On March 6th, Parks and Recreation finally comes to the UK on BBC4. The comedy is on its fifth season in the US, and while it isn’t exactly a ratings smash over there, it has been adored by critics and fans for years.
Parks and Recreation is from the creators of the Office, Mike Schur and Greg Daniels, and follows a similar mockumentary, talking heads format. The show follows Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), the deputy director of the Parks and Recreation department of Pawnee, Indiana, and her workmates – wannabe entrepreneur Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari), apathetic college intern April Ludgate (Aubrey Plaza), city planner Mark Brendanawicz (Paul Schneider), and no-nonsense, government hating head of department Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman). Leslie’s quest to make her mark in government and do good for her beloved home town lead her to meeting nurse Ann Perkins (Rashida Jones) and her layabout musician boyfriend Andy Dwyer (Chris Pratt), who are trying to get the empty construction pit outside Ann’s house filled in after Andy fell into it, and broke both his legs.
I’m going to be honest; the first seven or so episodes aren’t that great. (Season One consists of only six episodes, but BBC4 is expected to show the much longer Season Two straight after.) Don’t get me wrong, they are enjoyable and funny, but it does take the show a little while to find itself. But the wait is worth it, because Parks and Recreation becomes one of the funniest and most heart warming comedies that has been on the air in recent years. Think Modern Family, but better.
The thing that makes Parks so special is the pure amount of heart it possesses, and the love and care that is put into the show. The fictional town of Pawnee has almost become its own character. From the eccentric town residents (bitchy, drunk ‘Pawnee Today’ host Joan Callamezzo is my particular favourite), to the colourful town history, the writers have put a lot of effort into creating a whole little world for the Parks and Recreation characters to exist in. It’s clear the writers genuinely love and care about these characters, who grow and change throughout the show.
Amy Poehler’s warmth and humour shine through to make Leslie one of the most awesome female characters currently on television. She’s independent, smart, passionate and adorable, and is all for woman power and ladies celebrating ladies. As she says in the pilot, ‘You know, I like to tell people to get on board and buckle up because my ride’s gonna be a big one, and if you get motion sickness, put your head between your knees because Leslie Knope’s stopping for no one.’ You’ll be rooting for Leslie to achieve her dreams, and wishing she were real so she really could become the first female president of the United States.
I don’t want to undersell the fact that this show is hilarious. Nick Offerman, who plays the deadpan, masculine Ron Swanson, is a standout. His favourite things are hunting, breakfast foods and meat, and he has not one, but two ex-wives named Tammy (‘both of them’, he reveals, ‘are bitches’). Then there’s Chris Pratt, who plays Andy Dwyer, who has some of the best physical comedy skills around. The show also benefits from some amazing guest stars – Nick Offerman’s real life wife Megan Mullally (yes, Karen from Will and Grace!) will literally have you crying from laughter when she appears as Tammy 2. Other highlights include comedy greats Paul Rudd, Louis C.K, Andy Samberg and Will Arnett. And get excited when Ben Schwartz shows up as Tom’s cocky friend Jean-Ralphio, because your world will never be the same again.
If you want a show that is going to make you laugh, but also give you tons of emotions about these characters and their relationships with one another, then check out the wonderfulness that is Parks and Recreation. It’s a half-hour of pure happy every week.
Parks and Recreation begins with a special double bill on BBC 4, Wednesday March 6th, at 10pm.