Someone at NBC must have said to Greg Daniels “we want you to create a show that is almost exactly like The Office without being set in an Office. Mr Daniels, happy to keep making television and sitcoms, duly obliged and the result is Parks and Recreation. A show that has “ordinary” characters with extreme personality traits and quirks, set in a mundane environment which through the stories and actions of the characters becomes anything but. It even has the same “mockumentary” style camera work and talking head interviews that helps The Office work so successfully.
Usually I’d hate that. I’d come down on the lack of creativity and originality but what Daniels has managed to do is take the best aspects of The Office and actually create something different enough that works. We don’t have a “Dwight” or a “Jim” or even, really, a “Pam.” Each of the characters in Parks and Recreation are unique and the show’s main success point.
The goofier and less self-aware are the best and that describes the two best characters in the show, Aziz Ansari as Tom Hatherford and Chris Pratt as Andy Dwyer. They get to say and do the best things in the series and the way that Tom plays off the central character, Leslie Knope played by Amy Poehler, are some of the best scenes in the whole show.
There doesn’t feel like any weak characters but just some that need more than a few episodes to develop further. Mark seemed like the most normal and concrete of characters in the show until we find out about his womanising and past with local ladies. I believed Nick Offerman as Ron Swanson was one of the weakest characters but you more you watch the more he develops into one of the coolest.
In fact, the weakest character, who by no means is a bad one, is the character that is closest to her Office counterpart Michael Scott. Amy Poehler does a fantastic female Michael Scott impression. So well in fact, that you could literally have Steve Carell’s character say her lines and it would fit. I started watching thinking this was a bad thing but The Office has proved that having this sort of ignorant but inspired central character make sense and is a good pair of eyes to see the show through.
It’s good that the characters are the strongest part of the show because the actual setting feels limiting. A government department that is responsible for Parks and Recreation doesn’t exactly feel like it will offer up as many opportunities as The Office setting did. This is felt in some episodes which feel very detached from the department or other episodes which rely on the more absurd to keep the story progressing.
You can tell its following the same format as its comedy inspiration because six episodes just doesn’t feel enough but having started to watch the second season, I can see that it gets much more room and breadth to develop. This is necessary because the show does get much better as it goes on and the characters become much more accessible and likable as the show progresses too. It’s a perfect example of letting a show find its feet before considering giving up on it, very much like The Office had to.
Overall, Parks and Recreation is all the best elements of The Office with some very different characters to its comedic cousin. The format works, the characters are funny enough to like and keep watching and Amy Poehler does a great version of Steve Carell’s Michael Scott in her character of Leslie Knope. The setting lacks the flexibility of The Office but I think a longer, more developed second season will solve that issue. Parks and Recreation shows a lot of great potential.
Best Episode – Canvassing: An episode that highlights Tom Hatherford as a character, as well as showing how good Amy Poehler is as Leslie Knope.
Best performance – Aziz Ansari as Tom Hatherford.
Should there have been another season? – Yes, the show has loads of potential and the characters are the sort I want to keep watching and finding out about.
Season Rating – 3.5
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)