When "Parks and Rec" first aired on NBC TV, I remember watching the first handful of episodes and thinking: "This is funny…but not that funny." I eventually gave up on watching it and as is usually the case with me, I left just before the series got really good. It happened to me with "Smallville," "Gotham", "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." and more recently, "Legends of Tomorrow." I had no idea just how good "Parks and Rec" had become until I caught my wife watching episodes of it on Netflix, and from what I saw; I truly need to do some catching up because this show is astoundingly funny and I’ve been kicking myself for missing out ever since.
The series follows Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), a mid-level bureaucrat in Indiana’s parks and recreation department who is trying to boost her career and improve her local community with the aid of her eclectic team of oddballs, weirdos and other government employees who don’t share Leslie’s positive ambition...but they help anyway. It’s basically "The Office" but in the parks and rec. department of Pawnee, Indiana, hilarity and shenanigans ensue. Both of those descriptions though fail to truly encapsulate the maddening brilliance of the show’s humor. Any show can claim their group of wacky employees provides enough giggles and chuckles to keep a series running forever, but few have dynamite writers and actors like this series does.
"Parks and Rec" has assembled some of the funniest people in Hollywood in one show. Poehler is just the beginning; we got Nick Offerman, Aziz Ansari, Chris Pratt, Aubrey Plaza, Jim O’Heir, Rob Lowe, Rashida Jones, Adam Scott and so many, many more. It should be illegal to have this many funny people under one roof. The series mostly consists of the Pawnee team trying to pass bills and make the community better…only to do it in the most asinine and half assed way, a perfect contrast to Poehler’s infectious optimism and chemistry with her co-workers eccentricities. From Pratt’s brilliant stupidity, Offerman’s dry wit to Plaza’s deadpan delivery, there are several flavors of comedy to sample from. It’s like going to a Baskin Robbins ice cream comedy shop, you get every kind of comedy at your fingertips just by walking through the door, or in this case, turning on the TV. I can’t think of many (or even any) other shows that can pull that off.
The more I watched the series, the better things got. The show relied less on bleeped out swearing or purely physical comedy and just generated quality comedic writing on a consistent level without any signs of slowing down. My two favorites are easily Chris Pratt’s "Andy" and Nick Offerman’s "Ron", two actors whose real life personalities mirror their characters far more accurately than one would expect. They have created so many memorable quotes, I often send them in GIF form to friends and family whenever I can or just quote it on a regular basis so I can spread the good word of this show’s surprising brilliance. The show also makes excellent use of its guest stars, putting the likes of Louie C.K, Andy Sandburg and Megan Mulally to good use, so much so I actually got excited to see how they’d use this star or that star whenever a new episode came up.
My only real criticism was (odd as it may sound) the first season and the first half of the second one. Most shows have trouble getting off the ground during their first season and "Parks and Rec" is no exception. Most of the humor relied on bleeped swear words and fall gags, it was trying too hard to be like "The Office" and some of the main cast members didn’t feel like the right fit for some of the show’s cast. The show was still trying to find out who it was and what kind of comedy it wanted to put out. But once the series did figure out its comedic identity, everything was smooth sailing from then on. Not many people can wade through mediocre seasons or episodes until they get to the good stuff, same can be said for "The Office" even.
Overall though, "Parks and Rec" may start off slow but it finishes strong, once the show assembles the perfect cast I’ve been bragging about for the past 3 pages; you’ll see why it was worth the wait and the watch. You won’t find many casts as perfectly assembled as this one, comedy or otherwise. This show will have you quoting it and discussing too many memorable moments than you know what to do with. I’ve missed many good periods on series I abandoned, but this is one TV show I’m glad I went back and gave a much needed second viewing.
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