'Parks and Recreation' recap: Viva Pawnee!

parks_and_recreation_lParks and Recreation has been all about dropping knowledge this past month, and the latest episode — focused on Pawnee’s sister Parks Department from Venezuela — continues that awesome and educational trend. Leslie Knope? Not the pushover we met last season! Tom? Not so bad a guy! Ron loves gold-plated guns more than he hates socialism. April gets her “fiery and exciting” personality from her Latina mother. We are learning so much, those of us committed to this wonderful, unpopular little show!

In lieu of needless protraction on last night’s installment, which focused almost entirely on Leslie’s waning patience with Fred Armisen and his Venezuelan delegation, I thought we’d cut right to the chase and talk about what this show is doing so right. A lot of things, it turns out:

Appropriately utilized guest stars
Where 30 Rock might take a more Hollywood Squares approach to guest spots (and not wrongly so, given the show’s manic energy), Parks requires something more subtle from its temporary additions. The two we’ve gotten so far — Louis C.K. as Leslie’s cop crush, Dave, and Fred Armisen as a Venezuelan parks official — have fit in perfectly, nailing the subtle vibe of Pawnee without losing an ounce of comedic power. Louis C.K. should honestly be a regular.

Current events
Without taking trips to Sorkin-ville, Parks‘ scripts have introduced some hot-button issues this season — from gay marriage to politician sex scandals and the war on drugs — in a way that feels authentic to the setting and characters. And funny! Tonight’s Hugo Chavez jokes were great (turns out Armisen’s crew wasn’t a Parks dept. at all, but the Committee to Humiliate and Shame America) and with all the wild, true stuff that happens everyday — balloon boy! — there’s a limitless supply of stories to tell.

Know your Knope
Retired to the same mystery island as The Office‘s season 1 Michael Scott, last season’s Leslie Knope would appear gone and happily forgotten. In just five episodes, Amy Poehler’s character has been transformed from a whacked-out, friendless delusional into something that more closely resembles a human being. A sometimes fun human being (see last week) with a strong feminist streak (see two weeks ago) who wants people to like her, but won’t be stepped all over in the process (this week). New wrinkles, week after week. Good ones!

And that’s just scratching the surface. We haven’t talked about background characters (hola, Donna!) getting their due. Or the recurring Pawnee mural gag. Or (fill in the blank). There’s something really special about watching a show — particularly one you’ve been rooting for — begin to come together, learn from its mistakes, and grow into a formidable and wholly satisfying half hour of television. I’ll just say it: Parks and Recreation is the best comedy on NBC right now. Viva Pawnee! Viva Amy Poehler!

What about you guys? Have you fallen as hard for P&R as I have, or is it still missing that certain je ne sais quoi? Consider the comments section your official Parks Department suggestion box.

Comments (32 total) Add your comment
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  • kim in kentucky

    I agree – the show has gotten better – the characters are beginning to gel – but I was worried that the curse of “the Pit” would come back and kill the show

  • Nikki

    Show is 10x better than last season. Love Aziz Ansari. And Poehler is great!

  • Lauren

    Love it. It was much better than The Office minus Jim & Pam last night. The subtlety of the humor really sneaks up on you. It’s quickly becoming my favorite comedy.

  • Chappel sco

    After being unimpressed with the first couple of episodes my viewing of P&R has been sporadic. That whole shtick of the dork living in the pit really bores me. I do notice some real improvement, especially in the Leslie Knope character. Poehler has really fleshed her out and made her easier to identify with and more sympathetic rather than the one dimensional idiot she was in the beginning. My favorite part of this episode was at the end where, after the final insult from the Venezuelans, Leslie looks over at Tom and he gives her a little nod to let her know that he also thinks they have gone much to far… knowing that she will tear up the check and that he is giving her permission.

    And the BEST part was when Tom, after sucking up to their visitors for tips, is also disgusted, puts all the cash into an envelope and anonymously drops it into the donations bag. That was a nice touch. While I certainly wouldn’t classify this as the best comedy on TV it does have its moments and shows a lot of promise. Now, if they could just drop the dork in the pit sub plot I might start watching this more often. I admit that I love that they don’t have an obtrusively loud and annoying laugh track like the Big Bang Theory does.

  • RK

    Steadily improving…but you knew the name of the random actor that is trying to date her? Usually guest stars are…well, maybe not stars, but at least recognizable by name.

    • pinkbunny

      Actually, Louis CK has a career as a comedian, AND he had his own show on cable, so there are lots of people who know who he is. By name.

    • Jim

      Louis CK is widely hailed as one of the best stand up comedians today. Perhaps this is partly due to the fact that he is still relatively unknown.

  • Laffing

    The Venezuelan episode was offensive, ignorant and left me scratching my head. Stay out of international politics. I tried desperately to see the satire in this, but the writing fell far short…and I’m not a Chavez fan (my husband is Venezuelan). I don’t see this show getting any better and last night was the last time for our household. Sorry Amy. Get better writers.

  • Abby

    Love it! Every episode is funny and sweet and just a good time. Characters are starting to find their groove and the writing is hitting every mark. GO P&R!

  • MD

    I’m not watching this show because there is way too much tv on Thursday nights. I think they could get a bigger audience if they moved this to Tuesday or Wednesday nights. It can’t compete with all of the other shows on during its time slot.

    • Blame Leno

      I agree Thursdays are jam packed with good stuff. I do DVR this though. I’m just annoyed that everything is on Thursday and Tuesdays seem pretty desolate.

  • apd09

    Was anyone else waiting for Fred Armisen to go all Euro Trip and make advances on Tom then smile and say Escoozie?

    If you are unaware of what I am talking about, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E24UJN_fXXY and skip about 50 seconds in.

  • amyp3

    It has become my favorite show. Period. And who’d a thunk that last spring.

    I like the way Leslie’s character is developing (and how Amy is growing into it). I’ll give the show time to do the same with some other characters I’m not as wild about. (Though Ron Bleeping Swanson is already the man.)

    In fact, I think I’m growing disillusioned with my beloved 30 Rock for the same reason I’m liking P & R. The former, with its manic one-dimensionality, does not allow for such character growth (except a bit with Jack and Liz) or the smaller, subtler plot moments like P & R is giving us lately.

  • Stimp

    What, has the U.S. entered a mini Cold War, with Venezuela as the enemy to be demonized at every turn?

    Yes, I know this is a *comedy* show, or at least it’s supposed to be. But the Venezuelan characters were too broad-brush, and the country was represented in a way so negative you have to go back to the Soviet Union era to find a comparison.

    This is a funny series, but the latest episode sucked.

  • Susan

    I agree this show is getting better and better – we love Thursday nights on NBC and watch it faithfully. I hope this show hangs on so we can continue to see the characters grow.

    • Justin

      agreed

  • AntonioSaucedo

    I liked this show from day one, mainly because of AP. But this season I love it. I love me some Amy and the rest of the gang! I want to see more of Don though. I feel this character has a lot of potential to become a legend. P&R and Glee are the best shows on TV.

  • Kathy

    I watched all four of the NBC Thursday comedies last night. Community was bad – really, really bad. The Office (usually my favorite) aired a very weak episode. The 30 Rock premiere wasn’t very funny. And Parks and Recreation hit this one out of the park. I laughed more at this than all three of the other shows put together. I wish it had a better timeslot. I’d rather see it paired with The Office over 30 Rock. It has improved 100% over last season, but I don’t think audiences are tuning in. Too bad. This season so far has been great.

  • dohrayme

    There’s no chance I’ll ever find out if it’s worth a look since it’s up against Survivor, and Flash Forward.

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