just means it’s grating, and not quite as emotionally effecting as it should be, watching Donna marry a guy who’s basically a total stranger to us. That’s the one problem with time skips; we have so many characters we’ve barely been introduced to taking sudden precedence over the storyline. Therefore, this episode doesn’t pack the punch the Andy/April and Ben/Leslie nups did; it is, at least, not as badly rushed as the Ron and Diane ones were. And there is humor to be had – but ultimately the plot is hampered by one simple thing: we don’t know Joe well enough to care about his union with Donna. Perhaps the producers are wise in keeping the jokes strong and the insight loose, but the episode isn’t memorable in a unique way as a result, sprinkling touching moments across the landscape like icing roses.

Meanwhile, the other plots we see Tom and Lucy’s relationship take a step forward, hurried along by Ron, whose impatience reflected that of the networks’ in hustling the show along to its conclusion. Tom and Lucy’s reunion is happening so quickly that it feels express-engineered to make the audience happy; the show’s smart enough to lampshade this in a completely perfect moment where Donna spits out a raft of backstory about her childhood best friend who’s in the wedding party at rocket speed, highlighting the soapy nature of Donna’s life and the compact nature of this season. It’s an almost mocking moment, a knowing one, and thus a successful one .

Meanwhile, Leslie and Ben are so dependent on their nanny that they have to bribe and praise her extravagantly for dumping their out-of-control triplets on her and are never seen onscreen playing with their children, yet think they can cram a senatorial run into their schedule. So. There’s that. It isn’t that I’d want Leslie to solely be portrayed as a mother onscreen, or Ben solely as a father, but those kids haven’t had a scene with them yet and we’ve only gotten anecdotes of these children. We get encapsulated evidence of how good they are as parents, but never, ever see them parent. Ever.
Well, in the end the episode draws for the proper level of humor and feeling. When Donna surprises Gary by writing his real name on his place card, the show is encapsulated – its best and worst, right onscreen at the same moment.

The Roundup

  • Apparently NBC finally realized it’s throwing away a good thing and is trying to space out its Parks airings; the episode scheduled to air paired with Donna and Joe has been pushed back a week.

  • Donna’s favorite flower is the orchid.
  • Example of Meagle family toughness: Donna’s cousin Winnie once forgot to use a coaster at her great uncle’s house and was written out of his will.
  • Rachel Dratch of SNL fame plays Ben and Leslie’s hardworking nanny Roz.
  • Ginuine reoccurs as Donna’s cousin.
  • The Knope-Wyatt Triplets are attached to a couple of stuffed zebras.
  • Three things Ron loves about weddings: good food, the celebration of romantic love and most of all churches (specifically the architecture).
  • Jen was, of course, Nick Newport Jr’s campaign manager when he ran against Leslie for City Council in season 5.
  • Can we talk about how pretty Retta looked all done up in Donna’s wedding garb?
  • Questlove makes an appearance in this episode! I won’t reveal as who, but the payoff involved in his character’s creation is incredibly fun.
  • Next Week: April’s job-related ennui continues in “Ms. Ludgate-Dwyer Goes to Washington” and Leslie and Ben come under fire for taking part in a Pawnee tradition while Ron and April partner up for a scavenger hunt in “Pie-Mary.”
8.5 Awesome

Donna gets her happy and funny ever after and Ben’s finally getting his moment to shine, and humor abounds but there's no real heart to the proceedings.

  • GREAT 8.5
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About Author

Staff Television Critic: Lisa Fernandes, formerly of Firefox.org, has been watching television for all of her thirty-plus years, and critiquing it for the past seven. When she's not writing, she can be found in the wilds of the Northeastern United States.