By far, my favorite show on television at the current moment is NBC’s comedy “Parks and Recreation,” which follows the day-to-day operation of the fictional Pawnee, Ind., Parks department.
It was originally planned by its creators, Greg Daniels and Michael Schur, to be a direct spin off of “The Office,” but quickly they decided to make it function as its own different show.
The show is shot in the same single-camera mockumentary format as “The Office” was, and we view characters as they are working or giving one-on-one interviews to the camera crew and producers.
But to be sure, “Parks and Rec” is an incredibly detailed and very different show than its amazingly popular and now retired NBC sitcom sibling.
Also like its sibling, it is filled with an amazing pool of comedic acting talent lead by Amy Poehler, who plays Leslie Knope, an incredibly hard-working and level-headed government employee who also serves on the Pawnee City Council after winning her seat at the end of its fourth season.
Leslie is an incredibly optimistic person whose goal in life is to become President of the United States, worshipping idols like Hillary Clinton and Madeleine Albright. In her office we see framed photographs of such noble and important successful women everywhere.
Throughout the show’s five current seasons, she is repeatedly seen trying to put a positive spin on numerous forms of Pawnee’s many, many failures and does not always achieve her goals.
She works with the head of the parks department, Ron Swanson, who is a staunch libertarian and a believer that all government should be privatized.
Played by Nick Offerman, Swanson is a deadpan, stone-faced, monument to masculinity with a proclivity for meat, hunting, whiskey, and breakfast foods.
He is constantly seen avoiding the public and sits at work doing mostly nothing, leaving Leslie to effectively run the department.
In addition the show features characters played by Rashida Jones, Aziz Ansari, Aubrey Plaza, Chris Pratt and Rob Lowe, who all work at least in full or in part for the Parks department during their seasons on the show.
Naturally, however, the city of Pawnee is one of the biggest players in the show, with its government providing the basis for most episodes.
Pawnee is one of the most “obese cities” in Indiana, has parks littered with garbage or other pollution, and is dominated by a gigantic candy company called Sweetums, which seems at every turn to try and make Pawnee citizens even more unhealthy.
Many of the show’s episodes focus on Leslie trying to promote health, clean up and/or build a park, or deal with other unseemly issues Pawnee citizens are constantly dealing with from the colorful history of the city.
Viewers are given these scenarios by having the camera crews cover city council meetings, public hearings and forums, and other run-of-the-mill municipal functions such as ribbon cuttings.
When all of these variants come together with the amazing cast, the show gives us a hilarious look at life in most cities all over our country.
However only in Pawnee do we see citizens bring up some of the most ridiculous ideas possible, like when the city is trying to bury a time capsule and a local wants to bury his deceased cat in it, or the time when a resident has serious problems with the department’s negative stance on unhealthy corn syrup.
Another one of my favorite parts of the show is that the various citizens and departments in Pawnee are at constant odds with each other, as are several members of the city council, as well as the neighboring, upscale town of Eagleton.
All of these factors, from the hilarious actors to the insane daily situations that come up, make this show one of the best on television.
Not only does the show focus on the problems in Pawnee, but also the wonderful and heartfelt things that Leslie, Ron, and the other characters are often doing for each other after at first encountering differences.
I’ve also got to mention that Ron Swanson is one of the greatest characters in TV history, which has also been noted by other critics. He describes fishing as “Like yoga, except I get to kill something,” dogs under 50 pounds as “Cats, and cats are useless,” and skim milk as “Water that’s lying.”
Pawnee is a city like all others, full of true characters from the local news anchor to the resident gentry and each adds their own charm and flavor to round out each episode.
The show is incredible and if you haven’t checked it out you most definitely should before it comes back on air in September. You’ve got time to catch up.