It’s National Parks Week, giving Laura Lexx the perfect excuse to revisit an American comedy packed with heart, lacking in peril and serious about waffles.
I’ll put it out there from the start: I have a specific taste in television. I do not like to be nervous, tense or spend my Wednesday evenings viewing rape and murder as suddenly entertaining just because they’re fictional.
I’ve not seen your Throne Games or that Bad what got Broken all over the place, and I didn’t get too far into Outlander before I declared myself a Sassenach and had myself deported.
This is exactly why I love Parks and Recreation; it cradles my nervy balls and hugs them into its soft downy cheek for binge viewing without peril.
Created by Greg Daniels (The Office, King of the Hill) and Michael Schur (SNL, Brooklyn Nine-Nine), Parks and Recreation follows the political ambitions of Lesley Knope (Amy Poehler) as she makes her way (through seven seasons) all the way from Deputy Director of the Pawnee Parks and Recreation Department to the White House.
It’s part screwball, part touching, part downright gross-out mockumentary – and the most beautiful thing about it is that it grows up. It’s not stuck in a permanent adolescence where men are funny because they’re idiots and women sleep with them occasionally.
“The fun that oozes from set to screen is palpable; it has that It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia feeling of actors having the time of their lives with writers they trust.”
The show was originally intended as a spin-off from The Office (though this is occasionally disputed). Thankfully, despite its similarities in drawing humour from officialdom, it casts off the awkward, cringing, competitive layer of comedy and fosters an air of niceness to cushion a comedy of bureaucratic restrictions.
Lesley Knope is a competitive, detail obsessed, neurotic workaholic with time for a million other human interests and flaws alongside these. It’s refreshing – if you don’t mind me getting a bit WOMEN on you for a minute – to have a working female given relationships, children, friendships and hobbies without her having that ‘realisation’ moment where she puts her silly career ideas in a box.
The world of Parks and Rec alters dramatically through the passage of time it inhabits, allowing the writers to change the angle from which we view the characters. It stops it becoming staid and lazy; tweaking the situation causes a change in the comedy and forces brilliant new flares as the tectonic plates beneath the well-established characters shift.
Heck, that might be sounding a bit complex. The show is really very funny and accessible, I promise. Here, watch this:
I have probably said “Stop pooping” close to nine billion times since I first saw that episode.
Parks and Recreation has some incredible stand-out characters. Ron Swanson has spawned a thousand internet memes about women and breakfast food. He’s an iconic grumpy, anti-establishment gold hearted bear brought to life via Nick Offerman’s childish giggle, deadpan deliver and excellent ‘tache.
Aubrey Plaza plays April Ludgate, who begins as a sulking intern accidentally allowing her total disdain for her job to make her become indispensable, but by the end of the show she’s blossomed into an interesting example of a married woman trying to find a career she actually likes.
Chris Pratt turns in a hysterical performance as Andy Dwyer, ex-boyfriend of Ann Perkins (Rashida Jones) and part-time shoe shiner. It also doesn’t hurt when he disappears mid-season and comes back buff from shooting Guardians of the Galaxy. Yes, please.
It has a bulletproof level of cameo appearances. My favourites are John Hamm and Paul Rudd, but also look out for Louis CK and Henry Winkler along the way. The fun that oozes from set to screen is palpable; it has that It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia feeling of actors having the time of their lives with writers they trust.
I implore you to watch it; if you’re tired of shouting being funny and casual violence being mainstream then pull up the drawbridge and spend seven seasons in the company of a show where the only thing likely to be taken seriously is waffles.
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I am a comedian, writer, baker and glorious feminist. I am nothing if not enthusiastic about everything. @lauralexx