Polter-Cow (spectralbovine) wrote,

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Parks and Recreation? More Like Snarks and Decoration!

Parks and Recreation was on my radar very early on. I had not heard good things about it, and it did not seem to be up my alley. Then, however, I did hear good things about it, and it seemed like most people I knew were watching it. Earlier this year, I visited sophia_helix and actoplasm, and they showed me four or five episodes, and even though I didn't know the characters at all, I thought they were very funny. I knew that I would one day watch this show. Then I made a plan to mainline comedies like Better Off Ted and Community, and Netflix Instant conveniently had the first two seasons, so it was clearly time for me to finally watch this show.


The premise doesn't seem to have a lot of promise: an overly earnest Deputy Parks Director in the small town of Pawnee, Indiana, makes it her personal quest to have a dangerous pit filled in and turned into a park. Obviously, she will run into many roadblocks and be naively optimistic, but then she will use her spunk and gumption to prevail anyway. And, sure, that happens. Over and over again, really. But when you have a stellar cast and a staff of extremely clever writers, you can do much, much more.

Okay, look, I know it seemed like some sort of Office clone (and it was initially going to be a spin-off), and, yes, the first season (like the first season of The Office) is rough. But remember what happened in the second season of The Office? How suddenly everything just clicked and the show understood what it had and what it could do with it and how it could best tell funny stories with these characters? The same thing happens here: once the show stops focusing on being a municipal satire and starts being about characters, I started to love it very quickly.

And what a set of characters! Leslie Knope is indeed naively optimistic about government, but, unlike Michael Scott, she's both competent (hypercompetent, actually) at her job and likeable. Ron Swanson, on the other hand, hates government and revels in all its failures. He epitomizes masculinity and rocks a 'stache like no other. He and Leslie are basically work spouses, and they play off each other well, he not actually wanting her to succeed governmentally but still—though he may not admit it—caring about her success personally. Ann Perkins (Ann Perkins!) is a nurse who, because of the pit project, becomes Leslie's new best friend and a measure of sanity in the craziness of the Parks Department. It's rare to see female friendships on TV, and I loved how supportive they were of one another. It's adorable. And speaking of adorable, Andy Dwyer is a lovable doof who should not be judged by his characterization in the first season, as he becomes a much better character in the second season. April Ludgate is the apathetic intern who was one of my favorite characters from the beginning and only became more awesome as the series progressed. Tom Haverford wants his life to be a non-stop Nelly video. In the beginning, I just wanted The Tom and April Show, but all the other characters grew on me as well. Even Mark Brendanawicz, the straightest of straight men, a man so straight he can be a Halloween costume. And I would be remiss not to mention Donna, who loves the Mercedes she cannot possibly afford on her salary, and Jerry, the butt of every joke.

It is hard for me to explain why Parks and Recreation is so amazing, but let me begin by saying this: by some point in season two, basically all of my e-mail reactions to sophia_helix were in CAPSLOCK. I loved it that much. And it remained that good. You see, the thing about Parks and Recreation is that IT FILLS ME WITH JOY. Yes, it's a comedy, it should make me happy, right? No, I mean joy. It doesn't just make me laugh—a lot—it makes me happy. Michael Schur deliberately set out to make a sitcom full of positivity, and I think that is the true genius of this show. It is easy to make a funny show about terrible people being dicks to each other (not to diminish the genius of Arrested Development in any way), but to make a workplace comedy about likeable characters who generally get along and actually like what they do...that's a challenge. The show is so funny, and its jokes are not at the expense of its characters but because of its characters. Characters whose lives I am overly invested in. Sitcoms love will-they-or-won't-they-oh-god-when-will-they-already couples, and Parks and Rec is no exception. With one couple in particular, I was basically on the edge of my seat every episode because they were SO FUCKING ADORABLE OMG.

But the show has more genius left to spare, so it uses it on worldbuilding. Yes, worldbuilding. It creates more and more terrible historical anecdotes about Pawnee. It gives the various branches of city government ridiculous personalities. It populates Pawnee with a wealth of horrible, querulous people. It invents a whole media circus for a small town, complete with a scandal-seeking reporter, a scandalmongering daytime talk show host, and a literal-speaking TV newscaster. And despite how ridiculous everything gets, it always feels grounded enough for the emotions involved to be real.

Parks and Recreation may be the only sitcom that is influenced by The Wire.

Like Community, Parks and Rec is so very self-assured. It understands what it has and what it can do, and it is not afraid to adapt and change. Characters are free to move into new roles if it feels natural and will provide even more fodder for humor. Improvisation is encouraged, and some of the funniest jokes come out that way. From the second-season premiere on, there's nary a bad episode, the show is so solid. Really, I could go on and on about how amazing it is and I know I just went on and on about how amazing Community was a couple months ago, but I may have fallen even more deeply in love with Parks and Recreation. I feel like both shows fill pieces of me I didn't even know were missing.

The statement that this fan has is a question: will you tune in to Parks and Recreation tomorrow?
Tags: new show squee, parks and recreation, personal, real life friends, tv

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