Season 7, Episode 10: The Johnny Karate Super Awesome Musical Explosion Show
Posted by Sage
Neither Leslie and Ben’s triplets or Ann and Chris’s Oliver have received much show focus since their births. No great loss: Parks already has its idealized version of childhood in one Andrew Dwyer.
With only a handful of episodes left in its lifetime, Parks and Rec dedicated a full show to Andy and by virtue of that, to the family that’s watched him grow up. It’s a rare meta exercise for the series. The action – aside from a very important sidebar – is staged in real-time, as Johnny Karate takes his final bow.
It’s a clever set-up that satisfies on multiple levels. Firstly, we get to see Andy’s show! It’s zany, heartfelt, completely absurdist and wouldn’t feel entirely out of place on the UHF network. (Anyone for drinking from the fire hose?) Mailman Barry and Pawnee’s tiniest ninjas aren’t Andy’s only sidekicks; Johnny Karate is a Parks Department family affair. Ben plays out his Mister Wizard fantasies as Professor Smartbrain. Carpenter Ron does his best to instill a respect for doing things with your own two hands. And Leslie, because she is an expert, gives tips on how to be brave.
Andy’s friends stage a swift and welcome coup during his final show; it becomes Andy Dwyer: This Is Your Life. And what a life it’s been. When we met Andy, he was self-absorbed and immature, holding Ann back just as much as that cavernous pit in her backyard. He had to be raised, in a different way than April. Break the show down to its bones, and Andy was kind of the catalyst for everything that’s happened. (“In a weird way, Andy, I owe it all to you.”) The thing about these people around him is that they take the time to see who you are. Andy’s gigantic heart started to show itself, and everything else grew out of that. Where do you think he came up with the 5 Karate Moves to Success? He’s lived them, my friends.
1. Make Something
The big MouseRat joke was the band’s multitude of name changes, or the songwriter’s preference for lofty, heroic lyrics, but never the quality of the music. Let’s face it: the “shitty band” gag can only go so far. Andy is talented; creating things makes him feel worthy. He almost gave it up a few times, but I’m glad that April helped him realize that there’s nothing silly about making silly songs that make other people happy.
2. Learn Something
3. Karate Chop Something
Only if Ben Wyatt isn’t available to wrestle.
4. Try Something New Even If It’s Scary For You
Possum catcher, shoeshinist, personal assistant, body man, police academy student: Andy Dwyer is a true Renaissance man. “Johnny Karate” reminded us of this when Sir Edgar Covington OBE made a visit to “this weird, flat place” from Andy’s brief tenure in London
guarding the galaxy running a not-for-profit. There’s a Forrest Gump quality to Mr. Dwyer; he’s a poster child for going with the flow. I admire his intrepid spirit, which has sent him on many an adventure. Even living in pit was fine with him, so long as he was crushin’ it. Andy doesn’t see himself as under-qualified for anything unless someone tells him so, which is why his police academy failure was such a blow. But if he hadn’t bottomed out like that (“Oh, I’m fine. It’s just that life is pointless and nothing matters and I’m always tired. Also, I can’t sleep, I’m overeating and none of my old hobbies interest me.”), he would never have become a knight of her majesty’s empire. It’s also the nicest thing he’ll ever do for his ex-roommate Ben, Sir Lightstorm of the Kingdom of Pawnee. (10 points to Gryffindor for Adam Scott’s background work in the next scene where he examines his limbs to see if they look any different.) “Every hero struggles with failure,” Leslie says. It’s the only way to become a hero, really.
5. Be Nice to Someone
“You’re the only reason I have any of this. You believed in me and you supported me and you make me happy. You’re my Verizon Chipotle Exxon.”
It’s their Mr. and Mrs. Coach moment. It’s April’s turn to drive. And Andy welcomes the chance to go somewhere new and “figure out the next cool and awesome thing from there.”
I like that “Be Nice to Someone” is the fifth and final step on Andy’s list. Not because it’s an afterthought, but because taking care of yourself makes it easier to take care of other people. Because every life lesson you take in has to be employed in service of someone else. And that’s the Johnny Karate way.
- Retta looked smokin’ in that cop uniform, yes?
- “One of our favorite segments: Loose Animal in the Studio!”
- Johnny Karate‘s commercial breaks included some Paunch Burger bullying and Ken Wotate introducing Coinsy the Wolf, but Ron’s artless ad for Very Good Building Company was the greatest of them all.
- “It truly was a mitzvah. I should mention I’m a rabbi now.”
- “From the information I got, I assumed you were like 10 years old.”
- Leslie is having the time of her damn life hosting this thing.
- If there ever was a time for Duke Silver to step out of his warm jazz and into the cold light of day, this is it.
- I like to think that, on some level, this episode was send-off for the brilliant Chris Pratt into his blockbuster movie career.
So close to the end, friends. It’s just a steady stream of tears from now until that finale.