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TV Review: Parks & Recreation
Parks & Rec Cast
I don't watch a lot of television. I feel like I should preface the entire article with that assertion. I'm not a good judge of the current state of TV as a whole. When I do watch TV shows, I tend to do so through a venue like Hulu or Netflix or Youtube, rather than through an actual satellite or cable service. As a result, I tend to only watch shows that are either suggested to me by my robot overlords, or actual humans that I come into contact with. I can't remember which method turned me onto the show that I'm about to review.
Parks and Recreation is a situation comedy set against the background of the Parks & Recreation department of the city government in a small town called Pawnee Indiana. Pawnee is plagued with problems, from rodent control (they've been overrun with racoons) to an obesity epidemic (American's 6th largest city) to a giant pit the size of a city park. The employees of the department are tasked with fixing these issues, and every single person working in that department is /hilarious/.
Favorite Character: Ron Swanson
If I had to pick a character who I thought was more funny than their colleagues, I would have an extremely difficult time. The writing on this show is brilliant. I can't remember a single episode that I disliked. Even the first season, which is universally accepted to be the worst season of any TV show, has golden writing and great characterization.
I suppose if I were forced to select my favorite character, it would have to be Ronald Ulysses Swanson (Nick Offerman) , the Deputy Director of the Parks & Recreation department. Ron is a stout Libertarian who firmly believes that government spending is a drain on the taxpayers of Pawnee, and makes it his job to come in under budget and trim away any excess in his department. Unfortunately, the tax payers don't seem to appreciate his efforts, instead bombarding him with a series of petty complaints. His political ideas frequently and comedically contrast with those of his impediment subordinate, Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) the Director of the department.
Parks & Rec Clips
Much of the comedy of Ron's character comes from his personal life. He was raised by a single mother, Tamara Swanson, who instilled in him and his unnamed brother a love of the outdoors, especially of hunting. In fact, Ron hosts an annual hunting trip for the department, normally reserved for his male friends. When Leslie learned of the trip, she claimed it was sexist and invited herself, much to Ron's disdain- not because of her gender, but because he finds Leslie annoying. Already annoyed, due to a hunting accident, poor Ron winds up getting wounded during the trip. I realize that describing the episode it doesn't sound funny, but it is hilarious.
It may be somewhat strange that my favorite character is male, as many feminists have touted Parks and Rec as a more egalitarian show that some of it's contemporaries; a show that doesn't shy away from feminist political views. Much have been said about the show's ability to pass the Bechdel test, and the fact that it does is seen as a feminist victory. However, I am skeptical that this is a good measure. All the Bechdel test really does is prove that your characters have any sort of depth. It's entirely possible to have an anti-feminist character who passes the Bechdel test. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the test, all a piece of media has to do to pass is have two female characters who speak to each other for more than 30 seconds about something other than a man. Obviously, this could be an anti-feminist, older woman telling a young suffragette that she shouldn't be campaigning for her right to vote. I have always questioned the accuracy of this test, because it doesn't seem to have anything to do with what it claims to test. I've always been confused as to it's application.
Feminism via Scouting
Now obviously, pretty much every sitcom ever passes this test, but Parks and Rec, has, for some reason that I don't particularly understand, been touted as a particularly good example. It is, of course, but so are tons and tons of other shows. Honing in on this one in particular seems strange to me. However, regardless of gender, this show is worth watching. As a woman, I have noticed some scenes that seem written for a female audience, as well as some scenes that are written for a male audience. I'm not defined by my gender as much as some people, so I am able to enjoy both, and I think that even the most masculine men can laugh at the poor stripper that April makes fun at Leslie's bachalorette party. I think even the most feminine of women can enjoy Ron's confusion when trying to order a scotch on the rocks at an experimental club and getting it in the form of a lotion.
I've talked a lot about what I enjoy about the show, but some people, obviously, are going to dislike it. The most common complaint that I've seen is that Parks & Rec is too similar to (some people go as far as to say a rip-off of) The Office. I will admit that I haven't watched the office, but I have been told that Parks & Rec is set up in an extremely similar fashion. Most sitcoms have a central cast of characters in the form of a nuclear family, but both The Office and Parks & Rec instead use a group of coworkers. In addition, I've been told that much of the cinematography, as well as the direction is extremely similar. Therefore, you may enjoy this show less if you're already an Office fan, but because I haven't ever really watched The Office, I wasn't bothered by these similarities.
Parks & Regurgitation?
I heartily recommend this show, which I believe has been picked up for the seventh and final season. If you like to binge watch shows like I do, there are 6 seasons currently available,so you have a good few days of solid comedy. The writing and acting are excellent, the characterization is brilliant, and the continuity will sneak up on you. You really get attached to the people of the Parks Department, and to the town of Pawnee.
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