Parks and Recreation Review

Preface

  • Here’s a quote I’ve coined. “The least important thing in making a comedy is having it be funny.”
  • With that, let’s discuss.

Premise

  • Parks and Recreation is an NBC sitcom that started in 2009 and completed its run just a few weeks ago.
  • It’s about workers at the Parks and Recreation department in the small town of Pawnee, Indiana and all the triumphs or lack thereof they may or may not accomplish.
  • And well. It’s kinda good. Kinda?

Leslie Knope

  • Alright, now I usually don’t like to start these things off with negatives but when the focus of your show is the biggest negative, I kinda have to.
  • Amy Poehler is a funny actress, I’ve seen old SNL skits with her, she’s great at the Golden Globes, and she’s been great in all of her movie appearances.
  • Her character in this show is called Leslie Knope, and for the first two seasons I knew nothing about this character.
    • I have a litmus test to see if a character on a show is actually a character or just a caricature.
    • Can I describe them in more than 5 key traits?
    • Leslie Knope, I got two: motivated and feminist.
  • The most important part of any sitcom is making characters that you believe could actually exist.
    • Barney from How I Met Your Mother could be seen as a little static through the first few episodes, but by the time you get to the end of the first season you know his backstory and you see that there’s more to him than just funny womanizer.
  • I’ll talk more about this in the writing, but this is a character driven show and to make that work you need the characters to experience change and strong development over the seasons.
    • Friends did this, 30 Rock did this, Community does it all the time.
  • In Season 3, they introduce a character who is meant to humanize Leslie, and it works.
    • For 5 episodes until the writing switches to a plot-driven approach.
  • So wait, you spend the first 2 seasons building up 8/9 good characters and right when you’re about to hit 9/9 you switch up the formula?
    • No! Keep going, make us care!!
  • In Season 1 Leslie wasn’t even likable, so at least as the seasons go on they make her a likable caricature, and I compliment the writers on that.
  • But since I’ve spent the first portion of this review complaining, just know this foreshadowing: I think that the Leslie Issue is completely resolved by the end of the show, and that will be the last point I touch on.

Cast and Characters

  • But other than Leslie, I liked pretty much every character in this show.
  • Rashida Jones plays Ann Perkins, a nurse who is brought in to help at the department in developing a park near her house.
  • Tom Haverford played by Aziz Ansari is the character who ultimately keeps you entertained through the Leslie annoyances of the first season.
    • He keeps a character of exaggeration so exaggerated, but never crosses into unbelievable territory.
  • And the character relationships in this show are great too. Like Tom plays really well off of Donna played by Rhetta.
    • Who comes into play in the middle of the show and is a main cast member by the time the show ends.
  • April and Andy are great in terms of working well together too.
    • Andy Dwyer, played by Chris Pratt, is the most lovable goofball I’ve seen recently on TV.
    • He’s so stupid, but works so well.
    • And April, played by Aubrey Plaza, is the sulky and dull intern at the beginning of the show who works her way up as the show goes on.
    • And it’s funny to see Aubrey Plaza in this cuz I’d seen her in movies like The To-Do List or Safety Not Guaranteed, so it was awesome seeing her play a pretty different role than she was in those movies.
  • And Marck Schneider is in the show for the first 2 seasons, and yeah he’s pretty good.
    • It’s funny how they kinda set up his character a certain way, and you see how it’s probably gonna end for him, but then when he leaves the show you don’t even care about what happened to his character.
    • He was kinda meh anyway.
  • Then we got 4 more. (There’s a lot of characters on this show.)
  • Ben Wyatt, as played by Adam Scott.
    • And Adam Scott in this role reminds me so much of myself, and he plays Ben so well.
    • He’s the average guy who actually sees how absurd these Parks Department shenanigans are.
  • Then we got Chris Traeger played by Rob Lowe.
    • He and Ben are both introduced in Season 3, which provides some fun new variety.
    • And Chris is awesome in Season 3, he has this one-liner that totally summarizes his personality for the rest of the show.
    • And throughout Season 4 (which I’ll probably say is my least favorite of the seasons) his lines really keep us entertained.
  • And Nick Offerman as Ron Swanson is the character you’ve heard about even if you don’t watch the show.
    • Going in, my friends had told me that Ron Swanson was this god of some kind, and he was pretty cool. Maybe not as awesome as you’ve heard but I love his no-nonsense, no-care attitude.
    • Nick Offerman will continue to be straight and stern figures of authority until the day he dies, and I will watch every one of them.
  • And then we got Jerry Gergich who I will say is my favorite character in the show.
    • The first episode you notice him in is the mural one, and from there his bit continues to grow and be great.
    • He kinda reminds me of Kenneth from 30 Rock, if Kenneth was harassed and berated by his coworkers.
    • And I love the way his arc ends too.
  • A little more complaining: the main supporting players were good, but there some obvious characters you can tell were supposed to be in one episode.
    • And then they get a recurring arcs a little later on because the writers didn’t know what to do. So they were like, “hey bring the annoying councilman or radio personality back!”
  • And I get that they were trying to actually build the town of Pawnee for you, but I always felt like this was supposed to be more about the main characters than the plot.

Writing: Characters vs. Plot

  • Alright, so I touched on this earlier but let’s go a little further in depth.
  • The main point of a show is to develop characters, even if the main character is completely static and has no development.
  • You see where the show could be going and you really like it at the end of Season 3.
    • The characters all look like they’re going in a positive direction, the writers have the show where they want it, etc.
    • To compare this to 30 Rock again, after Season 3 of 30 Rock the writers knew what to do and could just run with what they established.
  • At the end of Season 3 of Parks and Rec, instead of running with the setup they’ve had, the characters come to almost a stand-still and the writers substitute in a season-long plot-driven arc that feels really bizarre…
  • They do return to what they were going for about halfway through Season 6, and that’s where things get good again. But I’ll get to that later.

Seasons Rundown

  • In these TV show reviews, I usually go through each season and state the pros and cons of each. Since I did it so often, I figured I should make it its own heading.
  • And don’t worry, no spoilers lie ahead.
  • And I’ll give each season its own rating, but the whole series will get its own rating at the end too.
  • Season One.
    • Good setup, but the show still needs to realize what it’s going for. Leslie is really annoying, and Andy comes off pretty jerky but characters like Tom keep the show afloat. Pretty okay overall. 3/5
  • Season Two.
    • Realizes the cons of Season One, makes characters like Andy and Leslie more likable (though doesn’t grow Leslie as much). Takes the characters outside of the Parks department more, which shows each one off as who they really are. Some of the series’ best, and definitely some re-watchable episodes. 4/5
  • Season Three.
    • Though it doesn’t hit the top that Season Two did, new characters added to enjoyable parts of the show. And the condensed episode order made the season even better through efforts of conciseness. I think my favorite episode of the show is also in this season. (And any season with Lil’ Sebastian is a winner to me.) 4/5
  • Season Four.
    • Probably the low point of the show, which throws out the character care of previous seasons in exchange for attempts at campaign-based laughs which weren’t actually as good as other campaign-based movies/TV shows. 2/5
  • Season Five.
    • After trying to come back from the plummet of Season Four, Season Five has new styles of humor being tried out, but still doesn’t have as much care put into the characters. The show seems to be evolving into more of a political satire than an NBC comedy that it originally set out to be. So close, but not quite there. 2.9/5
  • Season Six.
    • If you asked me to review the first half of this season? Snore-fest, felt like filler. Chris Pratt was off shooting Guardians of the Galaxy and the writers weren’t quite sure where to go next. And I was worried about this decision that happened halfway through this season because it would impact the rest of the show. BUT that decision made the show feel lower-scale, which in turn made it more character centric and returned to the glory of the first three seasons. And the final 8-9 episodes of this season were the best the show had been since the Season Three finale. 3.9/5
  • Season Seven.
    • You remember how I said a show should know what it is and just run with that after Season Three? Parks and Rec gained its traction back halfway through Season 6, made the characters feel important, and in Season Seven you see the emotion that show didn’t have a ton of before. Leslie actually becomes a dynamic character, she experiences change and development over the course of this season. Tom goes through emotional stuff in his life. Every main character is explored, and strengthened, while staying funny, keeping the writing sharp, and ending on a high note. 5/5
  • Ultimately, there are three aspects to a television comedy: characters (development, believability), writing (setup/structure/dialogue), and humor.
    • And the reason Community is my favorite show is because it’s the only show that fulfills all three of those criteria fully and to 5/5%.
    • This show stayed funny throughout, but the characters were lacking in nearly every season except the last one.
    • “The least important thing in making a comedy is having it be funny.”

In Conclusion

  • In Conclusion, Parks and Recreation is a show that I laughed at quite a few times, but had some confusing character development.
  • Many of the characters were good and played off each other really well, but the lead did seem like a caricature for 85% of the show.
  • There were quite a few episodes I’d like to re-watch, but there were some I forgot about right after watching them.
  • I think the show really focused itself up halfway through Season 6 and really redeemed itself, making Season 7 some of the best TV on during this current television season.
  • Finales help too. 30 Rock’s finale boosted the show from a 3.8 to a 4.
    • Parks and Recreation Series Finale wasn’t as good as 30 Rock’s, but I do think it was executed extremely well and cleverly used a method that could’ve proven ineffective. Tip of the hat, and nice job there.
  • So I will say to definitely check out Seasons 1-3 and 6-7 of Parks and Recreation, and hey maybe even those middle two if you have nothing else going on.

3.3/5

***

So guys, those are my thoughts on Parks and Recreation!   I know that a lot of people love this show, and I’d love to hear all of your thoughts in the comments down below! And who’s your favorite character? I’d say Jerry/Gary or Tom. And as always, thanks for reading guys.

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