Monday, July 25, 2016

Park It Here

I watched Parks And Recreation for several weeks when it first aired and didn't like it.  Later, I heard good things and checked it out again.  It wasn't bad.  I ended up watching most of its seven seasons.

I recently rewatched the early episodes to see if I was wrong in my original appraisal.  For the most part, no.  Now that I like the characters, they went down easier, but they still don't quite have it.

At the center of the show is Amy Poehler's Leslie Knope, a government bureaucrat in Pawnee, Indiana.  Except her character, rather than being the enthusiastic, highly competent woman she'd become, is more confused in her duties than anything else.  And since the show is built around her, it doesn't quite operate as it should.

Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari) isn't quite there, either.  He's not thrilled with his job, but isn't yet the lively, superficial playa he'd become.  Andy Dwyer (Chris Pratt)--who's dating Ann, not April--is sort of a douche and layabout, and not quite the happy innocent he'd become.  Jerry Gergich and Donna Meagle (Jim O'Heir and Retta) are not regular cast members yet, and barely register--they're essentially office drones who haven't established personalities.

There are three characters who are close to what they'd be.  There's Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman), the government-hating bureau director.  He's distinctive from the start, though he'd grow even more dominant, and more traits were added--his sexual connection to women, his love of meat, his libertarian paranoia, his rough masculinity, his saxophone playing, his closeness to Leslie.  Even better at the start is April Ludgate (Aubrey Plaza), the cynical intern, who just doesn't care about anything.  Surprisingly, she'd keep up this character for seven seasons without having to change too much--though her relation with Andy would humanize her.  Then there's Ann Perkins, who meets Leslie in the pilot, and will become her best friend.  Rashida Jones is fine in the part, though she's mostly playing a straight woman--the character who responds as the audience would to much of the action.

Worst of all is Paul Schneider as city planner Mark Brendanawicz.  Leslie spends a lot of time mooning over him, but he's just dull.  I don't blame the actor, since this is how he's written--a straight man to set off the others.  But we've already got Ann Perkins, that's more than enough.  The relationship between him and Leslie pulls down the show.  The producers recognized their mistake, and he was gone by season three.

Also bad about the first season is the arc--Leslie spends an awful lot of time trying to turn a pit next to Ann Perkin's house into a park.  The plot isn't particularly funny, and we don't really care about the project.

Almost every sitcom starts off a bit soft as it tries to find its footing.  But if P&R hadn't changed significantly, it wouldn't be remembered today.  In fact, it probably would have been canceled early in its run.


Blogger New England Guy said...

IN season 1 it seemed much more like a direct takeoff on the office. Leslie was a female Michael Scott. And Mark/Ann were the Pam/ Jim characters (the early version of them at least before they were a pair) All surrounded by wacky office mates with a few straight people thrown in. Ron I recall was much crazier too- not as self-contained. I didn't mind it but it felt like a pale carbon copy (anyone under 40, check Wikipedia for that) Give them credit for growing out of it

4:30 PM, July 25, 2016  

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