PARKS AND RECREATION on NBC: Early Look : Give Me My Remote


April 9, 2009 by  

In case you missed it, here’s my review of the premiere of Parks and Recreation. (Originally posted on April 3, 2009)

Nothing to make a rainy, dreary day better than a little Amy Poehler at your door step.  Tonight I came home to find the screener for NBC’s newest comedy PARKS AND RECREATION. To say I was excited would be a bit of an understatement.  I’ve been waiting a long time for this one.

I’ll be honest. I was a bit nervous before watching it.  I knew the show had all the right ingredients: Amy Poehler in the lead; the very funny Aziz Ansari and Rashida Jones along side her; and most importantly the creative team of Greg Daniels and Michael Schur (Gods in my world). But I wanted to like the show so much that I was afraid I set my expectations too high. Would I be disappointed? The answer? No. After watching the pilot I can tell you that I thought PARKS AND RECREATION was very funny and it was just as great as I expected it to be.  It wasn’t perfect but it has all the right mixins’ to be one of the greats.

Creators/Executive Producers Greg Daniels and Michael Schur have insisted that this isn’t a spinoff of THE OFFICE.  And that’s true. There aren’t any Dunder Mifflin crossovers to speak of (although the potential is certainly there). But the two shows are so similar in tone and style that it certainly felt like a spinoff. The comparisons can’t be avoided. PARKS AND RECREATION and THE OFFICE will be a pitch perfect match for Thursday nights.  They will compliment each other like no other two shows on the air. For better or worse I was reminded of THE OFFICE while watching the entire episode. Better, because THE OFFICE is my favorite show. Worse, because at times P&R was a little too much like THE OFFICE.

The two shows are so similar in fact that die hard OFFICE fans might find some of the situations in P&R hitting a little too close to home. The mockumentary styles are exactly the same from the talking heads to the acknowldegement of the camera, even down to the Halpert’esque looks to the camera courtesy of Tom (Aziz Ansari). And of course there’s Rashida Jones who is well known by OFFICE fans as Jim’s ex, Karen Filippelli. But the similarities don’t stop there. There were actually a few moments that felt, well, recycled. You’ll know them when you see them.

Poehler’s character, Leslie Knope, is perhaps a more astute but equally effusive female version of Michael Scott. Both characters use their careers and colleagues to fill a void missing in their lives. And much like Michael, the documentary cameras give Leslie a false sense of importance. I doubt anyone who is a fan of THE OFFICE won’t recognize the brilliance of Michael Scott in Leslie Knope.

That being said, Amy Poehler is spot on in her role as an overeager, mid-level employee in the Parks and Recreation Department of Pawnee, Indiana. Despite the aforementioned similarities, Poehler doesn’t rip off Carell’s role to play her own.  She’s too good for that.  She doesn’t need to. Knope is a wide eyed, go-getter whose ego is just big enough that she think she can really make a difference in her small town. But helping the community is just a means to an end…the end being the next Hilary Clinton (or perhaps more fittingly the next Sarah Palin).  Poehler brings confidence and sweetness to a character who in real life would probably drive you crazy if you had to work with her all day.

Aziz Ansari plays Tom Haverford, another member of the Pawnee local government and a colleague of Leslie’s.  Tom couldn’t be less interested in his job, but has no problem exploiting his governmental role to serve his own purpose.  Ansari’s delivery is hilarious and he more than holds his own next to Poehler.

Rashida Jones brings her beauty and knack for dry comedy to the role of Ann Logan. Ann gets a little more than she bargains for when she petitions the town to fix an abandoned pitt after her boyfriend (EVERWOOD’s Chris Pratt) falls in it and breaks his legs. Rashida’s time as Karen on THE OFFICE has prepared her well for the role of the pragmatic Ann. Personally I’ve got a sweet spot for Rashida so I’m happy to see her back on TV every week.

Rounding out the cast is Paul Schnieder as Mark, an influential but unenthusiastic city planner who has been in the Pawnee government for 15 years.  Paul and Leslie share a little bit of a past, but I think there’s a potential for a future there too.

Aubrey Plaza plays April, an unenthusiastic college intern just looking to pad her resume. Although she doesn’t have much to do in the pilot, I know that the young Aubrey has the chops to hold her own with the rest of the cast.  If you’ve ever seen her as Tina Tate, step-daughter on Jeannite Tate in THE JEANNIE TATE SHOW then you know what I’m talking about.

Nick Offerman assumes the role of Leslie’s boss, Ron Swanson, a man who has served in the government of Pawnee for years but fundamentally hates the goverment.  A Capitalist to the core, Ron has no need or want for an enthusiastic, overachiever like Leslie.

The casting of this show is one of its strongest points and I’m looking forward to seeing each of the actors develop their characters more over time.

PARKS AND RECREATION is not perfect.  It’s going to need a little time to feel around and get used to its surroundings. I have no doubt that NBC will give it the time it needs to find an audience.  They know from past experience that their hit comedies aren’t gold from the outset – case in point THE OFFICE and 30 ROCK.

I’ll be looking for the show to break apart from THE OFFICE a little bit more and find it’s own identity. But for now I’m just going to enjoy it as is and welcome PARKS AND RECREATION to my Thursday night comedy line up.  I don’t know about you but with this show airing at 8:30pm, THE OFFICE at 9pm and then 30 ROCK at 9:30pm I don’t plan on switching from NBC at all on Thursday nights (and when’s the last time someone could say that?!)

Check out this sneak peek of scenes from the premiere of PARKS AND RECREATION.

PARKS AND RECREATION premieres this Thursday (April 9th) at 8:30pm on NBC.

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13 Responses to “Advance Review of PARKS AND RECREATION”

  1. Rory on April 3rd, 2009 9:55 pm

    I like Amy and Aziz. They’re both funny people and I wish them luck.

    I wish that they didn’t cast Rashida just based on the fact that they could have given the role to an unknown/pseudo-unknown actress like they did for “The Office.” Plus, I feel that many “Office” will have a hard time seeing Rashida and not think Karen. In interviews, Mike seemed to imply that they casted Rashida because they like working with her, and in my mind, it’s not a good enough reason.

    However, I can’t help thinking “I wish this show will fail so Greg and Mike would get back to ‘The Office’.” I know that’s wrong to think, but damnit, I miss them on “The Office.” Also, the over-promotion of P&R is driving me crazy.

  2. Give Me My Remote on April 3rd, 2009 10:03 pm

    Rory, you’ll definitely see Rashida as Karen at first, it’s inevitable. It seems you’re a little biased so I think it might take you a bit longer than most to separate the two.

    I don’t want the show to fail at all (wouldn’t wish that on Amy Poehler for all the world), but I would like to see more of Greg and Michael back in The Office.

    As for the promotion…NBC need this to succeed big time. They are hurting.

  3. Reina on April 3rd, 2009 11:26 pm

    Thank you so much for this review, GMMR. I’m excited to see the show but I think after reading this you have given me some perspective. I won’t be expecting the second coming of 30 Rock but it seems like i should expect the second coming of The Office. I had read news about the focus groups and they seemed to echo your review. I hope that it does move away from The Office. I already like that show. I don’t need a rip off. Since it airs before The Office I don’t want to feel like I’m getting an hour of the same show.

  4. Rory on April 4th, 2009 12:18 am

    Yeah, I might be a little biased against Rashida. Frankly because I find her a better actress in dramas than comedies but that neither here nor there.

    No, I don’t wish that on Amy. I like Amy, as I stated before, but god, I miss Greg and Mike on “The Office.” It’s just a sign of desperation on my part. LOL.

    It’s one thing to promote a show because they’re hurting but it’s another thing to over-do the promoting. Some of my friends who are also Office fans feel like P&R are being shoved down their throats.

  5. Give Me My Remote on April 4th, 2009 1:40 am

    I miss Mike and Greg too. I feel your pain there. Glad to have BJ back around more though. I need the old timey OFFICE writers keep a close eye on the new kids. There’s so good stuff lately but there have been far too many misses this season.

    As for the promotion, I’m not disagreeing with you. Just think that NBC is so desperate that they’ll try anything.

    I got an email asking if I thought PARKS AND RECREATION would last the full season on NBC. My answer – ABSOLUTELY!!!

  6. Knope Knows on April 4th, 2009 2:02 am

    Thanks for your review, Give Me My Remote! I’ve added snippets of your review to Parks and Recreation fansite, Knope Knows.

  7. Jessica on April 4th, 2009 2:02 am

    Thansk for the review! I can’t wait to see it on Thursday!

  8. Martha on April 4th, 2009 9:36 am

    I’m so relieved to hear you liked it. I too have been anticipating this like crazy and feared my expectations were too high. Between you and Ausiello I feel much less nervous now.

  9. anna on April 6th, 2009 10:26 pm

    Seems like this show has everything going for it — Amy Poehler is awesome in other things! — but somehow misses the mark. The preview clips are flat and unfunny to me. Maybe it just needs time to figure out what it should be. I love The Office, or what was The Office, and wish the sensibility of Greg and Mike would return. They still have Steve Carell, though, and the rest of the great cast, so I watch and wait for a glimmer of my former favorite show.

  10. TV Blog Coalition - April 3-5 | Daemon's TV on April 6th, 2009 11:05 pm

    […] Are you ready to laugh even more on Thursday nights? Check out my review of the new NBC comedy Parks and Recreation starring Amy Poehler and Rashida Jones. (Give Me My Remote) […]

  11. LaLa on April 10th, 2009 12:51 am

    Gotta be honest, I was disappointed in Parks and Recreation. It just felt… kinda flat to me. I liked Amy Poehler in it – she’s always great. But I just… didn’t laugh. Maybe it’s because I don’t know the characters, and if I watch a few more shows, it’s possible that it will grow on me. But other than Amy, I didn’t really like the characters. Especially the Tom guy, he was just sleazy and smug.

    Seriously, after watching it, I was like, “Greg and Mike – two of the biggest reasons why The Office used to be consistently genius – abandoned it…. for this??” I was really disappointed, I have to say. And I wanted to like this show, really. But it just didn’t work for me. 🙁

  12. Lisa (aka lmr) on April 10th, 2009 11:31 am

    I didn’t like it particularly as it felt like the office in park clothing…imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery but I don’t think this will be around long. Sorry, GMMR.

  13. tw111 on April 10th, 2009 3:56 pm

    I lke Amy Poehler a lot, but this show didn’t interest me at all…maybe I didn’t give it enough time. but I turned it off after the first half.