Sunday, 6 February 2011

Parks and Recreation

 Parks and Recreation is a sitcom from some of the team behind the U.S version of The Office, a sort of spiritual spin-off it takes the format of the naturalistic mockumentary sitcom and places it into a new setting, in this case the Parks and Recreation branch of the local government for Pawnee – a fictional small town in the state of Indiana.


Leslie Knope played by Amy Poehler is in the sort of role played by Steve Carell and Ricky Gervais , but she’s really developed into her own character over the course of the 2nd season Poehler’s character is far more likeable than Carell or Gervais . She's certainly capable of some very selfish, careerist moves but it'll usually be motivated by good intentions, and if she does the episode will usually end with her humiliated and having to apologise for what she's done. She actually loves what she does, she has higher political aspirations and has delusions she could be President someday but she'll never make it, because she's far too moral to step on people's toes and lie and cheat her way to the top and so is destined to spend her entire life working in local Pawnee government. It's a perfect sitcom trope of a character being stuck in their situation but done through a modern naturalistic aesthetic.

It has some similar character arcs and love triangle relationships going on, but with enough different twists on it to distinguish it, and the characters really bring it to life, Most notably the relationship between Andy (Chris Pratt) who has to be one of the funniest and most endearingly childish and stupid characters in a sitcom I’ve seen in years. And April (Aubrey Plaza) the cynical college intern, comes out with the one liners, and ironic looks to the camera, but she’s slowly developed a more human and vulnerable side over time. The way their relationship has developed has been incredibly well written and likeable.

The thing that’s been surprising to me over the series is how broad some of the humour is, fairly slapstick moments, almost cartoonish levels of stupidity in characters, and I mean all this in a good way. One of the downsides I’d found in recent years with The naturalistic/mockumentary format was that they weren’t ever quite as laugh out loud funny as the best traditional sitcoms that had more heightened dialogue. Parks and Rec gets more of a balance between the two, delivering huge laughs, and having big broad moments, but still getting to do some of more subtle understated jokes of the mockumentary format. It’s also able to take a few liberties with it, as whoever the documentary crew are, they seem to be able to follow multiple characters around at once and through more personal moments.

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