Plot: In the small town of Pawnee, Indiana, no one cares about the community as much as Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), the Deputy Director of Parks and Recreation. She has lived and breathed civil service her entire life and what most people see as small town bureaucracy, she sees as chance to make the world around her a better place. Even with her own office she is seen as over the top in her zealous endeavors, but her positive energy and relentless drive are often enough to push her to success. She hears a lot of complaints and takes them all to heart, but when she decides she wants to make her mark (and a new friend), she sees an open pit as a chance to do so, by putting a park in place of the dangerous vacant lot. But can one woman, even one as obsessed as Leslie, make a real difference?
Entertainment Value: As the U.S. version of The Office proved to be a ratings beast, Parks and Recreation was rolled on the airwaves, a similar premise rooted in tedious work, but this time in a government office. While the concept shares some elements, the shows were much different and Parks and Recreation found an audience, lasting an impressive seven seasons. The humor was quirky right from the start, with colorful, but fairly believable characters, as if real life people were amplified to bring out their more over the top traits. The small town locale ensures there was always drama, as news travels fast in Pawnee the show’s first season was a solid debut, able to entertain and build a foundation for the entire series. The show would cycle through characters and various arcs of course, but it always managed to retain that original texture, though it would get more ridiculous as time passed. I think the first few seasons remain the best, as they lean less on familiar threads to sell the humor, but even in later seasons, the show is always a fun watch.
The consistent performance of the show is thanks to the writing, which was able to feel uniform over the entire run of the show, save some duds in the later seasons, while the cast remained intact for most of the run as well. The characters who left were no real loss to the show, while the new additions were a perfect fit for the material and used quite well. I appreciate how the show was able to take small roles and use them just often enough, so that you’d hope to see them at times, though some were overkilled, such as the dentist. Small doses work better for some characters and for the most part, Parks and Recreation nailed that concept. The main cast had good chemistry and a lot of comic talent stacked up, with Poehler, Nick Offerman, Aubrey Plaza, Chris Pratt, Rashida Jones and mid-show additions Rob Lowe and Adam Scott, who managed to become natural fits right off the bat. I wouldn’t rank Parks and Recreation with the best television comedies out there, but it is a rock solid show that entertains throughout and delivers some memorable moments.