Category Archives: Parks and Recreation

Season Premiere: Parks and Recreation – “Go Big or Go Home”

“Go Big or Go Home”

January 20th, 2011

“We’re back.”

According to Leslie Knope, the job of the Parks department of Pawnee is to “make this town fun for the people who live here.” Of course, considering that the Pawnee government was shut down at the conclusion of the series’ second season, this is a more difficult job than it used to be – there’s only one program, and the rest of the department is in “maintenance mode.”

Leslie Knope does not do maintenance. She needs a project, somewhere to channel her earnest energy towards the betterment of her town. Leslie needs a pit to fill, a gazebo to save, or a Freddy Spaghetti concert to rescue from a government collapse. She didn’t marry two gay penguins because she wanted to make a statement, she did it because it would be cute, and because it could be something fun. What the second season of Parks and Recreation established so wonderfully was why Leslie Knope does the things she does, and that it all boils down to making Pawnee a great place to live is what makes her so likeable.

Alan Sepinwall has already written about how the storyline introduced in “Go Big or Go Home” served as a metaphor for the season as a whole, with the Parks department on hiatus much like the show itself, so I want to focus more on how this episode is structured to make this show fun for the people who watch it. Even while being “burdened” with the set up for the Harvest Festival arc, and reestablishing the series’ balance following the arrival of Adam Scott and Rob Lowe, “Go Big or Go Home” is unabashedly fun in a way that signals a truly great series that continues to swing the hardest.

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A Plea for Pawnee: The Return of NBC’s Parks and Recreation

A Plea for Pawnee: The Return of Parks and Recreation

January 20th, 2011

Parks and Recreation was my favorite show on television last year.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you probably already know this. Despite the series’ absence from NBC’s fall schedule, the series has loomed large in both year-end lists and in week-to-week discussion of every other comedy on television. History will remember Outsourced as the show which bumped Parks and Recreation from the 2010 Fall schedule, if it remembers it at all. Even as Community has put together a string of winning episode  and Cougar Town has gained a certain cult following, Parks and Recreation was hanging around like the ghost of DJ Roomba, replacing the endless loop of the Black Eyed Peas with instantaneous access to the sterling second season on Netflix.

However, let’s get real for a moment. You might not be a regular reader of this blog, and you might not have any idea what a “DJ Roomba” even is. You might be one of those people who watched some of the series’ inconsistent episodes early in its short first season and decided that it wasn’t worth your time. It’s also possible that you just never found the show, limiting your NBC Thursday viewing to The Office and whatever happens to air after The Office. And, who knows, you might have no idea what any of this means, and just got here by randomly searching “Black Eyes Peas instantaneous access.”

Whatever category you fall into, however, you really need to watch Parks and Recreation. It is returning to television as part of an extended NBC comedy block, allowing for a certain degree of promotional attention, and it is finally nestled comfortably behind The Office where it should have been all along. And, as if that weren’t enough, the first six episodes of the third season are enormously confident, delivering big laughs while seamlessly transitioning into a new ongoing story arc. There has never been a better time to watch this show, and that’s saying something considering that there is never a bad time to watch this show.

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Handicapping the 2010 Emmys: NBC’s Parks and Recreation

Handicapping the 2010 Emmys: NBC’s Parks and Recreation

June 25th, 2010

[This is the first in a series of posts analyzing individual show's chances at the Emmy Awards ahead of the nominations, which will be announced on July 8th. You can find all of my posts regarding the 2010 Emmy Awards here.]

I think there are many who doubt Parks and Recreation’s chances at this year’s Emmy awards, and I understand where they’re coming from: the show’s weak first season left a poor impression last Spring, and the lack of starpower beyond Amy Poehler makes it tough for the series to really break through.

It’s tough to assess its Emmy chances without comparing it to past NBC comedies, and the comparisons don’t really do the show any favours. While The Office also had a weak, and ignored, first season which failed to register any Emmys attention, Steve Carell became a movie star between seasons and the series had the UK series’ pedigree to build from. And while 30 Rock was also a low-rated NBC comedy series with a female lead from Saturday Night Live, it was also a low-rated NBC comedy series which pandered to industry-types with both its movie star male lead (Alec Baldwin) and its show business-centric premise. Amy Poehler did not become a movie star this past summer, nor did the Academy suddenly become experts on small town government, which means that Parks and Recreation’s surge in quality between seasons has every chance of being ignored by voters.

However, I do think that Parks and Recreation will grab itself an Emmys foothold this year, if perhaps not quite as large a foothold as The Office found when it won the Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series in its second season. The Office didn’t grab a whole slew of nominations in that year: only Carell grabbed an acting nomination, and the show picked up just two editing nods and a writing nod (for Parks showrunner Michael Schur, in fact) to go along with them. I think there’s an outside chance of Parks and Recreation matching that total number of nominations when you factor in the technical awards (which I can’t really predict, but I have to hope those awesome murals don’t go unnoticed): Amy Poehler has to be considered a contender in Lead Actress in a Comedy Series after back-to-back nominations for Supporting Actress on Saturday Night Live, Megan Mullally has a great shot at grabbing a nod for her guest turn in “Ron & Tammy,” and the Outstanding Comedy Series category is unpredictable this year that there’s no way you can count out a show as good as this one.

And when it comes to Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series, I think it’s safe to say that Nick Offerman has already won the award for many of us, as Ron Swanson was the season’s breakout television character by a country mile. Precedence says that Offerman’s a long shot: not only is he not quite a household name, but Rainn Wilson and Tracy Morgan didn’t even get in for The Office’s second seasons, so the supporting players are often the last to be recognized when a show is making a name for itself. However, I have faith that either Emmy voters will have seen enough of his performance to see its genius or that they got wind of the fact that he’s married to seven-time nominee Mullally and luck their way into a brilliant decision.

Parks and Recreation is unquestionably, and unfairly, fighting an uphill battle, and I don’t expect it to break through as The Office and 30 Rock did in their first major Emmy seasons. However, I think it’s important to acknowledge that the show has some things going for it, and that quality is not always absent from Emmy races: Two and a Half Men got bumped from Outstanding Comedy Series by Flight of the Conchords and How I Met Your Mother last year, so it’s not as if there’s no room for a dark horse. It doesn’t have the strongest ratings, or much buzz outside of highly vocal critical circles, but it has a whole lot of heart, and I have to hope that meant something to voters when they cast their ballots.

Contender in:

  • Outstanding Comedy Series
  • Lead Actress in a Comedy Series (Amy Poehler)
  • Guest Actress in a Comedy Series (Megan Mullally)
  • Writing for a Comedy Series

Dark Horse in:

  • Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series (Nick Offerman)
  • Guest Actor in a Comedy Series (Rob Lowe)

Should, but Won’t, Contend in:

  • Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series (Aubrey Plaza)
  • Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series (Chris Pratt, Aziz Ansari)

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Season Finale: Parks and Recreation – “Freddy Spaghetti”

“Freddy Spaghetti”

May 20th, 2010

When I write about the Thursday comedies, I have to write about them after I finish watching them all, as there’s too many other Thursday programs recording on the common DVR which requires I watch them on a recording device-free television set. This is normally fine, but it seemed especially tough tonight, as every other show has to live up to the level of quality that Parks and Recreation has right now.

The best comedy finales are those which find elements of conflict within elements of stability, emphasizing the reasons that we love watching the show week-after-week and the reasons why it remains lively and eventful enough to keep from becoming too familiar. “Freddy Spaghetti” is the epitome of this type of finale, delivering plenty of evidence which captures the heart and soul of this show while introducing other elements that threaten that stability without necessarily overwhelming the positivity inherent to these characters.

It ends up leaving everything in a state of flux, with very little optimism about the future, and yet the show’s characters still seem so positive about their present situation that you feel like they can rise above any potential challenges. It doesn’t actually bring any of the season’s storylines to a wholly positive conclusion, but it complicates things in such an infectious fashion that it loses none of its momentum, and heads into a (sadly too, too long) hiatus with the best season of comic television we saw this year in its back pocket.

And no seven month break is going to change that fact.

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Parks and Recreation – “The Master Plan”

“The Master Plan”

May 13th, 2010

I hate to keep driving my “Parks: It’s the New Office!” comparisons into the ground, but I want you to think back to the start of The Office’s third season (which, not entirely coincidentally, picks up right after “Casino Night,” which I compared with last week’s “Telethon”). The show took a pretty considerable risk in introducing an entirely new workplace with Jim’s move to the Stamford branch, and the idea of introducing entirely new characters and “disrupting” the show seemed like a huge risk.

However, while these new characters (Andy and Karen, in particular) were brought into the picture to help emphasize the division within the show, the Stamford branch was comically consistent with the show as a whole. While it was a different environment, and their arrival in Scranton later in the season created plenty of conflicts, we accepted the characters because they fit in with what the show was trying to accomplish on the whole.

What Parks and Recreation did tonight, however, was perhaps even more impressive: they managed to not only humanize a character who is introduced as a point of conflict, but they managed to completely integrate a fairly big star into an existing comedy ensemble with remarkable proficiency. The credit at the start of “The Master Plan” may have jokingly read as “Introducing Rob Lowe,” but both the show and Lowe do such an amazing job of introducing these new characters into this existing group that any sense of conflict within the series’ actual narrative is non-existent, and we’re left to enjoy a pretty fantastic ramping up of both new and existing storylines without seeming distracted or chaotic.

Basically, I’m deep in the pot at this point, so if you’re at all not feeling the love I suggest you leave now before I lose all objectivity.

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Parks and Recreation – “Telethon”

“Telethon”

May 6th, 2010

The last time a Greg Daniels-produced series was ending its second season, the series’ star took a crack at writing an episode; the result was Steve Carell’s “Casino Night,” an episode largely comprised of a group of small moments for each character mixed in with some major developments with the two love triangles (Michael/Jan/Carol, and Jim/Pam/Roy) which were ongoing at the time.

“Telethon,” written by Amy Poehler and one of the final episodes of another Greg Daniels-produced show’s second season, is more or less the Parks and Recreation equivalent. You have a lot of small moments for all of the show’s supporting characters, you have movement on the two main relationships currently working their way through the series, and the end result (like “Casino Night”) is a really strong half-hour of television which embodies the series’ strength this year: it’s wonderfully odd, surprisingly sweet, and nicely balancing the line between awkward and hilarious.

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Parks and Recreation – “94 Meetings”

“94 Meetings”

April 29th, 2010

At the heart of Parks and Recreation are relationships which tend to swing between mutual tolerance and undying admiration. There is no relationship in the show that is entirely without complication, but there are also few relationships on the show which are outright hostile. The show has given just about every character on the show a chance to interact with another character in a sobering fashion, showing them something that goes beyond their comic persona to their true humanity. And yet, at the same time, their personalities continue to clash, which allows the show’s comedy to keep going even with a certain level of respect between the various people involved.

“94 Meetings” is an episode filled with tension, including continued tension in the show’s two romantic couplings, and when it overflows into something more than just your usual workplace personality clashes the show acknowledges it. There’s a point where characters go too far, and so long as the episode is willing to back them away from that cliff, and as long as we understand why they were there in the first place, then the show can continue balancing heartwarming friendships with undeniable conflicts for the foreseeable future.

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