Amy Poehler, Jason Schwartzman
First, comedy tonight (since that's what was made available for review): NBC's current best sitcom, Parks and Recreation, ended its February sweeps run with some incredibly sweet moments: the impromptu nuptials of Leslie and Ben ("I love you and I like you"), Ann Perkins' awkwardly heartfelt invitation to Chris to be her would-be baby's daddy, the way everyone rallied to lift Andy's spirits after he's rejected by the police academy.
This week's episode (8:30/7:30c) aims for much broader humor, and if you're of the school that finds the obnoxious Jean-Ralphio a scream (count me out), you may be delighted to meet his twin sister, Mona Lisa Sapperstein, shrilly embodied by Saturday Night Live alum Jenny Slate. Less inscrutable than unbearable, this Mona Lisa goes to work for Tom at the Rent-a-Swag shop, but the balance of power soon shifts the other way — prompting Chris, who has yet to make his "dad-cision" to Ann, to step in as Tom's father figure. In the funnier main story, Leslie faces opposition from Ron Swanson — who actually makes an appearance at a city council meeting! — when she proposes that Pawnee help keep a struggling business afloat, a pretentious art-house/movie rental operation run by an amusing Jason Schwartzman. Ron sees this bailout as the first step toward Pawnee becoming a "socialist hellscape," and sure enough, soon every town eccentric is lining up for "free money."
Providing the tart-sweet vibe that is Parks' specialty, Ann bides her time waiting for Chris' decision by forcing her snarky frenemy April to pretend to be her BFF. Which means playing games like deciding which Sex and the City character you're most like. Gotta say, Ann nails it where April is concerned.
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On FX's best comedy, the animated Archer (10/9c), the plot plays like a reverse The Americans, as Archer and the combative Lena pretend to be newlyweds in a posh hotel to spy on some North Koreans up to no nuclear good. When Archer steals his demon mother Malory's Black Titanium credit card to pamper himself during the assignment, the fallout is brutal — but the rest of the office, including a jealous Cyril, is mainly interested in scurrilous office gossip over what the hottie agents are up to behind closed doors. This Get Smart-Mouthed caper earns bonus points for an unexpected shout-out to PBS' Frontline, as if we couldn't already tell how smart these writers are.
In other comedy news: CBS just made it official that The Big Bang Theory is the broadcast season's top-rated entertainment program in the key 18-34, 18-49 and 25-54 demographics, the first time the network has been able to make that claim in the younger demo since the advent of people meters in 1987. As if to celebrate, this week's episode (8/7c) finds Leonard and Penny hosting a "grown-up" cocktail party. ... Big Bang's little-show-that-could competition, NBC's Community (8/7c), has been hit-and-miss lately under new management, but it's always promising when Abed decides to film Greendale's shenanigans for a documentary, this time involving the "Chang-nesia" mystery, of which Jeff is more than a bit skeptical.
MUSICAL CHAIRS: Last year's American Idol winner, Phillip Phillips, returns for Fox's first Top 10 results show (8/7c), singing his new single "Gone, Gone, Gone," which will be this season's very on-the-nose "goodbye song" to send the eliminated singer on his or her way every week. (What are the odds it will be a "him" this week?) Also performing: Bon Jovi. ... On Fox's Glee (9/8c), which I hope will start on time — Idol producers are notoriously ill-equipped to keep the results show running on schedule — the Glee Club kids switch things up by giving assignments to their teachers, Mr. Schue and Finn (still?), in hopes of mending their broken friendship.
THE THURSDAY DRAMA GUIDE: There's an intriguing twist on CBS' Elementary (10/9c), as Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) takes on her first case by herself: the disappearance of a woman who left as evidence a video that mentions a murder — which sets Sherlock (Jonny Lee Miller) off to solve that part of the story. ... Debbie Allen is back on ABC's Grey's Anatomy as her Avery Foundation — with son Jackson (Jesse Williams) — takes control of Seattle Grace, which goes about as well as you'd expect. ... CBS' Person of Interest (9:01/8:01c) sends Reese and Finch to Atlantic City when The Machine lands on a gambler's unlucky number. Left to her own devices in New York, Detective Carter gets closer to learning who else in the NYPD is part of the corrupt HR. This show works on so many levels, in part because it doesn't always adhere to formula.
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