Dear Parks and Rec, I Loved You And I Liked You

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I briefly told this story last night on Tumblr but when Parks and Recreation began its run in April 2009, I couldn’t have been less interested. I absolutely worshiped Amy Poehler from her Upright Citizen’s Brigade and Saturday Night Live days but I knew the show was specifically designed to be a companion piece for The Office, one of the few shows that I’ve ever actually just flat out given up on watching. (I loved it intensely for about three years and as the quality waned, so did my interest and eventually I just had to abandon ship. To protect my fond memories. The show produced OVER 100 MORE EPISODES after I stopped watching.) The pilot of Parks was made available on iTunes before it aired and I decided to give it a shot. It was exactly what I thought it was going to be (just like The Office but not The Office that I fell for. The current, cartoony Office). I felt like I gave it a fair chance but it wasn’t for me and I moved on.

When the show returned that fall, I was surprised to hear friends and critics say that there had been a clear uptick in quality. I saw the fourth episode of the second season, “Practice Date,” literally by accident: Community was set to record but somehow the recording ran long and also picked up Parks. As soon as Community ended, the cold open of Parks started (Councilman Dexhart’s birthday cave sex press conference) and my brother and I couldn’t help but giggle. We didn’t know the entire episode had recorded so we kept watching and giggling and before we knew it, the entire half hour had passed! I caught a few more episodes here and there that season and ended up Netflix-binging both seasons later that year.

And here we are roughly 5 years later. I would’ve loved to have had the time (not to mention emotional tenacity) to do a proper series retrospective (in the vein of my OC send-off that I bring up way too often) but perhaps someday. (I owe 30 Rock and Parenthood tribute posts as well.) For now, I’ve made a list of my 10 favorite episodes. And I’ll just say this: there were definitely peaks and valleys but from the moment I got onboard, Parks and Recreation never failed to make me smile. I’m a TV fanatic, I couldn’t begin to estimate how many shows I’ve seen through to the end, and yet Parks always felt special. For some reason, it feels rare to see a TV show where everyone gets along, everyone likes each other, everyone just wants everyone to have everything they want and that’s the driving force of the show. Parks and Rec was like a ray of sunshine in a dark TV world and that positivity is what I’m going to miss; that positivity is what made Pawnee feel like home.

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Live From My Heart, It’s My SNL Tribute!

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I felt like I should pay tribute to Saturday Night Live as the 40th anniversary was the talk of the town this weekend. But this is one of the few instances where I actually have no idea what to say. SNL has always been in my life and more importantly, been a part of my life. I’ve never known a world without SNL and frankly, I don’t care to. It feels a bit weird to make such adamantly sentimental and loving statements about a show that is so often looked down on – accused of either being past its prime or never having been funny at all – but I can’t help how I feel. “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!” takes me to my happy place. I honestly don’t know who I would be if I didn’t hear those magical seven words every Saturday night growing up.

I have vividly clear memories of watching SNL for the first time. It was the spring of 1996, I was 10 years old and up with the flu and a fever. My younger brother was tucked away in bed and I was being tended to by my parents in the living room. My mom spread a sheet out on the floor for me (she would sleep on the couch in case I needed anything during the night) and I can still remember how cool and refreshing the sheet felt against my fever-warm skin. 11:30 rolled around (though it seemed much later to a delirious 10-year-old) and my father turned the muted TV to Saturday Night Live, as (I’d later find out) he often did. I was familiar with the show only by name and reputation – I was a fan of Nickelodeon’s kid-oriented sketch shows, Roundhouse and All Thatand knew that those shows were based on that model. And I knew it was something I was not allowed to watch, a fact I had learned 2 years previous when Nancy Kerrigan (I was obsessed with figure skating for a few years in my childhood) hosted and my parents tuned in and told me about it after the fact.

But for some reason, this night was different. As fate would have it, Jim Carrey was hosting and my parents were tickled by The Mask. By monologue’s end, Dad had unmuted the TV. Mom was still attending to my illness, pressing a cold washcloth to my forehead, but her attention slowly began to shift from me to the television. The first sketch was Carrey joining in on Will Ferrell and Cheri Oteri’s Spartan Cheerleaders routine. It was weird, it was manic, it was… amazing? The next sketch was the soon-to-be-iconic sight of Carrey with Will Ferrell and Chris Kattan’s Roxbury Guys. Incredible. The third sketch featured Carrey as an overzealous lifeguard supervising Will Ferrell sitting in a Jacuzzi. The three of us were in hysterics.

Even in my feverish haze, I remember feeling like I was getting away with something. Did my parents forget I was in the room? Is this a treat because I’m sick? Do they figure I’m not retaining any of this because I’m fuzzy from the cold medicine? Anytime any joke or event happened that I knew (or extrapolated) was “inappropriate,” I would squint my eyes (squint, not close. I obviously wasn’t going to stop watching!) and pretend to have fallen asleep, not for fear of embarrassment but for fear that my Dad would feel pressured to change the channel. There was no way he could change the channel.

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Crystal’s Most Anticipated Summer Movies of 2014

2014 has been fairly solid for movies so far. I mean, The Lego Movie was miraculous, Veronica Mars lives again and The Raid 2 exists. (Don’t get me started on Captain America: The Winter Soldier. No, seriously, don’t get me started. I can and will talk about that movie for hours.) Last year’s summer movie season was a bit disappointing for me but I am confident that 2014’s crop is basically unimpeachable. (Aaaaand let’s hope I didn’t just jinx our entire summer, guys.)

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Crystal’s Top 25 Movies of 2013

I love movies. I don’t know why it’s so hard for me to sit down and write about them but I love them! In 2013, I made 57 trips to 9 different theatres to see 50 different features: 47 different new releases, 3 return trips to This Is The End, 1 encore each for Spring Breakers, The Conjuring, The World’s End and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, crazy-fun screenings of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz as part of a “Cornetto Trilogy Marathon” and a special one night only 3D screening of The Time of The Doctor, the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special. Quite a year. Read on for a spoiler-free round-up of the films that resonated with me the most.

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Crystal’s Top 25 Films of 2012

In 2012, I made 49 trips to the theatre to see 42 different movies: 35 new releases, 5 releases from 2011 that I didn’t make it to before the end of that year (The Adventures of Tintin, Hugo, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, The Artist and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.), a screening of the 3D re-release of Beauty and The Beast, 1 encore each of 21 Jump Street, Magic Mike (I was big on Channing Tatum this year apparently) and Looper, 2 encores each of The Avengers and The Cabin in the Woods (I was big on Joss Whedon as well) and a special one night only showing of Pulp Fiction to celebrate the release of the “Tarantino XX” Blu-Ray collection.


The following list is presented without commentary (because otherwise it never would’ve gotten finished) but for full film reviews you can visit my film diary at Letterboxd.com!
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Quips, Quibbles and Witticisms Courtesy of the 2013 Emmy Nominations

Early Thursday morning, I upheld my tradition of staying up all night (because why go to bed early? The delirium of exhaustion makes my commentary even funnier!) and overreacting to the Emmy award nominations. Apparently I haven’t given a proper analysis to the nominees for a couple years but I studied for this year’s nominations harder than I studied for most of my college exams so read on for one of my patented long-winded, overly emotional and mostly biased analyses.
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Crystal’s Most Anticipated Summer Movies of 2013

As far as movies go, 2013 has been a bit boring so far. There were the movies we assumed would be great (Spring Breakers and Side Effects), the movies we assumed would be bad (A Good Day To Die Hard and G.I. Joe: Retaliation. No offense, Bruce Willis.) and a couple of small but pleasant surprises (I enjoyed Warm Bodies and Oz: The Great and Powerful more than I ever expected to). But think about last year at this time: we already had movies like The Cabin in The Woods, 21 Jump Street, Chronicle and The Grey under our belts and we were mere days away from The Avengers! I’m hoping that the upcoming summer movie season is just an embarrassment of riches because the spring movie season was kind of just embarrassing.

But when it comes to movies, I am eternally an optimist so I’ve compiled a list of 15 movies that could most definitely turn 2013 around. Here’s to hoping!
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