TV Testimony: Why Parks and Recreation May Be the Best Comedy on TV
Yes, Modern Family is hilarious. The Office still has its moments. 30 Rock still entertains. Cable TV has its share of cult hidden gems. But, can we take a moment to honor the underdog of comedy genius that is Parks and Recreation?
Parks and Rec got off to a slow start. The show misfired at first by trying to duplicate The Office’s mockumentary format without its originality, and tried to make lead character Leslie Knope a female clone of Michael Scott (complete with bumbling, cringe-worthy escapades). It didn’t work. The first season’s “pit that needs to be a park” plot got mired in too many instances of physical humor versus genuine wit (most of the pratfalls involved – no pun intended- Chris Pratt’s Andy).
By the second season, however, the show had found its niche, turning Leslie Knope into a smart cookie with a fatal flaw (she genuinely cares so much about her job and her co-workers that she’s willing to go WAY to far to succeed) and giving the talented ensemble cast storylines and character arcs that turned them into more than one-note background props.
Now in its third season, the show has hit its stride, and there isn’t a waste of a character to be found. From the anti-social but deadpan April (Aubrey Plaza) and her cuddly but clueless wannabe rock star hubby Andy (Chris Pratt), to the smooth stylings of entrepreneur Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari – whose bar Snakehole Lounge has a hilarious website that should not be missed: http://www.snakeholelounge.com/), to my personal favorite Libertarian Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman), we finally have characters we care about that don’t make us uncomfortable to laugh with or at them.
This season’s two episode event last week was a perfect illustration of how the magic happens. Take all the characters, put them in the Snakehole Lounge under the influence of Tom’s dubiously named “Snake Juice” (as stated in Tom’s script for Ron: “I want this night to get krazy. Get me a shot of snake juice. I hear it has a dope aftertaste”) and then enjoy the chaos. We found out that April and Andy like to role play (as the world’s worst FBI agent and a widow with a ridiculous secret past and even more ridiculous accent), Leslie and Ann like to revert to high school behavior ( Leslie: “No offense, but I don’t remember you having a nursing degree in feelings!” Ann: “Offense! That’s rude!”), and Ron likes to get his groove on.
I haven’t laughed out loud so consistently during a half hour of television since, well, the first and second seasons of The Office (may they RIP).
What I appreciate about Parks and Rec that The Office is currently lacking is the feeling that all of these characters really could work together. They have realistic quibbles, work problems and personal hang ups. Still, there’s a charming sense that they all genuinely LIKE each other. The friendship between Leslie and Ann is a prime example. Another is example is the relationship between flighty April and her well-meaning but irresponsible hubby Andy. Gosh darn it if they didn’t turn what could have been a jump-the-shark relationship into a sweet and realistic one. The episode where Ben moves in and tries to make them shop responsibly at Bed Bath and Beyond (despite the Siren Song of the “As Seen on TV” section) was one of my favorite TV moments ever.
I loved the Jim and Pam arc on The Office, but Ben and Leslie on Parks and Rec are giving them a run for their money in terms of being a couple you love to root for. Ben loves Leslie’s geeky goody-two-shoes charm, and she’s a sucker for his artfully disheveled hair and nice guy smile.
Plus, it is reason in itself to tune in just to see Tom give food ridiculously awesome alternate names (inspiring the nickname “Tom Haverfoods” : http://tomhaverfoods.com/ ) or to hear Ron spout his political beliefs and feelings about steak.
All in all, I’m grateful that NBC gave Parks and Recreation a chance to grow into itself. It was worth the wait. All hail Pawnee, Indiana and its eclectic residents.
The quotes below are just several reasons why I adore this show:
Ron:” Leslie has a lot of qualities I find horrifying. But the worst one by far is how thoughtful she can be.”
Leslie: “Public Art Commission. Filled with hippies who love public art and sometimes weed. Jackpot.”
Ann:” Describe your ideal man.”
Leslie: “He’s dark and mysterious, and he can sing. And he plays the organ.”
Ann:” I think you just described the Phantom of the Opera.”
Ben:” I move around a lot, so the friends I make in these cities, they’re like Facebook friends, you know? “Hey, Doug from Bloomington is thinking about buying a shirt.” Come on, Doug, who cares?”
Tom: “Everyone steals. My favorite movie is Love Don’t Cost a Thing with Nick Cannon. Which is based on Can’t Buy Me Love, which is based on Kramer vs. Kramer, or something, which I think was Shakespeare…”
For more Parks and Recreation fun to tide you over until next season, be sure and check out: