The autumn TV show season always sends a flutter of excitement into the heart of any avid viewer, and Stateside, there are just so many to choose from. One comedy series starting its fourth year due to its enormous US success is Parks And Recreation, which has yet to be picked up here in the UK. That really is a travesty, as it’s easily the funniest thing on TV at the moment. So here at Den of Geek, we thought it’s about time we spread the word.
In a nutshell, Parks And Recreation follows the deputy director of the Parks Department of Pawnee, Indiana, Leslie Knope and her team. In the first series, she sets out to fill a pit, which caused local man Andy Dwyer to fall and break both his legs, and turn it into a park. Her staff, along with Andy’s girlfriend Ann Perkins, begin their mission to secure funding.
It’s a documentary-style comedy like The Office, but as the season progressed, its own style and unique sense of humour separated it from any other shows around, and by the third season, came into a league of its own.
So, if you’ve yet to catch this gem, or have no idea what this is all about, here are eight reasons you need to get into this show.
Amy Poehler is best known for her work as writer and comedian on the long-running show Saturday Night Live and, maybe most significantly, her portrayal of Hilary Clinton against Tina Fey’s Sarah Palin. When she left SNL to star in her own TV Show, there were inevitable comparisons to that of her comedy counterpart and friend, Tina Fey.
Thankfully, they stopped soon after the first season of Parks And Recreation aired, when it was clear that Poehler brought a fresh appeal to the lead role. The series was at first thought to be a spin off from The Office, but it never went that way – and thank God, because it had the freedom to do whatever it liked. Leslie’s character is so unique and has so many great qualities, it’s hard to think of anyone else like her on TV. She’s fun, motivated, a good role model, yet incredibly ridiculous. No one but Poehler could pull this role off.
It beat the hiatus
You know that thing that American networks do where they cancel perfectly good TV shows for no real reason when they just started to get going? (Firefly, My So Called Life, and Freaks And Geeks are but a few examples.) Well, that happened with Parks And Recreation, with the series put on hold for a few months with no real idea of whether it would be back or not.
Luckily, it came back for its best season yet and even better, poked fun at the situation, with a promo for Funny or Die. It bodes well that this is a show that can fend off the network suits. Its audience has grown since, and has been been given the recognition it deserves at several award shows.
Aubrey Plaza has, over the past few years, made quite a name for herself on the comedy scene and has starred in some very cool films like Funny People and Scott Pilgrim Vs The World. She has the most incredible dead pan delivery, and brings that to her role of April Ludgate, the office intern.
One of the coolest things in the series is how her relationship with boss Ron Swanson (more on him later) develops like a father-daughter relationship, but not in the mushy way you might think – more like bonding over a shared cynical outlook on the world. She makes incredibly cutting remarks, and often shoots a look that will shut people up in a second, and I have to believe that she is like this in real life.
In fact, when talking about meeting Aubrey for the first time, Parks And Recreation co-writer Michael Schur said, “Aubrey sat in my office and made me feel uncomfortable to a level a 32 year old guy should never feel… She was just staring at me… I may as well have been tap dancing like Daffy Duck trying to entertain her.” They pretty much wrote the part of April for her during that meeting, and it worked.
Because of Amy’s connection to Saturday Night Live, there are plenty of excellent cameos from old and current SNL cast members that have resulted in some great performances. These include Fred Armisan as a government official from Pawnee’s sister city in Venezuela, Andy Samberg as a useless and incredibly loud park ranger and Will Forte as a Twilight obsessed fan who chains himself to the parks department when they refuse to put a Twlight book in a time capsule (arguably the greatest episode of the series). It’s cool to see these familiar faces pop up, and they seem so natural due to their obvious chemistry with Poehler.
Jean Ralphio, played by Ben Schwartz, is a character who pops up now and again as a club promoter and friend of the park department’s Tom Haverford, is probably the more contentious character of the show. You will either love him or hate him, so his presence on this list is an indication of our particular stance on him.
His partnership with Tom is crazy, and their delusional belief they are the hottest thing in town is hilarious – he even dresses up in Justin Bieber attire in the new season. He is yet to be a season regular, but it makes it all the better when he randomly (and it’s always randomly) appears.
After the second season, there was a bit of a shake up in the casting. Paul Schneider sadly left, and was replaced with Adam Scott and Rob Lowe. This can be a bit of a gamble sometimes, especially when a format is working, with such tight chemistry, and this was definitely a make or break situation. However, Rob Lowe stormed in with a rather peculiar character, Chris Traegar, set to shake things up in the parks department. He is a health nut and the most positive character ever created. Rob Lowe is a great actor with a real penchant for comedy, so it is was good to see him look comfortable back on the small screen. His and Adam Scott’s characters easily moulded with the rest of the cast, and have made the show even better.
There’s a reason I haven’t listed this entry as Nick Offerman, who plays Ron Swanson. Nick Offerman is amazing, there’s no denying that, but it’s Ron Swanson’s character that is one of the show’s biggest attractions. He is an all-American man, with a disdain for the government he works for, but also a true gent when he needs to be. There’s pretty much one character in every good comedy show that is chock full of excellent one-liners, and Ron Swanson is that guy in Parks And Recreation. The Ron Swanson Pyramid of Greatness pretty much explains all you need to know about Rob’s beliefs, and how he likes to live his life.
It has heart
Okay, now don’t think I’m going to go all soppy here – there’s nothing worse than when a TV series lays on the emotion too thickly, and where the moral outcome of each episode makes you want to vomit (Scrubs, anyone?). The amazing thing Parks And Recreation manages to do is give you that feeling of unity on screen, a sense that these people are all connected, which is lovely, but the writers don’t ram it down your throat. There is a definite balance that isn’t preaching, and it can still take the piss out of itself gloriously.
With this list complete, we now urge the powers that be to bring Parks And Recreation to the UK. This is a show that needs to be seen by more people, so spread the word, and we can make this happen. Hopefully.