Parks and Recreation 7.10-7.11: “The Johnny Karate Super Awesome Musical Explosion Show/Two Funerals” Review

Mayor Gerry Gergich

A Television Review by Akash Singh


Parks and Recreation’s penultimate timeslot ever was brilliantly executed, with the two halves serving their explicit, touching purposes and making us dread the oncoming Tuesday when we will have to say goodbye to Pawnee forever. Johnny Karate was exactly the type of episode one would expect, but in a brilliant twist the entire episode was filmed as if it was the actual filming of Andy Dwyer’s show. Two Funerals was a bit more subdued, with the deaths of both the until now offscreen Mayor Gundersen and Salvatore giving the double-header a bit more of a subdued feeling. The greatest strength of Parks and Rec and something that the show will always be remembered for is its astounding ability to be utterly hilarious while hitting the right amount of poignancy. As the show races closer and closer to its finale, the writers are closing a plethora of arcs and opening up just as many and in that they find just enough space to be as absurdly outlandish as they possible can. They pull it off, especially towards the end of Two Funerals, and it never comes across as being overburdening because of how fastidiously it works within the show’s own logic. It makes perfect sense that at the end of it all, Ben would appoint Gerry Gergich to become the town’s mayor – that ambition that was always entrenched in his mind but as a dream and little else. Gerry like everyone on this show has his faults and no one can deny that (no one is going to) and his primary character flaw can be attributed to his complete lack of confidence within his own ability to pull his ambitions off. But after interviewing a slate of dubious candidates, it makes sense for the job to go to the man who was nevertheless one of the most sincere and kind individuals around.

April, despite her constant consternations about her own lack of feeling is, as we all have seen on multiple occasions, a rather big softy. April and Andy unabashedly have the best romance on television and anyone who thinks otherwise literally holds the worst opinion ever (I kid – partially). His television show for kids, which admittedly has a rather fantastic format, is the best job he’s ever had and certainly the job he’s most proud of. Being on local Pawnee access, however, it’s his last show before he moves to Washington, D.C. with April. April feels a tremendous amount of guilt over Andy’s decision and the absolute joy it brings to his audience of children only augments that feeling of guilt even further. Questions of who is sacrificing how much swirl in both of their minds but relationships simply don’t work on one side, much like the clichéd tango phrase. More than anything else in his entire life, Andy loves April and her happiness is by far his biggest priority. It’s not as if he simply can’t recreate Johnny Karate somewhere else or transform this success into something bigger in D.C. and Andy’s not one to throw away April’s dream job for the sake of his own security. So often we see female characters being forced to sacrifice their dreams for the sake of their romantic partner and to see it reversed so subtly and sweetly here is an additional bonus.

The second part of the hour begins with the sad news of Mayor Gundersen’s death. In many ways, it’s truly symbolic of the nearing end that even this mayor who has been silently around since the first days of the show has now departed himself. In some of the most brilliant stunt casting ever, Bill Freakin’ Murray is roped in to play the late mayor and he’s perfect. In his farewell video, Murray perfectly slides into the Pawneean bureaucracy, embodying its frustrating banality and lack of caring perfectly with the best deadpan tone of voice anyone could possibly deliver. But Mayor Gundersen wasn’t alone as a background character departing Pawnee. He was joined by Salvatore, the fastidious barber who was responsible for Leslie’s epic haircut way back at the end of season one and the man who has cut Ron’s hair the same way for decades without asking him a single personal question. As such, he had become a dear fixture of Ron’s existence and his collapse at the news of his barber’s demise was appropriately touching. It’s the small little interactions and reactions like that that really manage to sell Pawnee as a world onto itself. Plus Ron going to Salvatore’s widow to ask for change after he paid tribute to Salvatore by paying $8 for a haircut and Donna setting Ron up with her own personal hairdresser with the same conditions like the great friend she is are just great little bits added on top.

The hilarity remains as intact as ever, with my favorite bit being when Andy and Ben are officially knighted under the order of the British crown and Ben fastidiously mutters “winter is coming” underneath his breath. But the script, beyond its usual hilarity, even manages to add in several satirical moments into the narrative. The best example would be all of the “commercials” that interrupt The Johnny Karate Super Awesome Musical Explosion Show. We begin with Ron’s “Very Good” construction and  building company, a great ad where Ron simply says how professional his company is and then stares at the camera for the remainder of the thirty seconds he bought. The second commercial belongs to Ken Hotate of the Wamapoke Casino, whose tagline is now “Slowly taking back our money from white people one quarter at a time.” Paunch Burger is next in line with the most obscene burger I have ever seen and the episode wraps up the commercials with a great stab at corporate oligarchies. As announced before, Verizon, Exxon, and Chipotle have become a single company called Verxottle that holds the honor of being one of eight companies in America. It’s sharp, subtle, and just plain brilliance. Oh Parks and Rec, you beautiful tropical fish, I’m not ready to say goodbye to you next week.

Great Moments Not Mentioned Above (The Johnny Karate Super Awesome Musical Explosion Show):

+Special Agent Burt Tyrannosaurus Maklin

+“I don’t give a crap, Batman, you work for me.”

+Donna as the chief

+“You’re the best agent I’ve ever had, and I’ve worked with James Bond.”

+The Johnny Karate credits spoofing the credits for Parks and Rec

+Capital of the world

+Goliath Bird Eating Tarantula

+Carpenter Ron

+Ron’s reaction to the Hug Moment: “You are mistaken, remove the graphic!”

+Professor Smartbrain and the boring buzzer

+Mailman Barry

+“Phenomena means exploring a cave.”

+The lone Dr. Smartbrain fan

+Sir Edgar Covington subtitled as “British Man”

+The Pawnee Police Badge

+John Cena

+Duke Silver and Donna’s duet of “Everybody’s Kung Fu Fighting”

+“The Johnny Karate Way!”

Great Moments Not Mentioned Above (Two Funerals):

+The fake/real cheer for Leslie

+Joe and Donna closing a home in Seattle

+Gerry to retire

+Perd’s ironic timing

+“Way to jinx it Garry. Thanks a lot.”

+Tom’s “gifts”

+“Shia LeBeouf is one hell of a jewelry designer. He’s really found his calling.”

+Donna as a robot

+The return of Carl

+“Was he killed by a younger, stronger barber?”

+“Walter and his wife had an open marriage… It definitely kept me happy.”

+Tom’s ridiculous proposal movie

+“Why can’t everyone share our commitment to outrageous pageantry?”

+The banner company

+Bobby Newport’s cameo

+Ron’s trifecta of the most important people in a man’s life: his barber, butcher, and lover

+Ron doesn’t believe in tipping

+“Being nice made me feel terrible.”

+“This is as Eastern as my wisdom goes.”

+“You’re pretty cool.”

+Ben’s realization that his Ice Town failure led to his future successes

+Hair by Typhoon

+Ron’s reaction at Typhoon’s “Euro Trash” comment

+Leslie Knopez and Tomegranate Juice

+“Happy Inauguration Day, Buddy!”

+Gerry being carried on a palanquin by Roman soldiers

+“Congratulations Mayor Gergich!”

Brilliant; Brilliant

9/10; 9.5/10

Title: The Johnny Karate Super Awesome Musical Explosion Show/Two Funerals

Written By: Matt Hubbard/Jen Statsky

Directed By: Dean Holland/Craig Zisk

Image Courtesy: SilenZine


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