I’ve been a fan of Parks and Recreation right from the start. Yes, it was a little too derivative of The Office, but once it found its groove and made its own mark, Parks and Rec quickly rose to the upper echelons of current TV comedy.
But it wasn’t until I started to watch the first three seasons of the show on DVD that it’s true brilliance really became apparent. While Modern Family is lapping up all the accolades and Emmy awards, I’m here to say that Parks and Recreation is the best comedy on TV today. By a long shot.
There is nothing else on TV that has characters with the depth of the Parks and Recreation cast. It’s a budding masterpiece of TV comedy. The characters are the best on television, scripts are razor sharp and laugh-out-loud hilarious, and the production values are big screen quality.
There is not a weak character in the cast. Consider:
• Leslie Knope (played with gusto by the hilarious Amy Pohler) is one of the great comic creations on television. Ambitious without being a jerk, boundlessly enthusiastic about civic government, and a glorious nerd, Knope is the last true believer in government;
• Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman, criminally-overlooked at Emmy time), the ubber-male, a civil servant who wants to destroy government (and my favorite TV character at this moment);
• Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari), pop-culture obsessed, would-be nightclub owner and fragrance designer;
• Ann Perkins (Rashida Jones), sane and reliable nurse and Leslie’s best friend;
• Bitter/sweet slackerette April Ludgate (Aubrey Plaza) and her lovable doofus husband (and lead singer of Mouse Rat) Andy Dwyer (Chris Pratt);
• Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott), the one-time boy wonder mayor who destroyed his hometown
• Chris Traeger (Rob Lowe), the ultra-intense, hyper-positive bureaucrat assigned to clean up the mess that is Pawnee.
While the living characters of Parks and Recreation are t the heart of its greatness, you can’t overlook Pawnee itself. (Check out its mock website at www.pawneeindiana.com.) Not since the Springfield of The Simpsons has a comedy made its location into a central character. Consider what we know about Pawnee. It’s America’s fourth fattest town. It has two major employers: Sweetums, makers of almost lethally sweet treats, and a rubber nipple factory. The walls of Pawnee city hall are festooned with hilariously inappropriate murals from its shockingly violent history. The townsfolk, frequently seen in town forums, are endlessly angry and abusive. The Pawnee local access program, Pawnee Today, holds unprecedented power in the town, as does its host, Joan Callamezzo (who is so popular, she has her own Oprah-esque book club). The town had an infatuation wit h Li’l Sebastian, a miniature horse whose death was cause of a huge public remembrance. It has a nightclub called the Snakehole where the regulars frequently gather to get seriously drunk.
Now, by comparison, consider what we know about the location of the current critical comedy fav, Modern Family — nothing. The only thing we know about the unnamed town of Modern Family is that is seems to be extraordinarily wealthy, in that all of its principals live very comfortable lives, while seemingly never working.
(Don’t get me wrong: I’m a big fan of Modern Family. But even at its best, it’s second to Parks and Recreation.)
Why Parks and Recreation isn’t more popular with viewers is beyond me. (Last week, something called Rules of Engagement has 11.81 million viewers to Parks and Recreation’s 4 million. But it’s gaining ground, according to this New York Times story http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/06/arts/television/parks-and-recreation-finds-its-legs-on-nbc.html?pagewanted=all) Maybe it’s too sophisticated. Maybe it’s not family-friendly enough. Maybe it doesn’t have enough of the smutty humor that fans of Two and a Half Men love. I don’t know. All I know it that Parks and Recreation is the best comedy on TV, and I dearly wish that more people would get on the bandwagon before its too late.