Tonight’s Parks & Recreation episode contained a bunch of throwaway references to Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. I got this easter egg spoiled for me by my Funnybook Babylon Brother Pedro: “Supposedly Parks and Rec is dripping with Infinite Jest references this week” read the text I received while at the grocery store. I thought about this on the walk home, wracking my brain as to how the two could tie together. Ben Wyatt is the only series regular who I can even imagine possibly having read the book. Maybe Infinite Jest is Perd Hapley’s intensely ill-conceived Book Club selection? Jean-Ralphio sues someone after he gets hit with a copy of the hardcover? Why would Parks and Rec be dripping with these references?
I watched the episode, and I still couldn’t tell you why: I know that Parks co-creator Michael Schur is a big IJ fan, so I assume was a just a fun joke. Perhaps other episodes have had background references to White Noise or Lost in the Funhouse or other books I barely remember reading. But we don’t have half a dozen copies of any of those books in our apartment, so I’ll point out these references instead.
See? Just names to amuse people. Councilman Jamm’s law firm is composed of one Ennet House resident, two Enfield underclassmen, and one ETA star/AFR spy. There’s no symbolism, just names you may recognize. The Dane Cook Routine of literary references. None of the firm’s partners appear, though Bil Dwyer’s lawyer is named [“Tall”] Paul Shaw in the credits.
In the Anne/Chris plotline, they take the “Incandeza-Pemulis Parenting Compatability Quiz”. This is the closest thing to a “joke” I can find in these references, since the parenting skills of both of these families are suspect, if not criminal. Plus I can totally imagine Michael Pemulis trying to phish credit card info out of online quizzes.
Later they visit a “Doctor Van Dyne”, who is neither veiled, hideously scarred, or the PGOAT. She might be named Joelle though, based solely on the length of the blurry first name on the plaque behind her:
And over in what I guess was the A-Plot, Ben and Leslie travel to the town where Ben was Boy Mayor to get a key to the city. When Ben collapses due to a kidney stone, he is taken to a hospital named for Gene Facklemann, an opiate addict and Don Gately running buddy.
So I suppose it’s appropriate that Ben gets laid up on morphine, which Doctor Clipperton insists is “quite good”. Weirdly, the painkiller enthusiast doctor is named after another tennis player, the faux-then-actually-suicidal Eric Clipperton.
This forces Leslie to walk into the trap laid by current Partridge Mayor [Ortho “The Darkness”] Stice, who gratifyingly wears [nearly] all black.
At the ceremony, she is harangued by two unnamed citizens, who appear in the credits as Kate Gompert and Ken Erdedy, two more Ennet residents.
If I had gone into this episode cold, I am sure I would have been delighted by these easter eggs. But given an hour or so to allow my mind to race, I found myself disappointed. Would it have killed them to find some Byzantine Erotica to hang up in the doctor’s office? No one drinks out of a Flinstones juice glass, traps roaches under tumblers, watches seventeen hours of M*A*S*H? Couldn’t the Bicentennial Celebration have some Trial-Size Dove Bars being handed out? Why wasn’t Ben visited by a ghost or some guy who licks sweat off of people while in the hospital?
These are, of course, entirely unreasonable expectations for a sitcom. Then again, last week’s Archer had a whole bit about 1980s New Mutants casualty Douglas “Cypher” Ramsey, so maybe anything is reasonable these days.