Five Reasons You Should Watch “Parks and Recreation”

25 Nov

With Mad Men off the air, the only shows I’m watching right now are comedies – but man, there are a lot of them! The Office and 30 Rock have become old standbys, but newcomers Community (absolutely hilarious) and Modern Family (Still funny, though not killing me like it was at first) are both great. And now comes yet another – “Parks and Recreation,” the new(ish) NBC comedy starring Amy Poehler. Thanks to Alan Sepinwall’s insistence that this show had really come into its own this season (actually, he called it “the best comedy airing on TV right now”), I started watching. Dudes, it is hilarious – below are five reasons to watch, in no particular order:

1. Amy Poehler

The main attraction for the show, Poehler plays Leslie Knope, a dithering but highly motivated city hall employee. She has some similarities to Liz Lemon, mostly in her sad personal life, and I don’t doubt that at some point Tina Fey will turn up on the show, but dang, Amy Poehler is just as good as Fey is on 30 Rock. Initially, she seemed like a bit of a Michael Scott clone, but as you get to know her, it becomes clear the character is quite a bit different. Mainly in that, as Sepinwall pointed out, while she may be a blundering dunderhead, she’s actually good. She has a stubborn willpower that gets stuff done, and she’s generally more driven than anyone else around her. Despite the fact that her last name is “Knope.”

2. Back Home Again

This one’s personal – Parks and Recreation is set in fictional Pawnee, a small town in central Indiana, and the show gets a lot of mileage out of that setting. Whether it’s the huge poster of Coach Knight that’s up in Ron Swanson’s office, or the hilarious episode “The Camel,” in which Donna puts together a “Last Supper”-style collage of famous people from Indiana (nailing, of course, the usual three people that everyone from Indiana always lists – Michael Jackson, Larry Bird, and John Mellencamp), it’s awesome to get to see so much Indiana-humor! And that’s not to mention the totally outstanding City of Pawnee Website that NBC has up – the section on Knife Safety is particularly great.

3. Aziz Ansari

Ansari plays Tom Haverford, a fratty, shallow, super cocky (with more than a hint of insecurity) city hall staffer, and the dude is hilarious. The recent episode “The Camel,” which is still on Hulu and is probably the funniest episode of the show so far, features a scene in which he stares at an abstract painting and is terrified to find that it’s having an emotional effect on him. It was a highlight, but Ansari has standout moments every episode. Kind of a rising star, I think.

4. The Murals in Pawnee City Hall

A running gag in Parks and Recreation is that the murals in the Pawnee City Hall all seem to depict incredibly offensive bits of Pawnee history. There was “The Trial of Chief Wamapo,” (a native American chief is tied to a tree and executed by cannon), “A Lively Fisting,” in which a settler man is brawling with a settler woman and punching her in the stomach, and “The Spirit of Pawnee,” which is a smorgasbord of offensiveness, featuring straw-hat-wearing Chinese and drunken Irish rail workers watching as a train runs over a group of Indians. (City official: “The city council has decided to replace “The Spirit of Pawnee” with something a little less… horrifying.”)

“The Trial of Chief Wamapo”

It’s funny cause it’s true – a ton of local Indiana history revolves around settlers and their interactions with the various indigenous tribes that dotted the area, and so the stories usually, you know, end in betrayal and genocide. I can tell that we’re going to see a lot more of these murals over the course of the show, and am really looking forward to what awfulness they come up with next.

 

5. The Theme Song

I think Parks and Recreation has my favorite opening credits music ever. From the first time I heard it, the trumpet came in, the tune modulated to minor, and I was sold. The show itself actually features diegetic music (there is no background music, ever, it only comes from in-show sources like stereos and car radios), so the main theme is really the only musical identity the show has. I’ve talked before about my admiration of Jeff Richmond’s music from 30 Rock, and I do think that the incidental music on that show is brilliant (and more evidently the work of a single artist), but the opening to Parks and Rec, intercut with all that Indiana imagery, tops it. I actually found an MP3 of it online, and though I’ve yet to find the composer (update- NBC’s site says it’s by Gaby Moreno and Vincent Jones. Props, guys!) I thought I’d post it here so that y’all could listen:

See? Way fun!

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3 Responses to “Five Reasons You Should Watch “Parks and Recreation””

  1. Anne November 25, 2009 at 12:38 pm #

    Dude! I love that show. I just blog-plugged it a couple of weeks ago, actually:

    http://aphaeresis.blogspot.com/2009/11/parks-and-re-creation.html

    Also, my husband is all excited because he knows someone who knew someone who once knew Aziz Ansari. Or something. Whoohoo!

  2. thesoniashow November 26, 2009 at 9:47 am #

    OK, OK, you convinced me. The DVR is set. I watched the show’s first season and was underwhelmed, but I will give it another shot.

    • Kirk November 26, 2009 at 11:29 am #

      Cool! I watched the eps that are on Hulu first and then downloaded the first season (which was only 6 episodes?) just to see what I’d missed. I liked those episodes fine, mainly because I already knew the characters, but the new ones are a lot stronger, no question.

      They’ve started to focus a lot more on the supporting characters, which was a good call. If you can watch the most recent few that are on Hulu, I recommend it – they’re damn funny!

      So, hope you like it, if only so that I can make up for convincing you to watch Dollhouse. Eek.

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