Birthday Quest 2018, Part 2 of 6: The “Parks & Recreation” Giants

Indian Chief...

“High-five to the first tourists of the day! And possibly the month!”

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

My wife Anne and I have a tradition of spending our respective birthdays together on one-day outings to some new place or attraction — partly as an excuse to spend time together in honor of our special days, partly to explore areas of Indiana (or in neighboring states) that we’ve never experienced before. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

In brainstorming my options this year, I returned to the idea of the Garfield Trail. Thirty to sixty minutes northwest of Jim Davis’ offices at Paws Inc. near Muncie, a dozen Garfield statues stand in front of various businesses in nine cities and towns as tributes to his entertainment value, to his merchandising power, and to some of the personal accomplishments that make those locales proud. In my mind the Garfield Trail was not just a basic road trip to view some roadside attractions, but a live-action side quest. No controllers, no trophies, no monsters to fight, the rules are made up and the points don’t matter —- just the two of us, a series of “levels”, and a checklist of eleven items to “collect” (minus one Garfield down for repairs)…

From a narrative standpoint in a tale of Garfield statues, it may be counterintuitive to have a Chapter 2 that contains exactly zero Garfields. Our research phase brought up a limited number of bonus attractions in the same general vicinity, but two in particular immediately stoked our interest upon discovery. It’s not often you’re in a small town that can lay claim to an As Seen On TV artifact, let alone two of them. It’s rarer to find such objects related to a TV show we both really, really liked. And we had to be honest: how likely were we to venture out this far again in the near future? Or the oh-so-distant future, even? Why not catch them while we’re up here anyway?

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“Community” Returns, Makes NBC Thursdays Super Again, With or Without Ratings

Joel McHale, Yvette Nicole Brown, Community, NBC

Warning: those uncharacteristically dopey smiles are a LIE.

Before the autumn start of the 2012-2013 season, Thursdays had been my densest, most entertaining network-TV viewing night of the week. No single network is capable of capturing my attention for two straight hours in a single night anymore, but for two years NBC assembled a potent lineup that successfully reserved ninety minutes out of several of my Thursday evenings. Last fall they tampered with the formula and diminished my enjoyment. Their grave aesthetic error freed up a little more time for me to spend on other activities, but a tiny part of me regretted the price that was paid for it.

As of tonight, NBC is back in the business of catering specifically to me once again. For the next few months, my Thursdays have returned to form with all the right series back in the correct batting order as follows:

* Community: For dedicated fans like myself and my son, October 19th arrived at long last tonight with its fourth-season premiere, a full 111 days after NBC first promised it would be. The four-month drought was dispiriting, filled as it was with very little meta-humor, a complete lack of Troy and Abed in the Morning, and a heartbreaking parade of lost souls who keep telling me how much they prefer The Big Bang Theory, just to make me cry in my sleep.

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The 2011-2012 Emmy Nominations That Actually Noticed My Shows, Great or Small

I’ve never watched a complete Emmy Awards ceremony. I follow several different TV shows each season, but I don’t watch nearly enough of the “right” shows to have a sizable stake in the proceedings. It’s with good reason that I don’t write about television seven days a week.

For fun, though, I decided for my very first time ever to read through today’s nominations and see if anything I watched in the 2011-2012 season qualified for honors. Any and all of them. The official Emmys site has a link to a handy PDF summarizing every single category and nominee for the media or obsessive TV stalkers to peruse at will. I encountered two surprises:

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My 2012 Season Finale Predictions, 100% Accurate on Some Alternate Earth

Another springtime tradition draws near as my regular TV shows each race toward their season finales. I never know how any given show will end, but it’s fun to pretend I do. Here, then, are my incorrect predictions for what’s in store for me over the next month. If any of these are remotely accurate, I’d be grateful if someone in charge would PayPal me a fraction of the ad revenues.

Community: Chang becomes the dean of the all-new all-different (read: even more destabilized) Greendale College. A shattered ex-Dean Pelton seeks a new degree and joins the study group. Troy and Britta still don’t hook up, but we discover a good reason why. The climax will be the destruction of the air conditioning annex in some sort of wormhole-based implosion that fits whatever the episode’s satirical target is. R.I.P. John Goodman’s character for arc-closure purposes, along with Pierce Hawthorne in some hideous yet hilarious manner that Dan Harmon will reveal to Chevy Chase after the episode airs, in the form of a TwitPic of his pink slip.

The Office: James Spader’s imminent departure was previously announced. Mindy Kaling’s Fox deal is reportedly reaching fruition. A spinoff is allegedly being constructed for Rainn Wilson. Other exits aren’t unlikely if the show is renewed. All signs point toward one inevitability: a natural disaster wipes out Dunder Mifflin’s Scranton branch, taking out half the cast. Those left standing at the end — Andy, Erin, David Wallace, Kevin, Oscar, Creed, Cathy the annoying temp, Nate from the warehouse, and a hastily rehired Todd Packer — relocate for season 9 to the scenic Utica branch, where hilarity can hopefully ensue after they pick up the pieces. If for some reason Parks & Recreation isn’t renewed, Rashida Jones returns as their new boss, Karen.

Parks & Recreation: Leslie loses the election because moving her out of the department would compromise the show’s basic premise. Somehow her loss is all Jerry’s fault, but the team holds their pre-planned victory party anyway with a little help from Donna’s cousin Ginuwine. Meanwhile, Tom fails one last time to win Anne’s heart, which is fine by me. The final scene in four words: either “Ben proposes to Leslie” or “Chris has a coronary.”

Mad Men: Reply hazy; try again later. It doesn’t help that I’m currently two episodes behind.

Once Upon a Time: In the final flashback, the dwarfs and fairies locate Charming, free him, and escort him to the comatose Snow to snap her out of it in the usual fashion. As they reunite and make wedding plans, elsewhere a rebuked Evil Queen pulls the trigger on the whole “Curse” plan…which, of course, comes with a price.

Meanwhile in the present-day real world, Henry’s stunt finally convinces Emma to believe, and I finally lose the urge to throw things at my TV. When she attempts to leave town forever for her seventh or eighth time — this time with Mary Margaret, David, and still-comatose Henry all along for the ride — she pushes her li’l jalopy so hard that the engine explodes. Everyone else is scraped and bruised, but the impact leaves Emma dead…for one whole minute. In homage to the Buffy season 1 finale, momentary clinical death is good enough to fulfill the terms and conditions for breaking the curse, leading up to a final scene of everyone remembering everything, capped with a tearful reunion between Grumpy and Amy Acker.

In the long term, Season 2 has everyone coming to terms with life in the real world despite knowing what they know and who they were. In Season 3, Our Heroes — now teamed up with a remorseful Regina, who’s at long last aware that all her problems were entirely her super-evil mom’s fault — finally find a way back to the Fairytale World, which in their absence has become a smoking crater ruled by some new evil dictator. My vote is for Jafar.

The Simpsons: Absolutely nothing of consequence occurs, except maybe another great couch gag by outside artists. My vote is for Studio Ghibli.

This list fails to include the several shows I abandoned this season. I assume their finales will also involve wormhole implosions, or cameos by Charlie Sheen. Good luck with those.

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