2009-10 season wrap: Parks and Recreation

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be summarizing my thoughts on many of the series that ended just as the “official” television season came to a close recently.

Overview: After a short first season that felt too much like an Office spin-off that didn’t quite know how to make its characters act like real people, the writing staff of Parks and Recreation obviously re-grouped much like their peers — and in a few cases, it’s the same people — did after the first six episodes of The Office. And much like the second season of its cousin program, season two of Parks and Recreation was a vast improvement that saw the series perfectly mix the heart and laughs that makes comedy so enjoyable. From start to finish, it was the best comedy on television this season.

Pros: In the first season, Amy Poehler’s Leslie Knope was too much like the female version of Michael Scott, a person who was completely unaware of the stupidity of her actions and beliefs. She was a hopeless twit. But this season, the writers and Poehler gave Leslie much, much more awareness, made her completely capable, if not stellar at her job and gave her a boat load of charming heart that forced us as viewers to smile at nearly everything she says or does. Now, she feels more like a real person, even more so than Michael Scott, and although she still gets herself into goofy situations, she is thankfully no longer portrayed as an idiot with a dream, but a capable, intelligent woman with a dream.

Though it’s an obvious compliment because the sheer number of episodes given in season two, Parks and Recreation gave life to all its supporting players, creating a cast of playful goofballs that I’d argue are more appealing than the folks from Dunder Mifflin. Though there isn’t really a Jim and Pam on this series, Andy and April exist as a quasi version of that with their romantic circling. Ron Swanson, Tom Haverford, Ann Perkins, Mark Brendanawicz Jerry Grgich and Donna Meagle round out a wonderful group of people who seem to actually like each other. If there’s one major difference between the Pawnee Parks Department and the folks at Dunder Mifflin, it’s that in Pawnee, everyone seems to get along. People help Leslie with stuff because they want to, even if sometimes it is begrudgingly so. But they still help, they still care. Unlike Michael, when they help because they’re forced to or pretend to help as a way to sabotage his actions.

And just as The Office does a wonderful job of showing the dour life of working in the modern workplace, Parks and Recreation handles the banality and sometimes difficulties of being a small-time government employee. The politics often get in the way of the real tasks Leslie is trying to achieve, but thankfully those barriers are often hilarious and allow for a wonderful give and take relationship between Leslie and Ron, the government-hating bureaucrat.

Cons: Um, what cons? I guess the only thing I can say I didn’t care for or about in season two of the series was the Ann-Mark relationship, as both of those characters work better as supporting friends for Leslie more than anything else. But hey, it’s over! Moving on.

Quick hitters

Best storyline: With the park on the lot kind of abandoned, I’d have to say the government shut down at the end of the season. It will play further into next season, but in terms of long-running stories, I love it.

Worst storyline: Again, Ann and Mark.

Best performer: Nick Offerman — You don’t get nicknamed Ron F*cking Swanson by the internet unless you’re a straight-up bad-ass. Case closed.

Best single moment: Leslie explaining the multiple reasons for why Ron was shot in “Hunting Trip.” I just LOL’ed remembering it.

Three best episodes: “Hunting Party,” “Telethon,” “Ron and Tammy”

Worst episode: “The Possum”

Where does fit within the context of the series as a whole: Season two of Parks and Recreation shows that it can take The Office‘s place as the best comedy on NBC — and on television. It has heart, laughs and so much more and there is really no reason why people shouldn’t love these characters like the love the folks of Dunder Mifflin.

Final grade: A

Past days of the wrap

Fringe

30 Rock

V

Community

Smallville

House

Supernatural

How I Met Your Mother

The Office

Chuck

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