Tuesday, April 06, 2010
"Parks and Recreation" Season 1
"Parks and Recreation" is a little too adjacent to "The Office"; Dunder-Mifflin employees could look out the window and catch Amy Poehler fighting the good, ridiculous fight as Leslie Knope, the hopelessly cheerful government worker bent on turning a local trash pit into a children's park. (It's also heavier on chuckles than guffaws). It doesn't help to see "Office" alumni like Rashida Jones (as a sweet, well-meaning nurse swept along for the civic ride) and Chris Pratt (still playing the same over-assuming boyfriend).
One wonders why NBC would stick so close to the same faux-interview model, the same eyes-rolled-in-the-camera's-direction shots, and the same quirky co-worker office dynamics of a show that might be venerable 'cause it's getting old. There is so much to like in "Parks and Recreation" that unnecessarily sticking to another show's shadow does it no favors. Here we have gentle yet incisive takes on small town politics, witty writing, an on-going developing plotline that most sitcoms would avoid, and one of the most winning ensembles out there: Aziz Ansari doing what Aziz Ansari does best; Aubrey Plaza, the sour cutie from "Funny People"; a brilliant Nick Offerman as the government agent who resents the government's unconstitutional insistence on 'doing things'; and HALLUCINA fave Paul Schneider, one of the most talented, uncelebrated actors out there.
You root for the show to fix some of the weird chemistry kinks between its characters in the second season.
Schneider's character in particular is forced to shift all over- a charming guy one ep, a bit of an inappropriate predator the next. When he out-of-nowhere hits on Rashida's character while she's in the middle of a fight with her doofy-but-essentially-sweet boyfriend, it made me squirm. And not in that funny "Office" way. (Dude, come on. Her boyfriend is standing RIGHT THERE, singing her a (bad-tastic) love song. Have some taste!)
Schneider sells it as a lustful faux-pas, but it seems more like writers trying to pitch tents in unstable territory.
ABOVE: I like Aubrey. She speaks four times in Season One, but maybe I like the quiet girls with the simmering smarts. Or maybe she has a speech impediment? That would incite my tender, tender compassion.