'Parks and Recreation' and its wonderfully charming Jonathan Franzen-'Freedom' joke

On the first of its back-to-back episodes this week, Parks and Recreation made an impeccable joke about Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom. It was all the more impressive for being (a) a throwaway line that didn’t call attention to its own smartness, (b) not a dig at Franzen or his novel, and (c) totally in keeping with Leslie Knope’s character.

In the episode titled “The Fight,” Amy Poehler’s Leslie was prepping Rashida Jones’ Ann for a job interview — a job in city government that Ann was ambivalent about pursuing — and was plying Ann with a mountain of research material to cram for the job interview. As Leslie stacked up documents she thought Ann needed to study, she also tossed on a copy of Freedom. “And why am I reading this?” asked a baffled Ann.

“Because I’m almost done with it and I wanna talk to you about Patty!” said Leslie in a great rush of words mingled with emotion. It was the sound of a true, passionate reader, someone who wants desperately to talk about a book that has made a great impression on her. Thus, the 1,782nd reason to love Leslie Knope, and Parks and Recreation in general. (The 1,783rd reason? Snake Juice!)

And if Jennifer Egan was watching and felt at all jealous, I’d say to her, rest assured, it’s only a matter of time before Community makes an equally good name-drop about A Visit From The Goon Squad.

Twitter: @kentucker

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  • Lo

    Tonight’s episodes were great. If they sold Snake Juice in the NBC store I’d totally buy a bottle… or two.

    • Hilarious

      With Janet Snakehole’s endorsement.

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  • AlyssaG

    Not to mention Amy Poehler’s spectacular delivery!! My anger is already building at the prospect of her losing the Emmy to one of the actresses from those showtime “comedies.”

    • Amy

      Don’t even talk about it! I can’t bear to think of Amy Poehler and the entire cast and writers for that matter, not getting the Emmy love they deserve. Best comedy on TV!!

  • Arthur Tweedle

    Leslie is angular and gorgeous, and if she were a gas, she would be inert.

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  • Samantha

    I’m so confused…what’s so special about this joke? Wasn’t it really just a reference??

    • Bert

      Having not read the book, I’m a bit confused myself.

    • Johnification

      I haven’t read it yet, either, but the moment played so honestly that it stood out for me as well. I kinda want to find out who Patty is now.

      • andrewmunz

        Patty is the mother and main female character in the book. She makes some interesting choices with her relationship with her husband, and her husband’s best friend. I would say she’s either a Love Her or Hate Her character, so I’m sure there’s book clubs (and women like Leslie) who want to talk about Patty Berglund.

      • is

        I read it, & I thought it was hilarious! But then again, I love everything about this show!

  • andy

    I gotta say… I wrote this show off after trying to watch the first season. It was pretty awful. Started watching again this season based on what I was hearing. Only show on TV that makes me laugh out loud.

    • Scott

      I know what you mean, the very short 6 episode first season was hit and miss but anyone who stuck with P&R has been rewarded with one of the funniest ensemble comedies on tv. Only Community and Cougar Town have anything like the P&R vibe.

  • Kate

    I got a kick out it too, I haven’t read this book either, but it is the way I shove books at people insisting they read them.

  • landonewts

    I love this show. LOVE it. I wasn’t sold at first, but it’s grown on me really fast. Amazing cast, great writing, funny-awkward theme song. The throwaway lines on Parks & Rec. are better than the entire scripts of other shows. The characters are well drawn and funny, and the friendships aren’t treacly. Leslie’s birthday party for Ron was one of my favorite moments.

  • Ronnie1

    Could not stop laughing all through the episode!! When they’re all getting plastered on the Snake Juice…I’ve KNOWN friends like that! Whether intentional or not, they start slurring their words, and get WAY loose! And I’ve crammed a few friends into my car to drive them home safely…though I’ve never tied one to the roof of my car…

    • JustMe

      I was laughing like a goon at Ron Swanson getting down with the itty bitty hat on his head.

  • Amy

    I am new to this show..just started watching a few weeks ago. It is hilarious!!

  • paule

    include me in the many who thought last season was only so so – but then started watching this season late and love what I’ve seen. Great show – funnier than 30Rock and without the critics hype

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  • Angela

    You know, Richard Katz from the book is real… http://www.facebook.com/thetraumatics

  • Emily

    I just finished reading Freedom and I want to talk to someone about Patty! Where’s Leslie Knope when I need her?

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