It’s not often you find a TV sitcom with such a well-rounded cast of both actors and characters that any combination of them is funny and heartfelt. And if you tuned in to NBC’s Parks and Recreation when it began, you would not have witnessed such a show. The characters were not particularly deep, and Amy Poehler’s Leslie Knope was grating and annoying.
It had all of the discomfort and awkwardness of the first seasons of The Office without any of the hilarious situations or witty banter. But over the last two years a borderline miraculous thing has happened – Parks and Recreation has morphed into one of the best comedies currently on network television.
The P&R writers retooled almost all of the characters, subtly changing aspects of their personalities to make them more human and relatable while making them less stereotypical and one-dimensional. They also turned the fictional city of Pawnee, Indiana, into a sort of character in and of itself, complete with horrifying historical imagery and a library department full of humanity’s worst offerings.
The show has been able to deal with the ridiculous – like the dark and foreboding fourth floor – and the real equally well. Every relationship on the show seems genuine, making you feel like you are watching an actual group of friends and coworkers, not just a cast of goofballs thrown together for the sake of a TV show.
Everything about the show has clicked on every level since the beginning of Season 2. Even when the show is not hilarious – which is rare – it is heartwarming, charming and sweet.
The show’s most recent contribution, Thursday’s “Flu Season,” is arguably the best 30 minutes of the series and one of the best examples of what it does well. It thrust together characters that rarely get a chance to share the screen, and in every case it worked.
Its “laughs-per-minute” ratio was incredibly high, including one of the best jokes I have seen in as long as I can remember: Andy (Chris Pratt) diagnosing Leslie with “network connectivity problems” when he tried to Google her flu symptoms. It also proved Rob Lowe can be a talented comedic actor with his intense demand of his mirror image to “STOP. POOPING.”
Every actor and character got his or her own showcase, with everybody stealing at least one scene. But this has become par for the course. In Season 2, the writers found their voice and began to find the proper balance between goofy and grounded.
Now they are hitting their stride, and the cast is so deep that virtually every storyline and character pairing the writers have created works brilliantly. There is a little something for everyone: comedy, romance, friendship, as well as subtle commentary on bureaucracy.
So if you have never seen the show or were turned off by its lackluster first season, I implore you to support quality television and watch Parks and Recreation. Check out “Flu Season” currently available for free on Hulu, and if you like what you see Season 2 is available on Netflix’s Instant Stream. The show regularly airs at 9:30 p.m. Eastern/8:30 Central Thursdays on NBC.