You know how when you get a new job and you’re sort of trying to figure out how to maneuver the office climate and what you’re actually supposed to be doing? And then after some flubs, you finally just catch on? That final feeling of, “oh, thank god, I got this shit?” This is what “Rock Show” is, and it’s why it’s my favorite Season One episode.
Basic recap: Andy gets his casts removed, and Ann discovers later that he kept them on for two extra weeks because he liked that she took care of him. This, understandably, has her throw his ass out of her house, although he does later on sneak back in. Leslie goes to what she believes is a one-on-one meeting (a tete e tete, as she calls it) with an elderly government employee but is actually a date set up by her mother. Mark feels lonely and gets rejected by both Ann and Leslie, ultimately falling drunk into the pit behind Ann’s house. We also meet April’s gay boyfriend Derek and Tom’s wife Wendy, and Andy’ band, Mouse Rat (at this point called Scarecrow Boat), is introduced and plays the famous “The Pit” song. End recap.
You really do get to see everyone get a handle on their characters in this episode, but the biggest change was Leslie. Her transformation began in “Boys’ Club,” but it really culminated throughout “Rock Show.” While she was still in Eager Beaver mode, Poehler wasn’t playing her as dumb any longer, which was so refreshing. It takes her just a few seconds to realize that her “business meeting” with George, the city planner from Eagleton (they hadn’t yet established that Leslie hated the city with a fiery passion), is actually a date, but she does attempt to make the best of it, even letting him tag along to watch Mouse Rat play. And then, after a six episodes of pining for Mark, she stops him from kissing her; quite a bit of progress in such a short amount of time.
Of course, we do get to see the rest of the cast shine, too. April introducing Mark to Derek was beautiful, classic April, especially considering we meet Ben, Derek’s boyfriend, leaving Leslie very confused as to how that whole thing works. Tom bragging about the hotness and wealth of his wife is obnoxious, but we later find out that it’s a facade for a very insecure person. Both Donna and Garry are in short supply here, but it’s the first season, so I’ll forgive it.
And Mark. Okay. I do not like Mark. I’ve never seen Paul Schneider in anything other than Parks and Rec, so I don’t know if it’s the actor or just the character, but I do not like him, especially in this episode, for reasons as follows:
- He hits on Ann while she is in a fight with Andy. (I love the whole tirade she goes on.)
- He gets drunk and then, because he’s feeling lonely and slighted by Ann’s rejection, he tries to hit on Leslie.
- He then tries to gaslight Leslie when she has a negative emotional reaction to him kissing her, telling her it’s “not a big deal,” when it clearly is for her.
He does manage to become less of a douche as the series progresses, thanks to the hit on his head and his subsequent relationship with Ann, but I cannot say I was sad to see his character leave the show at the end of the next season. But in “Rock Show,” he is basically intolerable.
Regardless of Mark’s awfulness, though, this episode really is the best the first season has to offer. It doesn’t have the same awkward feel to it that had critics comparing it not so favorably to The Office, and while the previous episodes establish a lot about some of the characters and the town, etc., we actually start to get to know these people and care about them, even Andy as he takes advantage of Mark falling into the pit as a diversion to getting back into Ann’s house. I think that if I had seen this only this episode of the first season, I probably would have been super eager to jump into the second, but alas, I had the rest of the episodes on my brain. Thankfully, things continue to improve from here, and Parks and Rec becomes the show I love so dearly.