PARKS AND RECREATION: Erik's Take - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote


April 10, 2009 by  

So please to announce that Erik will be handling all PARKS AND RECREATION news and reviews for GMMR this year.  Thanks Erik!

In order to generate a wide audience for Parks & Recreation’s maiden voyage, NBC fired all the weapons in its promotional arsenal. For the past few weeks, it has been impossible to avoid the blanket of commercials, online preview clips, and promotional photos of star Amy Poehler. After making a similar investment to Poehler’s fellow SNL alum Tina Fey, NBC clearly hopes to make the “Baby Mama” duo into the new faces of Thursday night television.

Following tonight’s solid premiere, I would encourage NBC to keep one of Guns N’ Roses’ biggest hits in mind, and exercise a healthy dose of “Patience.”

In her early review of the pilot, Kath wrote that the show, “wasn’t perfect but it has all the right mixins’ to be one of the greats.” That assessment is very accurate, and speaks to the wealth of material that can be unearthed by roaming the halls of a small city government.

Amy Poehler is a gifted performer, and her introduction as Leslie Knope was the strongest aspect of the inaugural episode. Unlike so many of her characters from Saturday Night Live, which elicited quick laughs before fading from our memories, Poehler has the opportunity to build Leslie from the ground up. Many will presume that Leslie Knope is a Michael Scott clone, due to the symmetric relationship between the creative team behind P&R (Let’s go with that abbreviation, since it reminds me of a sandwich) and their days at Dunder Mifflin. In my opinion, that assertion is off-base. From my perspective, Leslie’s journey echoed the best moments from a Christopher Guest film (Best in Show, Waiting For Guffman, A Mighty Wind) more than the typical Office installment.

While I am completely in the bag for Amy Poehler, my biggest concerns about the show’s potential to hold a wide audience rest with her co-stars. It is far too early to worry about wholesale changes, but I think there are areas of improvement for some of Leslie’s colleagues in Pawnee, Indiana.

On the page, the character of Ron Swanson is an ideal foil for Leslie and her idealistic approach to public service. On the screen, I was distracted by Nick Offerman’s physical presentation, particularly a mustache and hairdo combination straight from the wax museums of Madame Tussaud. As an actor, Mr. Offerman overcame this styling snafu with smart timing and an embrace of Swanson’s dedication to free market principles. I worry that younger viewers, coveted by advertisers far and wide, will be turned off by Ron long before he delivers another punch line about Chuck E Cheese.

Aniz Ansari hit the ground running as Tom Haverford, but I was turned off by his attitude toward Leslie and her capabilities. Despite my best intentions, I have to use The Office as a point of comparison to illustrate my concern. Even in that series’ first block of six episodes, when Steve Carell was exploring a darker side of the Michael Scott character, we were never given the impression that the crew at Dunder Mifflin was motivated to damage their boss’ performance or personal reputation. Tom walks a very delicate line in the pilot, and I was disappointed that he and Leslie appeared to have no common ground as people or as co-workers. If P&R is to succeed, the audience will need to find a compelling reason to watch Aniz Ansari. That may be an uphill battle.

On a much brighter note, Rashida Jones proved to be a valuable addition as she introduced Ann Logan to the world. Leslie Knope’s ambition and personality are bigger than life, and need to be offset with a quiet, sensible counterpart. Ann provides that balance, and her quirky friendship with Leslie will be the anchor that keeps viewers tuning in. After an extended run on The Office, as well as an underrated comic turn in “I Love You, Man,” Rashida is well suited to play it straight while keeping us laughing.

As a work in progress, I am excited to see where P&R takes us over its initial run of six episodes. If you were underwhelmed by the pilot, or if you simply want more details about where the creators might be mining for comedy, I implore you to check out the Official Web Site for the City of Pawnee at Unlike most online companions, this is a must-see, and is filled with laugh out loud anecdotes about the city’s underwhelming job force, inefficient bureaucratic processes, and lack of distinctive accomplishments. Trust me, it is well worth a few minutes of your time, and is a road map to where the true comedy of this program will be found.

Are you ready to move to Pawnee, Indiana? Do you plan to give the show another look? Did Amy Poehler’s performance leave you wanting more? Who stood out among the supporting players? What’s up with Ron Swanson’s hair and mustache? Let the first Parks & Recreation discussion begin!

How does Erik combat writer’s block? He indulges in Adam Carolla’s new daily podcast at and reads Bill Simmons’ columns on The GMMR House dude is an active participant in the economic recession, and would go back to school for computer training if it would secure him a job at the Burbank Buy More.


11 Responses to “PARKS AND RECREATION: Erik’s Take”

  1. SB on April 10th, 2009 12:07 pm

    Oooohhhh … I just commented on the other post! But I’m excited you’re recapping this one, since I’m no good at watching House in a timely fashion. I think this show has some potential and I’ll be hanging with it. Plus, as I mentioned in my original post, I’m an Indiana girl and I love the Hoosier shout-outs. I’m sure there are licensing issues, but I would looooove to see some Colts stuff. We’re all nuts about the Colts.

  2. Erik on April 10th, 2009 12:16 pm

    If we don’t see a shrine to Peyton Manning in one of those offices by the end of the season, I will be crafting a conspiracy theory.

  3. SB on April 10th, 2009 12:24 pm

    That’s what I’m talking about! I just appointed myself (in my head) your Indiana consultant, so I can point out any subtle Indiana shout outs. 🙂

  4. Lisa (aka lmr) on April 10th, 2009 2:01 pm

    Posted in Kath’s thread — didn’t like it, didn’t hate it but it is too much like the Office for me as the Office stands alone in my book.

  5. Ryan on April 10th, 2009 2:18 pm

    Didn’t love the episode, but I’ll be coming back next week for more.

    Really the highlight for me was the Ron Swanson character. I found him hilarious and his out of date fashion sense made it all the more funny.

    I do hope the show is given time to grow and find it’s stride much like it’s older brother the office. Much like Aaron Sorkin projects, I’ll always be willing to give a Greg Daniels show a chance.

  6. Erik on April 10th, 2009 2:55 pm

    Lisa: I hope you give P&R another chance to earn a place on your DVR. The pilot episode of The Office (US) was a carbon copy of the British version’s first show, and suffered as a result. With a six episode “mini-season” in place to set the bigger plot points in motion, I think Greg & Michael will widen the gap between the two shows, so that P&R is able to stand on its own two feet (until those two feet fall into a gigantic pit, that is).

  7. Erik on April 10th, 2009 3:02 pm

    Ryan: Thanks for adding your thoughts! I agree that Ron’s character fits the framework of telling a larger story. In fact, I could almost picture John Michael Higgins, a veteran of Christopher Guest’s mockumentaries, playing a similar angle to his publicist character, Corey Taft, in “For Your Consideration.” Ron needs to be Leslie’s polar opposite, and I think he will continue to be the true antagonist in the department.

  8. Angela on April 10th, 2009 3:33 pm

    I put The Office in the back of my mind when I watched this and I really enjoyed it. The only time I really thought “too much like The Office” was when Leslie exclaimed “We slept together!” (Too much like Michael with Jan.) And I also related some of Ann’s inflections to Karen. I think the show has a lot of potential and I’ll definitely be sticking around. I love the choice they made in having Mark’s office window face Leslie and Ron’s. I am willing to bet that a lot of funny situations will come out of that.

    I do think that the show is missing the human connection. Paul Schneider looks like he could be related to John Krasinski, and they are actually in the upcoming “Away We Go” together. While I don’t swoon over JK or Jim Halpert like other people do, Paul Schneider at least catches my attention in every single movie he has been in (“Lars and the Real Girl”, “Assassination of Jesse James”, “All the Real Girls”, etc…) Maybe because of the similarities between Ann and Pam, both have/had a loser-ish boyfriend who takes them for granted, I see Paul Schneider’s character having more of a connection with Rashida Jones’ Ann than I see with Poehler’s Leslie.

  9. Erik on April 11th, 2009 3:54 pm

    Angela: Your mention of Leslie’s “We slept together” line will certainly be trumpeted by detractors of P&R who will dismiss it as an Office ripoff. Though I would take issue with that type of negativity, I believe that Greg Daniels & Michael Schur must be cognizant of allowing lines like that to sneak through the editing process. With so many similarities in tone and style to its neighbor in the Thursday lineup, the last thing P&R needs is to add ammunition to its’ critics’ holsters.

    Here’s hoping that next week will bring the beginning of the deconstruction of the Office/P&R House of Mirrors.

  10. Kurt on April 11th, 2009 7:02 pm

    I didn’t hate it, but it didn’t really blow me away. Though I was trying to keep The Office out of mind, i couldn’t help but be reminded of it several times, most notably the “We slept together!” talking head, where she started vague and eventually blurted it out, as previously mentioned. The whole overbearing, not very self-aware boss with the strange side-kick was reminiscent, but I expect that will change with time.

    Rob Swanson’s character was great, though. I would, however, like an explanation as to HOW Ann could be dating and living with such a douche for a boyfriend.

  11. Erik on April 20th, 2009 10:25 pm

    Kurt: Thanks for chiming in with your take on P&R. The debate about whether the show can overcome its similarities to The Office is alive and well in the discussion of Episode Two, “Canvassing,” on GMMR, and I think that topic will continue to generate disagreement from audience members.

    I also agree with you that Ann & Andy’s dynamic is completely undeveloped, and that a further exploration into the nature of their relationship would be helpful. At this point, their chemistry appears as “raggedy” as the namesakes of their stuffed counterparts.