TV: The Brilliance of Parks and Recreation Returns

Written by Meg Walter on . Posted in TV

Parks and Recreation is returning to NBC tonight. This is great news.

I don’t know why it was ever missing from the Thursday night line-up. And I really don’t understand why Outsourced deserved air time while Parks and Rec was shoved into the abyss of short-lived shows.

Outsourced is abhorrently dumb. Parks and Rec is smart. Maybe not smart in the Arrested Development manner to which we television snobs have become accustomed — where every line of dialogue is a double entendre and every character is someone else and we have to chart which joke lines up with which former episode, etc. Instead, Parks and Rec is smart in its simplicity.

The pace of Parks and Recreation is slow. Not boring, just relaxed. And there isn’t much of a plot. The only premise and location in the series is a government office full of workers. On paper, it sounds suspiciously close to The Office, especially given its mockumenatry style. In fact, much of the early criticism of the show wrote it off as an Office rip-off.

It took a few weeks — maybe even the entire first season — for Parks to decide what it was about and how it differed from The Office. By the second season, however, Parks hit its stride and became one of the most charming shows on television by focusing on the endearing characters of Pawnee local government.

Leslie Knope and her Parks and Recreation crew have enough subtle quirks to keep them funny and enough redeeming qualities to keep them watchable. Where Michael Scott and Dwight can be too much to handle at times, the characters on Parks never become abrasive.

The characters are brilliantly performed by Amy Poehler, Rashida Jones, Aziz Ansari, etc., with just the right facial expressions and mannerisms to make any situation that much funnier. Andy Dwyer, played by Chris Pratt, often steals the show as Anne’s dim-witted ex-boyfriend and the City Hall shoe-shiner. April Ludgate, the cynical moody college intern played by Aubrey Plaza, provides the perfect foil for Poehler’s over-eager Leslie Knope.

Most shows struggle to incorporate guest stars without diverting the story — Parks and Recreation does it seamlessly. Louis CK, Rob Lowe, Andy Samberg and Fred Armisen have all shined as guest stars, and the next season promises more surprise Pawnee residents. Parker Posey (of Christopher Guest mockumentary fame) is slotted to play Leslie’s nemesis. Amazing.

We never know what we’ve got til it’s gone. It was a cold, dark autumn without Parks and Recreation in the NBC Thursday night line-up. Luckily, my heart — and hopefully yours — will warm once more with the return of Leslie Knope and her crew this Thursday.

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