Parks and Recreation was probably my favorite show of this past season (2010-2011). You could even list it in the category of most improved show for that time frame. After all, we lost some dead weight (sorry, Paul Schneider) and picked up some amazing cast in Rob Lowe and Adam Scott. In addition, writing has gotten more focused and character-driven for Andy Dwyer (Chris Pratt) and Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) which have turned them both into the one-liners of this show.
Those characters are not the only ones that have seen improved development. We hate and love April for her seemingly apathetic aversion to any kind of work. Tom is a rough player, but we see him at his high and low points and still shows a good amount of humor, such as when Ron was dating Tom’s ex-wife Wendy and when he pals around with his good friend Jean-Ralphio (who may become a regular given their endeavor to keep “Entertainment 7wenty” going).
The multiple scene combinations – specifically different character combinations – is what keeps the script alive. And, with this cast, the lines are nearly writing themselves, and this season is no different. We rejoin the storyline as we left it last season with Leslie being audited for whether she should run for City Council, as her and Ben try to keep their relationship a secret from everyone except Ann, Leslie’s confidant. Ron’s first ex-wife, “Tammy One” (Patricia Clarkson), is back and Ron must do anything to escape her.
The decision for grouping the first two episodes was two-fold: I was not able to get to the first episode review in time, and the two story-lines do mesh a little with “Tammy One” theme. First and foremost, “Tammy One” was a build-up since no actress had been chosen last year. She needed to be formidable; we needed reasons why specifically Ron, the manliest man ever, was scared enough for his life that he literally had a survival kit hidden in a vent. This was delivered almost instantly with her line to April in the season opener, “Sit up. You aren’t doing your breasts any favors.” Whoa. She meant business. Even in the second episode, her instructions to Leslie and Andy were mean enough to kill Leslie’s pep and for Andy to get serious.
Jean-Ralphio and Tom have been nothing short of a factory for jokes and fast one-liners, the kind you have to think about for a second before the meaning becomes hilariously clear. They even enlist Ben to try and help their new company out of debt. The season opener also has Leslie breaking up with Ben as the assumption since she is going to be running for City Council. The purpose for this plot twist obviously is not abundantly clear, yet, other than to draw out their relationship and hopefully add some tension between her campaign and her desire to date Ben.
The only part that needs improvement in this season so far is the writing for Ann and Chris. There has not been really any character development for these two in these two episodes, and the story for the season opener had to do with the sending lewd photos to Ann, a cultural phenomenon known as sexting. It frankly was not funny and border-lined on the ridiculous. Chris’s character has become disheveled and is not exactly fun to watch, right now.
Besides those bad marks, Parks and Recreation is my pick for this year to be the best show NBC has to offer (although I know my fellow The Signal writers feel differently). Its characters have great potential to make us laugh and cry; they are truly becoming dynamic. And, the story is starting to be well-written with a steady pace. It is ready for its prime, only in its fourth fiscal season, and we are ready to let it be our show. Who’s with me?