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Emergency Response Promo Still

Parks and Recreation
Season 5, Episode 13: Emergency Response, Producer’s Cut
– Posted by Sage

This is Willa Tremaine reporting to you from Head Over Feels, where we’ve just watched the extended producer’s cut of another classic episode of Parks and Recreation. If you’ve only seen the version that aired on NBC Thursday night, proceed immediately to Hulu and enjoy the episode plus some killer extra scenes. Now, back to our regularly scheduled recap.

It’s the moment of reckoning for this season’s great white whale, the Pawnee Commons Project. Despite Jamm’s best efforts to bribe the planning commission with Paunch Burger’s Greasy Lardbombs™, the group is still behind Leslie’s proposed park. The problem is that the park isn’t fully funded – there’s a $50k hole. Leslie mopes about the seemingly insurmountable gap while she and Ben head troll Macy’s (a rare obvious product placement for this show) with Tom to register for their wedding gifts. Ben comes up with a plan: they’ll register for the park instead. Beslie are purer of heart than your recapper, because I would be Harlem Shaking down the aisles with Tom and pointing that little gun thing on everything that wasn’t nailed down. Also, how does planning a gala fundraiser preclude you from having a wedding registry? I’m really upset about this, because I have more fantasies about registering than my actual wedding.

Tom Haverford Things are forever

Team Parks Department kicks into action, as they are wont to do. Put together a black tie gala in one week? They won’t even break a sweat. “Breaking a sweat” is probably on both Tom and Donna’s “Oh No-Nos” lists. But crisis comes in the form of well, a fake crisis. Leonard Chulm, head of the Indiana Department of Emergency Preparedness (hey, Matt Walsh!) rolls into town to throw a emergency preparedness drill at Pawnee and (quelle surprise) Emergency Czar Leslie. We’ve got an outbreak of avian flu, ya’ll. I hope you’re prepared to bathtub-drown all the birds in town.

On any other day, Leslie would HAVE this. She’s prepared for every scenario, with binders and fake news casts at the ready. But passing the drill will likely mean losing Pawnee Commons forever. This is Lot 48. It represents every dream Leslie has ever had for herself and for Pawnee. She cannot let it end up in the hands of Jamm, ghost or otherwise.

Leslie tries to fly away

“Wait, maybe this IS a nightmare…nope, can’t fly away. This is real life.”

So she makes the call: to save the town, she must destroy it. She puts her containment and recovery plans into reverse and quickly ensures that the entire town is soon struck down by bird flu. And if all our citizens are as over-therapized as Chris Traeger, they’ll be pretty psyched about it. (“I’m dead!) Off to save the gala – suck it, Jamm!

But if we’ve learned anything in the past few seasons of Parks besides some awesome nicknames for food, it’s that Leslie’s friends can be counted on to rise to the occasion. Under the inspiring leadership of one Ben Wyatt (“Get some chairs from…somewhere.”), the gala has already come together perfectly. All that’s left for Leslie to do is put on a super hot red dress, give an inspiring thank you speech, and introduce Mouserat. We will build it, the park!

Leonard Chulm’s entire purpose is to make sure every town in Indiana has the right protocol in place to survive a disaster. But protocols and processes are nothing without ingenuity and people who can think on their feet. Leslie has grown from a person who will blindly follow a prescribed plan to the letter to one who is ready to toss the rule book out if necessary, and even if she wrote it herself. And in what WOULD have been the episode’s twist had NBC not PUT IT IN THE PROMOS, we find out that Leslie might even be willing to do that with my – I mean her – dream wedding. I hear you, Les. I too, hate the feeling of not being married to Ben Wyatt. At least you can do something about it. Mazel, you crazy kids.

 

 

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Posted by Sage

On Valentine’s Day, since Kim’s boyfriend is out of town and I’m flying solo preeeeetty much always, we’ll be celebrating our second annual Galentine’s Day! Plans include a taping of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon; some pastel baked goods; and sneaking miniature bottles of whiskey into a screening of Safe Haven. Romance!

Now, my default setting is single, and I’m fine with that. Why wouldn’t I be, when I have all these amazing TV boyfriends? (Read that as something less sad than it sounded in my head.) I’m not opposed to wife-ing up, however, and CLEARLY, I have a type. So, if you know any nerdy-hot, brown-haired boys of an average height and an above-average wit, send them my way.

For comparison, here are my Top 5 TV Valentines, in no particular order:

1. Eric Taylor
Eric Taylor wink

Friday Night Lights is a veritable buffet of delectable TV boyfriends. There’s something for everyone, whether you prefer Tim’s nobility; Jason’s perseverance; Matt’s sweetness; Landry’s sense of humor; or any of the other qualities displayed by the men of East and West Dillon. I love each and every one of them, but my heart will always come back to Coach.

Eric Taylor is a MAN-man, you guys, and not just because he’s so Sporty Spice. He is a husband and a father and a mentor, and takes all of those roles seriously. The chemistry between Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton was so epic that the creative team were sure they’d be having an affair before filming even began. They didn’t (that we know of…), but good god, do I see why they were concerned. The Taylor marriage would DESTROY in a cagematch of TV marriages.

Eric loves Tami

And then there’s Eric as parent – to occasionally bratty daughter Julie, surprise!baby Gracie Bell, and the hundreds of boys he mentored and elevated as coach of the Dillon Panthers and Lions. As you may know if you’ve ever been in a bar with me after 1am on a particularly good night, I have the entire Coach/Saracen nighttime field scene from first season episode “Eyes Wide Open” memorized. Before all the “WHAT IS YOUR NAME?” inspirational yelling, Coach tells Matt exactly what he thinks about his tiny house and batty grandma:

“I’ll tell you somethin’. I know you didn’t want me to step foot in your house tonight. I’ll tell you somethin’ else and don’t you ever forget this: you should feel proud. You should feel real proud.”

Eric Taylor loves Matt Saracen

If you ever felt confused about whether you wanted Coach to adopt you and help you unlock all your latent potential OR to rock your world in the back of a flat-bed truck, then congratulations – you watched FNL correctly.

2. Josh Lyman
Josh Lyman looking adorable

From his introduction in The West Wing pilot, I was a 1003758% gone Josh Lyman fangirl. He is a hot damn mess of a person, I know. But Joshua Lyman is the same brilliant, wounded idiot that all of us have spent our lives chasing after. He just screams, “fix me.”

To prove I’m not a complete masochist, I’ll remind you of Josh’s good qualities: he’s rabidly loyal, and throws his entire self into his friendships and his work. He’s so fucking smart, and, whadaya know, speaks fluent Sorkin! Game on, indeed.

Josh Lyman game on

He also passes the “YOUR FACE” test, which has to do with how many times an episode I yell, “YOUR FACE!” and throw a pillow at the TV. See below.

Josh thinks you look amazing

3. Chandler Bing

Chandler Bing hopeless and awkward

Telling you that I love Chandler Bing is like telling you I have brown eyes. It’s chemical. It’s biological. It’s in my BLOOD.

Chandler Bing I'm so excited I may vomit
Drunk Monica
4. Ed Stevens
http://youtu.be/KcYO9n0j0Z0

Ed Stevens is perfectly on the edge of the right side of How I Met Your Mother‘s Dobbler/Dahmer line. His tireless pursuit of Carol Vessey (as Julie Bowen will always be known to me, Modern Family be damned) was so charming – how did the woman manage to resist for so long?

Ed Stevens Stuckeybowl

He is a BOWLING ALLEY LAWYER. How are you not going to marry that guy? Is there a roller skating rink doctor we don’t know about?

I will also accept as my Stuckeyville valentine Ed’s best friend, Dr. Mike Burton. We would spend our days making $10 bets and eating sarcasm sandwiches.

http://youtu.be/aCeVCBdMl6g

Finally: SOMEONE PUT THIS SHOW ON DVD, JESUS CHRIST.

5. Ben Wyatt
Ben Wyatt Gotham needs me

He owns his own batsuit and has hundreds of accounting jokes at the ready. What is not to love about Benjamin Wyatt, Human Disaster, Boy Mayor, First Man of Pawnee?

Ben and Leslie handshake

I basically sing the praises of Ben every week in my Parks recaps, so I don’t know what more there is to say. Just know that all the Roman gladiators and firey Latin lovers you could leave on my doorstep could never compare to a single Deputy City Manager in a plaid button-down.

Ben is afraid of cops

Happy Valentine’s Day to all of our gorgeous readers! If we could, we’d hug each and every one of you, a little too tightly and for a little bit too long.


Ann's Decision Promo Still
Parks and Recreation
Season 5, Episode 12: Ann’s Decision
– Posted by Sage

Even the truest love doesn’t always last forever. But we will hold on the misty, watercolored memories of perhaps the most delicious, yet least practical ship on ParksBen/Calzones has come to a tragic end.

The bitter breakup comes courtesy of the catering finals Ben has orchestrated to pick the menu for the wedding of the millennium. His judges lineup features veggie connoisseur Chris Traeger, meat specialist Ron Swanson, and Instagram king Tom Haverford. Andy isn’t invited, but we’re not sure if it’s because of his unsophisticated palate or tendency to use frisbees as plates. Everyone but Tom tries the delectable cheesy-meaty-saucey pastry appetizer that puts its creator on the top of Ben’s list. After all, serving calzones at his wedding is the closest to actually MARRYING a calzone that Ben will ever get, at least until those GOD DAMN LIBERALS get their way. But the next morning finds the boys lumbering and rolling around Chris’s office like they just walked off the set of The Walking Dead. Food poisoning. Ben is jilted. Doublecrossed. Forsaken by his beloved. (“The calzones…betrayed me?”)

Ben tries to get to the phone

They know that the calzones were the culprit, because Tom refuses to eat food that requires him to exert any effort. (“Drizzle it on for me! I’m not your maaaaaiiiid.”) After a long and painful recovery, the boys find themselves back at JJ’s for a return to solid food. Ben realizes he’s been overthinking it – why pick a fancy caterer over Leslie’s favorite food in town? Looks like Beslie will be serving their guests a waffle tower instead of a wedding cake. PLEASE, oh please let them have a waffle tower. (Note to self: find waffle tower photo to pin to “Future Wedding to Ben Schwartz” Pinterest board.)

After the madcap shenanigans and Salt N’ Pepa singalongs of the rotating bachelor party, it’s good to see that Parks has no intention of abandoning this male-bonding theme anytime soon. They’re adorable, even when grossly ill. (“I cracked the bottom of the toilet bowl.”) And this light, silly storyline was the perfect complement to Leslie and Ann’s big life decision arc.

The writers have done an admirable job this year of fixing “The Ann Problem.” It’s never bothered me as much as some other fans who I’ve read, but her stories this season have been the most compelling that they’ve ever been. And, more importantly, they feel organic and not forced. Also, this Ann-finding-herself theme has always felt like a meta-acknowledgement of the issues that the show has run into trying to integrate that character into the Parks Department.

I LOVE this single mom plot, because it gives Ann an opportunity to drive it and not always be reacting to the other characters. AND, it makes for some funny and interesting Leslie/Ann interplay. I feel like I learned a lot about both of their characters this week. It’s pretty cray-cray to compare this Leslie to the one-note Leslie of Season 1. She fully supports any woman’s right to create “the family that she wants,” but still believes, deep down in her heart, that a family created from a loving, monogamous relationship is still better than the alternatives. (“The body is Ann’s, and the woman in charge of it is me.”) She may not have even known that about herself until she’s faced with Ann’s no-nonsense, no-waiting plan to have a kid. Stupid Hot Ann’s not doing this because she feels sorry for herself. It’s something that she wants in her life, regardless of relationships. For Ann, waiting for a guy to come along so that she can finally have a baby would have been like Leslie waiting to have a boyfriend before she pursued her career.

Ann does agree with Leslie that she should know more about the biological dad of her future kid, so she side-steps the sperm bank and does some research. The top 3 come in to Ann’s office under the pretense that she’s interviewing them for her blog. (I assume that Leslie worked some of her questions on to the list. I too would not allow myself to be inseminated by a man before knowing his favorite season of Friends, even though any answer is the right answer there.) We’ve got Dr. Harris, who’s a little mean (“The chairs in MY office are leather.”); high school basketball star Pete, who’s a little too clued in (“When will the women in this town stop scheming for my sperm!?”)…

That son of a bitch is astute.

…and Howard Tuttleman, who may be juuuuuuust right. Operation: Baby Douche, engage.

Douche, how little we knew you! Turns out Howard studied semiotics at Northwestern, before creating his satiric second persona and becoming Crazy Ira’s morning radio co-host. But his dual personalities are now fused, and no one can tell where Howard ends and Douche begins! Considering the Pawnee alternatives, Howard isn’t a bad choice. But his Douche-side can’t resist revealing the truth about Ann’s plan on the show, with plenty of bodily function sound effects thrown in. Leslie realizes that she’s imposing her own priorities on Ann, and she needs to make up for butting in and telling Douche the truth. Her apology comes with all the humiliation Crazy Ira and the Douche can throw at her, i.e. Leslie going ass over tincups in a baby pool filled with Jello while doing a truly terrible Bill Cosby impression. Friendship rule: you always forgive the people who are willing to embarrass themselves to earn it. And that’s a Leslie Knope specialty.

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Congrats on the sex!

Posted by Sage

I like to think I know you guys pretty well. Thus, I’m guessing that you’re pretty excited for tonight’s episode of New Girl. Considering the way my timeline blew up last Tuesday night, we’re all pretty invested in the budding attraction and possible romance between Jessica Day and Nick Miller (Nick Miller, from the streets of Chicago.) I usually catch up with the loft crew on Hulu on Wednesday morning. But immediately after it aired, I got a text from Blog Wife ordering me to find some way of getting my hands on the episode ASAP. Because it was “up there with Jeff and Annie in the season 1 finale. And ‘Casino Night.”‘ “Casino Night”?  The standard to which I hold all “my-ship-is-setting-sail” moments? I think I can make time for that.

And was it ever “Casino Night” good. If I had had a pack of cigarettes on hand, I would have smoked them all at the same time. And I don’t smoke.

As much as I re-watch and flail over THE moments, my favorite part is what comes after that first kiss, love confession, or oops-we-accidentally-naked. From the preview clips, we can tell that tonight’s New Girl starts right where the last left off.  And I am jonesing for some awkward, “what did we just do?” shenanigans. To prepare, I’ve collected a few of my favorite “Morning After” scenes from television and movies. Join me in the gutter, won’t you?

Chandler and Monica – Friends

Friends had been dropping hints about Mondler for an entire season, but this reveal still broke my teenage brain. I particularly enjoy how Monica is looking relatively calm, while Chandler is clutching the sheet to his body like a virgin on prom night. (We’ll get to one of those later.) Even though this hook-up was set up like a drinking-sad/comfort-sex mistake, we all knew these two were in it for the long haul. And, bonus, in the 7th season episode “The One with the Truth about London,” we get to see how the whole thing actually went down.

Ross and Rachel in Vegas – Friends

There’s something that you really need to know to truly understand me as a person. My Friends OTP isn’t Ross/Rachel. It isn’t even Chandler/Monica, though they’re a close second. I will forever carry the banner for Joey/Rachel, and I will and have gone down with that ship.

That’s a whole post on its own. But the main reason I changed allegiances is that I got the Ross/Rachel fatigue. The high drama moments were exhausting. This Ross and Rachel, the exes and friends who are kind of still weird around each other, are my favorite. Instead of dealing with an emotional crisis, they’re dealing with the fallout of epic drunkenness and a wedding that was, to quote Ross, “Nevada’s fault.” Helllooooo, Mrs. Ross. Hellooooooo, Mr. Rachel!

Brodie and Rene – Mallrats

Brodie hell hath no fury like a woman scorned for Sega

“What are you doing? You promised me breakfast.”
“Breakfast, shmreakfast. Look at the score, for Christ’s sake. It’s only the second period and I’m up 12 to 2. Breakfasts come and go, Rene, but Hartford, “the Whale,” they only beat Vancouver once, maybe twice in a lifetime.”

Brodie Bruce’s ideal post-coital plans involve a few hours of video games before an afternoon of Olympic-caliber loitering. But Rene decides it’s still a better deal than being fucked in the back of a Volkswagen by a husky Ben Affleck. That’s what they’re talking about, right?

Jim and Michelle, sort of – American Pie

For everyone who ever wished they could have the fun night AND the bliss of waking up alone. Don’t let anyone ever tell you that you can’t have it all.

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Women in Garbage promo still

Parks and Recreation
Season 5, Episode 11: Women in Garbage
– Posted by Sage

If there’s one thing Leslie Knope can’t resist, it’s waffles. If there are two things, they’re waffles and making out with Ben, on his face. And if there are THREE things that Leslie Knope can’t resist, they are: waffles; making out with Ben, on his face; and knocking down gender stereotypes.

Leslie is used to just ignoring some of Pawnee’s more archaic guidelines (i.e., she really shouldn’t be reserving any conference rooms without permission from her husband or father). But after meeting with Pawnee’s first ever female City Council member Paula Hork, she learns two things: 1) it’s time to correct the underemployment of women in all areas of city government and 2) there is probably a calendar of her own menstrual cycle somewhere in City Hall. Leslie picks up the ball and brings the Equal Gender Employment Commission plan to Chris, who, of course, thinks it’s the greatest idea in the history of ideas. He asks every department to send two people to a meeting. And they do – they each send two men. The Pawnee man-pigs think that Chris (“Oh no, it’s just a very beautiful man.”) and “the girl who brought the snacks” are enough of a female contingency, thank you very much. After listening to some ancient lawmakers wax poetic about the frailty of women, Leslie challenges the worst offender of employment inequality, the sanitation department. She and April take over a garbage collection route to prove that women are up to the task. Chris brings his maybe-kinda-sorta girlfriend Shawna Mulwae-Tweep to cover it for the Pawnee Journal.

Google Earth always takin pics.

“Are you posing? Because I don’t have a camera.” “Google Earth. Always takin’ pics.”

Leslie’s proving her point by being ahead of the regular timing for the route. April gets to dig through the trash of all her high school enemies. (“She has to use prescription-strength deodorant. This is the best day of my life.”) Arguably having a less awesome time are the misogynistic sanitation dudes, who are being taken to school, and poor Chris Traeger, who is completely at sea in Tweep’s twenty-something world of group hangs and no labels. The garbage dudes make a last ditch effort to hold on to their manhood by sending Leslie and April to move a giant bakery freezer that apparently the regular route guys couldn’t budge the week before. Of course, they don’t tell the girls that, so Leslie is ready to make it happen. (“Easy, breezy, beautiful. That’s the CoverGirl slogan. I didn’t mean to say that.”) They could call them on it, but April wants to WIN, not to tie. So Leslie calls in the ladies from the soup kitchen to take the donation. With all this combined lady power, the freezer gets onto the truck and the sanitation guys start hiring female workers. Joan of Arc would be proud.

Just like Leslie, Tom is doing his best to hang with the boys. His Rent-a-Swag customers are obsessed with basketball, so he recruits (or tricks, whatever) Andy and Ben into teaching him the basics. (Necessarily side flail: BEN’S BASKETBALL OUTFIT. The goggles. The gym socks. I cannot breathe.) Tom isn’t exactly a quick study (“Did I do basketball?”), and the guys get humiliated by some middle-schoolers in a 3-on-3.

Tom shoots a 3 pointer

Ben shows a depressed Tommy a video of Kevin Durant and Russel Westberg talking to press after a loss to show him that the best pros know how to come back after a defeat. Tom completely ignores that advice, but has his own epiphany. He uses Kids 46 News to position Rent-a-Swag as THE place to get your post-game press conference fashions.

And on more shaking up of traditional gender roles, Ron is playing babysitter to Diane’s little girls, Zoe and Ivy. He’s covered in stickers (courtesy of Leslie, obviously), his shoes are painted red, and his office now looks like something a Justice threw up. Diane asks if he can handle it for another day. After scouring the building for Ann (“I thought your last name was Hanson for some reason.”), Ron ropes her into helping out. Trouble is, beautiful Ann is a complete awkward turtle around kids. (“Hey, dudettes. So, you guys like Coldplay?”) But once she pulls out her medical supplies, the girls are enthralled. Somehow, they lock themselves into the conference room alone, and Doctors Ivy and Zoe perform surgery on each other’s infected hair. Ron has a meltdown and inadvertently reveals his true feelings for Diane. Yes, it’s true: Ron loves Mommy.

Ron loves Diane!!

His fears of ruining the relationship are unfounded, as Diane remains the COOLEST CHICK EVER and takes the girls’ scissor adventures in stride. She’s so touched by Ron’s concern, that she makes a declaration of her own: Mommy loves Ron. Ron loves Mommy. Ron and Mommy 4-Ever. And Family Love Michael too, why not?

Random Thoughts/B-Stories:

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Parks and Rec boys play football

Parks and Recreation
Season 5, Episode 10: Two Parties
– Posted by Sage

The wedding of the century is almost here, and the girls and guys of Pawnee are sending their friends Leslie and Ben into marriage with style. Well, they’re trying to, anyway.

Maid of Honor and beautiful nurse, Ann Perkins, has bought up all the penis-shaped novelties in three towns. She booked Babe Lincoln, professional historical stripper. But planning a party in honor of the ultimate planner is completely stressing her out.  Meanwhile Chris Traeger, literally the Best Man anyone has ever had, is supporting Ben’s choice to have a beer and boardgames bachelor party. And maybe some Homeland on the DVR, if we have enough time.

Ben Wyatt Booyah

**Head canon sidenote: before coming to Pawnee, I don’t think that Ben Wyatt would have called Chris Traeger his best friend. Old Ben drew a line between work and his personal life, and Chris’s status as his coworker would have trumped any familiar relationship they had. Also, thanks to Pawnee and Leslie, Ben’s come to appreciate the unique weirdness in everyone he meets. Thus, the coworkers become true bros. Head canon sidenote complete.**

But the boys can’t compete with a nationally ranked Settlers player and Tom Haverford isn’t going to let Jello Shot’s night go down like that. Andy, Ben, Chris, Ron, Tom, and Jerry move the festivities to Essence, Eagleton’s new “molecular mixology” bar, where Ron is served his drink via a whiskey-infused lotion hand massage. Turns out, none of the married or formerly married among them ever had a true bachelor party. So, new plan: this night is now about all of them, and each bachelor boy gets to pick one thing they want to do.

Female friendships often take center stage on Parks, so it was a complete joy to watch the boys bonding in this one. Again, Parks avoids the worst of tired and sexist sitcom tropes: These bachelor parties are about the guys celebrating their friends, not mourning their single lives. Tom gets his vaporized drinks. Andy gets to catch a touchdown pass thrown by the Colts’ Andrew Luck. Jerry gets a couple of ice cream cones and called by his actual name. And, of course, Ron gets a steak. With a rasher of bacon on the side. Chris is thrilled just to be the facilitator, but Ben wants to find some way besides a Best Man trophy to thank our lonely fitness guru.  Then Pawnee reporter extraordinaire/former hole in the Beslie ship Shauna Mulwae-Tweep shows up, wanting to do a story on the rotating bachelor party. Ben hardly thinks it’s news, but Shauna disagrees. She thinks that people want to read about “a group of good friends, having fun, doing nice things for each other” and that she wants to write about it. (Ahem – practically Parks and Rec‘s reason to exist and brighten up our sad, desperate lives.) A light comes on in Ben’s mind, and he takes Shauna to Chris’s office to get the story – over lunch.

Let’s be real: this episode was all about the boys. I was disappointed with the girls’ storyline, mostly because my hopes for the return of my personal hero Drunk!Leslie were foiled. Of course it’s in character for Leslie to let work ruin her bachelorette party, but her lack of concern for Ann and the rest of her ladyfriends was a reversion to the Steamroller!Leslie of seasons past. None of them want to see another Paunch Burger location in old pit surely, but was it really worth digging Wamapoke artifacts out of the dirt in the middle of the night using penis hats for shovels? Just…Ann worked SO hard! And, sue me, I wanted the girls to have a little fun. On the bright side, now that this story has happened, hopefully the writers won’t let any Pawnee business get in the way of Ben and Leslie’s actual wedding. DON’T YOU DARE TAKE THIS AWAY FROM ME, SCHUR. I NEED THIS.

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Posted by Sage

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the current state of the romantic comedy is not so good. It’s been steadily deteriorating since the rise of the soulless overstuffed ensemble holiday movie and the beginning of the dark reign of Katherine Heigl. Meg Ryan has been ritualistically sacrificing her face in protest for years.

Romcom junkies like myself mourned the passing of our patron saint, Nora Ephron, by breaking out the classics. When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle are the gold standard. But there was a time when Hollywood was kinder to us, and also churned out a series of relatively cheap and mostly inoffensive romantic comedies that are now largely relegated to the Wal-Mart $3.99 DVD bin. I’m here to point out a few of those films that deserve a better fate. Read on for six romcoms that I deem tragically underrated.

Just Friends movie poster

If you watched Just Friends once and thought it was just okay, I beg you to watch it again. And then watch it three more times. And from that point on, you will think it’s the funniest goddamn thing you’ve ever seen. It’s just that kind of movie.

Just Friends has everything you need in a Saturday afternoon Comedy Central movie: Ryan Reynolds in a fat suit; Anna Faris as a psychotic Britney-esque pop star (“You and I are gonna be the greatest musical manager team since Jessica Simpson and her father. Only you and I get to reooowr and they can’t, ’cause it’s illegal. I looked it up.”); the mom from What About Bob?; and some ruminations on whether we can ever truly escape high school.

Ryan Reynolds you're going down

It’s also immensely quotable, both in surprisingly clever one-liners (“You’re Chris Brander. You’re Hollywood, you date models. He’s Jersey, he skis in his jeans.”) or nonsensical outbursts (“TJ!”) And bonus for this time of year: it’s a Christmas movie! That means it will be on cable thousands of times over the next week, and you can quickly knock out the recommended number of viewings. PS: …Anna Faris.

Samantha James forgiveness



Return to Me movie poster

Bob’s beloved wife Elizabeth dies in a car accident. Grace (Minnie Driver) is very sick, but gets Elizabeth’s heart in a transplant. Bob is completely destroyed until he meets Grace, who basically brings him back to life. The premise of this one is saccharine for sure (it’s the SAME HEART THAT LOVES HIM ALL ALONG), but don’t let it put you off. Return to Me is so simple and gorgeous, it’s stuns me every time I watch it. It’s a charmingly old-fashioned film completely devoid of irony and cynicism.

That’s not to say that Return to Me lacks raw emotion. Nope, nope, nope. Elizabeth’s death is brutal, and the movie lets poor Bob (and their dog, sob) mourn her. My favorite part is after Bob has first meets Grace and he makes an excuse to go back to her family’s Irish-Italian (yes) restaurant where she works. He gets on a step stool, takes a box down from a closet shelf, brushes off the dust, and puts on his good shoes for the first time in who knows how long. All my creys. No movie like this would be greenlit today, and that makes me incredibly sad.

Return to Me‘s other charms include: David Alan Grier and the fabulous Bonnie Hunt; signing gorillas; a Dean Martin-heavy soundtrack, obviously; the cutest old people YOU WILL EVER SEE; and permanent entry on my Common Law Top 5: David Duchovny.

Bob and Grace Return to Me

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Parks and Recreation Ron and Diane Promo Still

Parks and Recreation
Season 5, Episode 9: Ron and Diane
– Posted by Sage

Merry Congratu-Christmas, Parks fans! Our favorite show gifted us with a hell of a holiday episode, featuring some lessons about friendship and the return of one of the most notorious Pawneeans. We laughed, we cried, we flashed our goods while climbing into a dumpster.

A Ron Swanson original has been nominated for an Indiana Fine Woodworking Association Award, and for once, Ron is just about as excited as Leslie. I mean, he hasn’t composed a Congratu-Christmas carol or anything, but he did invite his ladyfriend Diane (Lucy Lawless) to the banquet. Leslie will also be there, as Ron’s “self-appointed emotional guardian.” Ron is going to actually publicly care about something and Leslie will get to meet and vet Diane? The only thing left to make this night perfect is Ron winning the coveted award for “Achievement in Chair.”

At the awards dinner, Leslie and Diane hit it off over hopes and dreams and Hogwarts houses, while Ron fangirls over his carpentry heros. But the evening threatens to be ruined when Ron’s second and two-time ex-wife Tammy 2 shows up, demanding to, well, get drilled. Head Canon: Tammy 2 knows about the awards because she is the only other person besides Leslie Knope to have a Ron Swanson Google Alert. Leslie double-thumbs-up approves Diane and is horrified that Tammy 2 will scare her away. The “sex-crazed demon librarian” successfully turns Ron’s acceptance speech into a monosyllabic mess with a Basic Instinct move and forces Leslie to consider lifting her ban on the b-word, but can’t shake Diane. (“I’m a middle school vice-principal. I deal with hormonal psychopaths all the time.”) What does worry Diane is Ron’s relationship with Leslie.

My condolences to the Ron/Leslie shippers, but this episode effectively put an end to that dream. They both vehemently deny any romantic interest in each other, but that’s not quite the issue. Diane knows that Ron’s “not a big sharer,” but then meets someone, a female someone, who has been able to break down some of those walls. The difference is that Leslie tirelessly chipped away at them for years with cheerful determination and Ron begrudgingly accepted her intimacy. Diane doesn’t have to do that work. Ron wants to be open with her. Meanwhile, though Leslie Knope is used to being the woman in Ron’s life, she has the grace to step back and support him in a different way.  Ron tracks Diane down to do some soul-baring. He confirms that Leslie is “a wonderful loyal friend who is very important in my life” (all my Leslie/Ron friendship feels) and who, at that moment, is taking on Tammy 2 single-handedly to protect them.

Parks and Recreation Leslie Tammy 2

To affirm his commitment to her, Ron reveals his alter-ego to Diane – the secret identity unknown even to Leslie. Ladies, get your panty-throwing arms warmed up, because Duke Silver is in the house.

Meanwhile, Tom, Donna, April, and Andy are about to celebrate their favorite annual holiday: Jerry Dinner! In a reverse version of New Girl’s douchebag jar, the four would put a dollar into a box every time Jerry did something stupid or embarrassing and then use the haul to treat themselves to a fancy meal. Ann points out how cruel the game is, but they say it’s not mean if he doesn’t know about it. (“It’s like talking about people behind their backs – everybody wins.”) Still, Donna has an attack of conscience on the way to Jerry Dinner and decides to swing by his house to invite him. The meanies are shocked to find Jerry’s house in full Winter Wonderland-mode. It’s a Gergich Family Christmas!

Party guest Ann plays Ghost of Christmas Present and lets the crew look in on the wholesome fun time (Santa! An indoor buffet!) they’d be having if they weren’t so unkind to Jerry. She won’t let them in until they do something nice. They point their sarcasm at Jerry because he’s too sweet to retaliate and therefore, they aren’t made to feel guilty. But there’s a price to being too cool. Tom, Donna, April and Andy are the ones left (literally) out in the cold, while Jerry is surrounded by friends and his gorgeous blond family.  Tom gifts Jerry the full wad of cash and tells him that they’d been putting a dollar in the box any time they caught themselves being jerks. Poor, sweet Jerry is touched as can be and welcomes them inside before summarily being locked out. Sigh. There’s the first dollar in the 2013 Jerry Dinner collection.

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Parks and Recreation Pawnee Commons promo still
Parks and Recreation
Season 5, Episode 8: Pawnee Commons
– Posted by Sage

Welp. First things first.

Parks and Recreation Ben's derp

Because this episode will always be known as “The One Where Ben Made That Face.”

Now that that’s out of the way, let the recapping commence!

Other sitcoms take note: this is how you keep a “will they-won’t they” ship interesting to the audience after it’s been definitively established that they will. The Parks writers have a knack for putting Beslie into situations that milk comedy from their differences while solidifying their meant-to-be-ness.

The timeline of Ben Wyatt’s love affair with Pawnee runs in a parallel line to his love affair with Leslie Knope. In this episode, when he says that he’s in love with this “strange, passionate goofball,” he may as well be referring to this kooky town as much as his fiance. He equates the two, as you must, and would go to the mat for either. But Ben isn’t a native Pawneean. He still has a somewhat objective viewpoint. And that’s where his romance with this town diverges wildly from Leslie’s.

Leslie guests on the GENIUS Pawnee Community Radio show “Thought for Your Thoughts” to put out the call for designs for a new park and to introduce a segment of two jazz recordings played over each other to a cacophonic effect. They’re under a deadline for a decent plan and the submissions aren’t quite up to par. (Who wouldn’t want to spend a relaxing afternoon in “Worm Park”?) Ben and Leslie are both thrilled about the resume submitted by the decidedly overqualified Wreston St. James (played by SNL vet and Mr. Julia Louis Dreyfuss, Brad Hall). That is, until Leslie finds out that he’s from Eagleton. Fucking Eagleton, you guys.

Despite the “blood feud” between the neighboring towns, Wreston seems sincere and excited about mending fences. Ben is starry-eyed and possibly has a little crush on him. But Leslie Knope does not negotiate with Eagletonians. She can’t bring herself to believe that Wreston doesn’t have a plan to prank and shame Pawnee; and her ride-or-die hometown pride won’t abide her cozying up to someone from the other side. (Especially when that side is marked by a sign that reads, “Now Entering Pawnee: Good Luck With That.)

Ben should be especially aware that you don’t REASON with Leslie about the pride of Pawnee. But still, he tries to make her realize that she’s judging Wreston personally on the longstanding disagreements of their towns. The designer himself has been nothing but cordial and helpful. Much like Rhett Butler or Bono. The scene where Leslie wrenches out an apology is pure Amy Poehler genius, particularly the impromptu endorsement of Canada Dry.

Leslie Knope Pawnee Commons Apology

“If your mouth is dry, drink Canada Dry! That’s nothing.”

Leslie Knope begrudgingly puts her faith in a citizen of Eagleton and is rewarded by the Carrie-style humiliation she expected. Two blandly attractive members of Wreston firm show up with a model of the park, complete with outdoor showers that come with instructions and drool buckets for the town’s “more slack-jawed” citizens. Ben has to physically hold her back.

Leslie wants, nay, NEEDS revenge. Dear, sweet, balloon-art loving Ben doesn’t see how it all adds up. He goes to meet with Wreston, who assures him that the d-bags responsible have been fired. Leslie has downgraded her revenge plan from arson to whipped cream, and attacks Mr. St. James with a spray can. Wreston must be the most patient man in Indiana, if not the world, as he decides to work on the park pro bono anyway. The resulting model is Leslie’s dream come true – a park that’s not only beautiful, but representative of Pawnee’s less racist and violent history. Maybe I’m a cynical jerk, but I have to say that I’m not entirely sure yet that Wreston isn’t a part of a long Eagleton con. Like Leslie, I remain cautiously optimistic about the future relationship of Pawnee and Eagleton. But really, how much compassion can you expect from the town that produced Voldemort?

Meanwhile, Andy Dwyer is bored. Bored with a capital B. So bored, he’s resorted to pondering our existence and place in this universe. Turns out that nighttime security guard at Pawnee City Hall isn’t exactly an action-packed post. And time is crawling by.

If you want to see two hours fly by in a blink of an eye, Andy, you should try writing a blog.

April suggests passing the hours not as regular joe Andy Dwyer, but as Burt Macklin, FBI loose cannon. April’s upped her role-playing game from duplicitous, wealthy Southern belle Janet Snakehole to Judy Hitler, daughter of The Führer. Andy feels a purpose, if not a real one, interrogating Ms. Hitler about the location of “the necklace with all of Germany’s war secrets.” But while he’s chasing stupid, sexy Hitler all over the building, Agent Macklin gets himself a real case: Little Joey can’t find his mom. But this isn’t a job for Macklin. This one is all Andy. Kid and mom are both grateful, and Andy gets to throw out his best, “Just doin’ my job, m’am.” April helps Andy realize that Burt is no longer what this town needs, and maybe it’s time for him to retire.

The rest of the gang are working on the new home of Rent-A-Swag with Tom, who has become obsessed with being a budget-concious and moderate businessman. Rent-A-Swag won’t be another Entertainment 720, and thus, these new digs have 100% Detlef Schrempf. Sad. The result of decorating the home base while pinching every penny is so depressing that not even DJ Roomba (hey, buddy!!) can jazz it up. And I hope everyone has dinner plans later, because the celebratory pizza party is one small pie. Ann takes Tom out for pancakes and real talk. Entertainment 720 folded because it was all style and no substance, but that doesn’t mean that Tom should withhold all his inherent showmanship from the running of this new business. (“You can’t have Rent-A-Swag without the swag.”) In fact, he needs it. Tom uses the money his friends have collected plus most of the contents of his apartment to trick out the store. There’s still room for small doses of Tommy Timberlake in Tom’s new responsible venture. Just like Ben/Leslie and April/Andy in this episode, Ann helps Tom to balance the extreme parts of his personality with the more down-to-earth. What would Leslie be without her passion? Or Tom without his overconfidence? Or Andy without his imagination? Like Eagleton without palm trees.

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Leslie and Joe Biden
Parks and Recreation
Season 5, Episode 7: Leslie vs. April
– Posted by Sage

“It was a real honor that, in my sitcom debut, I got to meet someone like Leslie Knope, who believes so deeply in public service. She’s an example for men and women across the country that there’s no higher calling than helping other people.” – Joe Biden

If it wasn’t already obvious to you that Leslie Knope is marrying the right man for her, Ben’s surprise engagement present should have made it abundantly clear. It’s better than a waffle tower! In one of the best Parks cold opens in recent memory, Ben and Leslie have an audience with Vice President and one-man celebrity sex list, Joe Biden. The cameo was secretly filmed in DC last summer, including a scene that would address the other possible election outcome. Thankfully, it wasn’t needed. Forward, bitches.

Amy, Adam, and the Vice President just kill this scene. Leslie is endearingly unhinged; Ben is appropriately horrified at her invading Joe’s personal space; and Mr. Biden is flattered and good-naturedly weirded out at the same time. It’s a beautiful, hilarious moment of wish fulfillment for fans, on our beloved Leslie’s behalf. I love the quote that opens this recap, because it lends so much more meaning to a PR-generating cameo. The President also recently revealed that his family watches Parks and Recreation together. Call me a sucker, but I’m comforted that the White House shares our admiration for this character and the values of this show. *Cue “America the Beautiful,” as I shed a single, patriotic tear.*

Back in Pawnee, Leslie proudly watches April give a presentation on the town’s need for a new dog park. She’s beaming, armed with a camera to capture her protege’s newfound motivation. (“Can you say ‘per capita’ again? I want to take a picture of you saying ‘per capita.'”) She and Ben (and Chris and Ron) have nurtured April’s very, very latent potential, so Leslie rightly feels responsible for her development as an adult and public servant. She’s over the moon until April proposes the dog park site: Lot 48, the infamous pit behind Ann’s house.  Uh oh.

For years, Leslie has tried unsuccessfully to turn the cursed Lot 48 into a park. And if Leslie Knope can’t do it, ain’t nobody can. She won’t support April’s plan, even though it may be the one that finally turns the space into something useful. Leslie’s ego, like the rest of her life, exists in her work. We get the feeling that she kinda liked being the only competent person in Pawnee government. She was the hero. Now, under her influence, her coworkers and friends are working harder and caring more. Where does that leave Leslie ? April’s adoption of Lot 48 brings her identity crisis to a head.

Heeding some Swanson advice, Leslie attempts to distract April, first with a visit to Orin’s art show (disturbingly reminiscent of a  Bosch painting), then by touring other possible sites for the park (which also sort of look like Bosch paintings, but with more radioactive sewage.) April sees straight through the scheme, and tells Leslie she’ll present her plan to at the council meeting with the support of Councilman Jamm. Leslie tries to warn April that Jamm is unreliable, but April doesn’t want to hear anything else from her. During her presentation, Leslie states that public opinion is clearly against the proposition (“I just heard one hag booing.”), and Jamm pulls his double cross. He thinks parks are useless, but hears that Paunch Burger is looking for a new location. April just got Jammed.

Ron and Ann stage an April/Leslie intervention. With Ann’s mediation, Leslie acknowledges that she hasn’t been a great mentor to April lately; and April apologizes for writing off all of Leslie’s advice in anger. And also, they love each other. Ugh, moments with these two always slay me.

April, Leslie and Ann join forces to fight the real enemy: Councilman Jamm. Leslie’s responsible for the “dick move” that gets him to back down on his dirty tricks. They invite all the park-less kids and dogs in his neighborhood to his play on his lawn. I get the feeling Jamm isn’t a big fan of either. Jamm lays out a peace treaty: in 90 days, they’ll put their various plans before the council and up to a vote. Fair and square. Now, get that hula hoop off my car.

Now that he has his start-up cash from Ron, Tom is taking the next steps with Rent-a-Swag. He smartly asks Ben to check out the business plan. Ben is impressed. Tom offers to cut him in, but Ben is just in to help a friend. Since being back in Pawnee, he’s accepted a position at the same accounting firm he quit in Season 4. He’s getting married and needs a stable, boring job where everyone gets his jokes (“Bond…Municipal Bond.”) Ben sets up a few meetings for Tom to try to partner Rent-a-Swag with other businesses and get some local exposure. Every single meeting results in a “no” to Tom, but a job offer for Ben. Tom’s certainly grown since Entertainment 720 bit it, but he hasn’t had to deal with much rejection yet with this idea. He’s nearly ready to chuck it all when Ben tells him to be patient. If he’s passionate about the idea and sticks with it, great things will happen.

Ben shows up for his first day at Tilton and Randomski (ha), and his boss could not be more thrilled to have him back. He must be a local celebrity, especially to Pawnee math geeks. (By the way, how amazing is John Balma as Barney?) Ben gets one look at his name plate and quits…again. Even though they haven’t shared a scene throughout this whole episode, Leslie is still the driving force behind his decision. She wants him to do something he loves, and now he knows that, even in Pawnee, he has options. Ben Wyatt could be the CFO of Rent-A-Swag or the Executive Director of the Sweetums Foundation. Sky’s the limit for the future First Gentlemen. But still, let’s hope that gorgeous house is paid off.

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