The Johnny Karate Super Awesome Musical Explosion Show
Parks & Recreation will end its run this week after seven great seasons. After moving the show all over the schedule the last few years, NBC had decided the finale will air at 10:00 p.m., in a final bit of inexplicable scheduling nonsense. That means that for us, Tuesday night will be spent sniffling over the end of one of TV’s greatest sitcoms.*
*If you doubt that Parks is an absolute classic, I will literally channel my inner Ben Wyatt and challenge you to an Alexander Hamiltonian duel!
NBC’s need to rid itself of the show as quickly as possible has apparently inspired Parks & Rec to go out like a house on fire, because season seven has quickly shaped up as one of the show’s best. Which brings us to last week’s instant classic, “The Johnny Karate Super Awesome Musical Explosion Show.” Yes! Finally Parks & Rec gave us more than just a brief glimpse of Andy’s career as a children’s TV show host. The episode used the hilarious show-within-a-show to reveal its five major themes: Johnny Karate’s Five Karate Moves to Success.
1. Make Something
In the course of Johnny’s show, he runs regular segments starring his friends. Make Something with Ron Swanson is the perfect segment for the show to remind you to get off your butt and go do something. Carpenter Ron teaches Johnny and the kids some simple woodworking when they build a shadowbox frame to showcase “something valuable.” For Ron, there is nothing more valuable than self-reliance. However, there’s more to self-reliance than being a loner. Ron cares about his friends no less than Leslie. His way of expressing it is to teach others to be self-reliant and to help them reach their goals.
Think about it – Ron had an awesome cabin, which he decided not to sell to hipsters or developers. Instead he gave it to April, the one person who would enjoy the solitude as much as he did. Ron gave Tom a loan so he could start his second business. Rather than investing in the disaster that was Entertainment 360, Ron waited until Tom came up with the more down-to-earth but still excellently named businesses called Rent-a-Swag. Ron teaches Andy the proper way to fill a pothole and in the process meets Diane, the woman he will eventually marry in the greatest wedding* ever to appear on television.
*The five minute engagement and wedding of Ron and Diane may be my ideal (and my real wedding was not too far off the five-minute pace later set by Ron and Diane), but I agree that reasonable minds may differ on whether it’s the greatest. So no duels, you Aaron Burrs!
2. Learn Something
Learn Something with Professor Smartbrain, guest starring Ben Wyatt. Seeing Ben nerd out never gets old, but Andy has installed a Boring Buzzer for those moments when Ben gets a little too technical. Ben teaches the kids about geography and the various ways you can travel from Pawnee, Indiana to Andy and April’s new home in Washington D.C.
One of the ways Ben and Leslie bonded was their shared love of knowledge and learning. [pullquote]
Parks & Rec was never a show that promoted the message that learning is dumb.
[/pullquote] Instead one of its best recurring gags involved Ben’s rock star status among the town accountants. Even in the audience of kids at the Johnny Karate show we see a child cosplaying as Professor Smartbrain. It’s a theme which is also celebrated by Amy Poheler’s Smart Girls at the Party, whose motto is Change the World by Being Yourself.
3. Karate Chop Something!
Garry appears as Garry the Mailman. Of course this gives Johnny Karate’s ninja minions the opportunity to karate chop Garry. Dissing Garry has been one of the show’s longest-running gags. Does “Karate Chop Something” fit into the themes of Parks & Rec? Hell yes, because sometimes you’ve just gotta punch, kick or slap something to get your feelings out! Karate chopping something is all about fun, and Parks has always wanted you to know it’s okay to be silly.
4. Try Something New Even If It’s Scary to You
Leslie Knope appears to implore everyone to “be brave.” The idea of trying something new is deeply ingrained in the foundation of this show. [pullquote] All of the Parks characters have taken the leap over the years, even if the future seems unknown. Indeed, Parks & Recreation made more room for its characters to grow more than any sitcom we’ve ever watched.[/pullquote] Instead of making Pawnee an anachronistic village populated by small-minded yokels, the show emphasized that each person had dreams to fulfill. And as each character found his or her purpose, the town changed for the better.
Think Leslie running for city counsel or accepting a job with the National Parks Service. Think Ann Perkins deciding to have a baby, or Ann and Chris Traeger leaving Pawnee to build their family elsewhere. Think of Andy trying, failing and trying again. Sometimes the characters succeed and sometimes they fail, but the show believes people thrive if they take risks.
5. Be Nice to Someone
Johnny Karate closes out his show by imploring everyone to be nice to someone. He gets the opportunity to be nice to his wife, April Ludgate Karate Dwyer, who has been heartsick watching her husband end his popular show so that he could move with her to Washington, D.C. to chase her dreams. But Andy is not heartsick. He’s proud of April. As he tells the kids and all of us, “I’m very proud of her, and I’m totally in love!” What more could a woman want?
The relationships between the couples on Parks & Rec are worthy of their own essay. These aren’t sitcom relationships where the couples barely tolerate each other. They love and support each other and the sacrifice and “nice” goes both ways. Ron has to sacrifice some of his precious freedom to marry Diane and become a father to her daughters. But in the end he does, because even though change is scary, he’s met the one woman who gets him. Ben has an opportunity to run a major Senate campaign but decides instead to return to Pawnee to marry Leslie. April has always supported Andy’s goofball dreams, reuniting his band Mouse Rat to play the Unity Concert and sending him to London when he gets a rare job opportunity. These are egalitarian relationships that are worth celebrating.
The Johnny Karate show was filled with a bunch of other cool things. My favorite, in no particular order:
- Andy’s other alter ego, Burt Macklin.
- Perd Hapley!
- Ice cream, ninjas, pizza, and getting stronger!
- The faux commercials, including the one for the giant mega-corporation Verizon-Chipolte-Exxon.
- Did the format make you think of 30 Rock’s fabulous Queen of Jordan episodes?
- If the Johnny Karate Show was real I’d have kids just so they could watch it.
- When this show premiered would you have guessed that the shoeshine guy Chris Pratt would wind up a megastar?
- The commercial for Ron’s Very Good Building Company: “Hire Very Good Building Company for your construction needs. Or do not. I am not a beggar.”
We’ll see you next week for the 1-hour finale! Have you seen Parks and Rec? Will it leave a big pit-sized hole in your heart when it ends? Let us know in the comments!