Newsflash: There was more to yesterday’s episode of Parks and Recreation than Ron getting sued and guest appearances by Annabeth Gish and J.K. Simmons. As USC doctoral candidate George Carstocea points out on his blog, the whole half-hour was one long homage to David Foster Wallace’s massive novel Infinite Jest — the number one book you pretend to have read in college.
Parks and Rec showrunner Michael Schur — a.k.a. the guy who occasionally plays Mose on The Office — is an admitted DFW-phile. He wrote his undergraduate thesis on Wallace, directed a Decemberists video based on Wallace’s 1,079-page opus, and even owns Infinite Jest‘s film rights. (Good luck with that one, Mike.) And since a minor character in IJ hails from the town of Partridge, Kan., Schur saw an episode named after and partially set in the town of Partridge, Minn. as the perfect opportunity to indulge in a variety of Jest references.
In short: Basically every character or location introduced in “Partridge” has a name drawn from Wallace’s novel. While suing Ron, Councilman Jamm is represented by the law firm of Gately, Wayne, Kittenplan, and Troeltsch; Don Gately is one of the novel’s protagonists, and John “No Relation” Wayne, Anne Kittenplan, and Jim Troeltsch are all students at the Enfield Tennis Academy. Ben suffers from kidney stones and is brought to Facklemann Memorial Hospital, which recalls IJ‘s debt collector Gene Fackelmann. Even the compatibility test that Ann and Chris take in order to see how they’ll fare as parents winks back to Jest — it’s called the Incandenza-Pemulis Parenting Compatability Quiz, a reference to best friends Hal Incandenza and Michael Pemulis.
The full list of references — as well as helpful screenshots — can be found at Carstocea’s site. NBC sure knows how to appeal to the common sitcom watcher!