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Friday, January 21, 2011

Parks and Rec- "Go Big or Go Home"

See, what did I tell you? Since I know you all treasure my sage counsel and would thus never go against it, I can assume that you all tuned into NBC to watch Parks and Recreation last night for their first new episode of the season. What you saw was a well-crafted show featuring some of the best comic characters on television. When you tune in next week, and you will, I’m sure you’ll see more of the same.

Whether the idea developed organically or was foisted upon them by the network, I think the opening voiceover was a smart move. This show needs a wider audience, and if that means letting people catch up, so be it. (The show continued in this bent by underlining its callbacks, such as Leslie explaining to Ben why she is revered at the gay bar- she married two male penguins in the Season 2 premiere.)

You had to be charmed by the “let’s get the gang back together” vibe to the first few scenes. Notice how capably, and subtly, these also inform the casual viewer to the character types. Ron Swanson’s lack of enthusiasm at going back to government work, Tom’s ego and sleaziness, Donna’s outsized personality, and the gang’s comi-tragic undervaluation of Jerry and his talents.

The writers seem to have a plausible answer for everything. I wondered if Rob Lowe’s upbeat character would be a realistic match for Rashida Jones’ Ann Perkins, but their connection on their date, as he shared his admiration for nurses and the source of his sunny disposition (he treats like a gift because he wasn’t suppose to live more than a few weeks) struck all the right chords.

I’m so glad that Parks and Rec is back that I probably would have greatly appreciated even a so-so episode. I’m so glad the show didn’t have to rely on my own (temporarily) sunny disposition.

Here's maybe the ultimate sign of this show's strength. I've gotten this far into this review without mentiong Ron Swanson's Pyramid of Greatness, his Wooden-esque teaching tool for molding his youth-league basketball team into winners. You have to look up the full version online to appreciate the care this show's writers take, but even the bits they showed on TV were golden. "Fish: only for sport. Fish meat is practically a vegetable." "Capitalism: God's way to determine who is smart and who is poor." I'm laughing at my desk just remembering it.

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