What led me to watching Parks and Recreation was Qwerty insisting I watch another NBC show, 30 Rock, last year. I admit I was initially reluctant. I’d tried it once and didn’t like it much. “Get past the first couple of episodes. You’ll love it.” You don’t argue with Qwerty when she’s in that sort of mood. But, by golly, she was right. 30 Rock, well, rocks. Brilliance all round.
Alec Baldwin a revelation (and let’s face it, he needed to be after getting lost in the celebrity wilderness and ending up playing the Fat Controller in Thomas and the Magic Railroad), and Tina Fey a total comedy genius.
Then I noticed Fey and Amy Poehler were compering the Golden Globes together recently, to huge acclaim. Sharp, witty, clever. Not puerile frat boy twats singing about tits, looking at you Seth MacFarlane. But I’d never actually heard of Amy Poehler. Until, that is, Parks and Recreation hit BBC4 recently. It’s a mockumentary of the Spinal Tap, Office ilk, set in local government, specifically the parks department of a mythical Indiana town of Pawnee. Poehler plays eager beaver bureaucrat Leslie Knope. Her boss is the glorious libertarian, luxuriant mustachioed Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman).
I’m only four episodes into season one, but they’re up to season five in America (some tweaks were made to the characters after the first season I’ve read, and it’s gone on to win lots of awards). I’m finding it hilarious. The town of Pawnee is beautifully drawn. The murals of bloody interactions between native Americans and the white settlers on the walls of City Hall are agonisingly brilliant, and even better when Knope tries to explain them away to visitors with perky, monumentally inappropriate enthusiasm.
The plot literally revolves around a plot. A large empty plot of land with a massive hole that idiot slob (Andy) drunkenly fell into and broke both his legs. His lovely girlfriend, nurse Ann (Rashida Jones) campaigns to have it filled in, and Leslie takes this on as her mission, wanting to not just fill it in but also turn it into a new park. She co-opts fellow employees onto her committee, including planner Mark Brendanawicz (Paul Schneider), for whom she has harboured a crush (and delusions of reciprocity) ever since a one night stand in the very distant past.
The action so far has involved seeing Ann and Andy’s gloriously dysfunctional relationship, Leslie’s ham-fisted attempts to get local support for the scheme, as well as illustrating all of the delicious dynamics within the parks department. The mockumentary style allows exactly the sorts of characters you do get working in local government to slowly reveal themselves and their vanities, delusions, crushes and power struggles. It’s genius.
Catch it on iPlayer while you can.
Posted by Inkface