'Parks and Recreation': Welcome to Pawnee, Ben

adam-scott-parks-and-rec.jpg Adam Scott has mostly played straight man to the assorted goofballs and lunatics of "Parks and Recreation," and he's good at it. He was usually the most grounded person on his previous show, "Party Down," as well -- but when called on, he can carry the comedy load with the best of them.

Thursday's (Feb. 17) "Parks and Rec" called on Scott to do that, and he pulled it off brilliantly.

Having Ben's past as an 18-year-old mayor/Ice Town clown come back to haunt him was a great way to bring him fully into the circus that is Pawnee. And watching Ben bumble, sweat, stammer and unhinge his way through the series of interviews in "Media Blitz" was a great showcase for Scott's deadpan gifts. This show hasn't had a real miss yet this season.

We got hints of Ben's discomfort around new people last week as he tried to talk to the police chief, but it really came to the forefront in "Media Blitz." Starting with the radio interview with Crazy Ira and The Douche, Ben nearly sank the harvest festival before it could begin. So crippling was his inability to speak that when The Douche asked him (off-air) how he was liking Pawnee, Ben answered, "It's OK ... lot of cars ... not too many. ... Trucks."

And I'm not sure I have the words to describe the squirm-inducing fantasticness that was Ben's time on "Ya Heard with Perd." (You can relive every spectacularly uncomfortable bit in the video below.) You could practically feel the hole beneath his feet deeper with every off-the-cuff rambling and twitchy reaction to the non-existent bird in the studio. Between Scott's manic discomfort and Donald Glover's goggle-eyed reaction to LeVar Burton on "Community," it was a great night for physical comedy on NBC.

Once Ben finally rallied and owned his shaky political past, he was fine -- and even made Leslie smile a little. He's been doing his best to stay detached, but he's clearly pretty invested not just in pursuing a relationship with Leslie but also with Pawnee's future. The city's going to need a new budget guy, right?

The B-story, involving April continuing to torture Andy with the possibility of her moving to Indianapolis to work for Chris, didn't hold our interest quite as much -- though it did give us another Ron-Andy pairing, and that is never a bad thing. Ron wants to keep April around so she can continue to make the government not work ("I couldn't ask for a worse assistant"), so he agrees to pitch in on April's list of tasks she hates. If for no other reason than to see Ron react to Andy's hug, it was worth it.

Other notes from "Media Blitz":

  • The few scenes Ann, who's increasingly confused over her status with Chris, didn't move that portion of the story forward a lot, but it gave Rashida Jones a couple of good talking-head moments that showed both how much influence Chris has had on her ("I need more Vitamin D -- yeah") and how frustrating it is to read a guy who's always happy ("Am I not being obvious? I think I'm being obvious").
  • Tom tells Ben his suit looks like junk. Ben: "Your suit looks like junk." Tom: "Brooks Brothers Boys does not make junk."
  • The pre-credits bit with Ron and his typewriter made us laugh almost as much as "Ya Heard," particularly Ron declaring that he's going to type every word he knows and leading off with "Rectangle! America! Megaphone! Monday! Butthole."
  • "Why does everyone in this town use AltaVista?" Why indeed, Ben. Why indeed.
  • Crazy Ira and The Douche are played, respectively, by that-guy actor Matt Besser (Amy Poehler's Upright Citizens Brigade colleague) and Nick Kroll of "The League" and "I Love You, Man." And they pretty well nailed the quality of morning zoo-style radio in a small market.

Ben's interview on "Ya Heard with Perd" is below. What did you think of "Parks and Rec" this week?

Photo/Video credit: NBC