The genius of Parks and Recreation

knope_campaignWhat 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.

mrmrconductorAlec 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).nofferman

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


Filed under Comedy

6 responses to “The genius of Parks and Recreation

  1. Tim

    I’m three episodes in so far, and while it’s a bit uneven as it finds its feet it shares some of the same glorious cringeworthiness as The Office. Love Amy Poehler’s Leslie – one of those rare comic gems you can both laugh at and with while still rooting for her to succeed in spite of herself.

    “This pit – the chance to build a whole new park from scratch. This could be my Hoover Dam.” Amen to that.

    • inkface

      I prefer it to The Office. I prefer Amy Poehler to Ricky Gervais certainly. I get the impression, like the first series of Blackadder, they are finding their feet a bit here. Sounds like it only gets better.

  2. Dan Beale-Cocks

    I love this show. The characters do change after season one, and the show becomes a tiny bit less “documentary”, but it’s great. This, and ‘New Girl’ are my favourite shows.

  3. Qwerty

    Ah Inkface, a rare instance of us both watching the same show. I *am* enjoying P&R, especially the lovely Amy P. But I am making the mistake of watching 30 Rock as a chaser – I’ve started watching it from the beginning and am on series 3 – and nothing could stand up against it. Nuffink. It is a TITAN OF TELLY. Have I written about 30 Rock anywhere? God, I love it so much. As Tracey Jordan says, about almost everything, I love it so much I’d like to take it behind the bike shed and get it pregnant.

    • inkface

      Dan, I like New Girl too.
      Qwerty, nothing and no one would ever top the televisual genius of 30 Rock. But I am free to have relationships with other TV series. We did agree that, remember?

    • inkface

      Just for our pleasure Qwerty, a quote from Liz Lemon I just nicked off Grace Dent’s Twitter feed:

      “I have been sexually rejected by not one but two men who later went to clown college”

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