TV Review: Parks and Recreation

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Compulsory cringe binge Parks and Recreation's Amy Poehler shows no mercy in her painfully revealing portrayal of a babbling small-time bureaucrat. By Deborah Hill Cone.

Parks and Recreation has the same mockumentary format as The Office. Photo / Supplied
Parks and Recreation has the same mockumentary format as The Office. Photo / Supplied

It may have all started with Seinfeld. Yes, it was the show with no learning, no hugging. But it was also the show that set the precedent for using as many words as possible.

There are an awful lot of words in the new C4 series Parks and Recreation. This satire has been a hit in the US, where it was seen as a follow-up to the American version of The Office because it has some of the same cast, including Rashida Jones, daughter of musical genius Quincy Jones and actress Piggy Lipton.

It stars Amy Poehler, the flat-out comic genius also known as Tina Fey's sidekick from Saturday Night Live and the film Baby Mama. Poehler plays goofy small-town bureaucrat Leslie Knope in the fictitious town of Pawnee, Indiana. Jones is her friend, Ann Perkins. The show has the same mockumentary format as The Office, following Leslie around as she behaves like a babbling dufus.

The plot, such as it is, involves Leslie's "pinky promise" attempt to turn an empty lot, a huge hole in the ground, into a park.

"This is my Hoover Dam," she says.

We know Leslie is the sort of woman to get things done because she says things like "It's a great time to be a woman in politics". The park is her next big project after her citywide drive to disinfect the sand in playground sandboxes "after we had those problems with the cats". So yep, it is an entire comedy about filling a hole in the ground.

But what a dropkick Leslie Knope is - and that's the bit I don't like so much.

Parks and Recreation reminds me a bit of Kath and Kim. But where that Aussie show had a gentle affection for its characters' glorious dufusness, Parks and Recreation seems to rely more on making us wince.

I can accept this is all terribly clever but it just makes me want to swoop in and give her a hug because, for all her Palinesque bon mots - "This is where the rubber of government meets the road of actual people" - Knope actually seems like a pretty sweet person. I feel mean laughing at her.

Parks and Recreation has just been commissioned for a third season. Critics especially loved the second season and said it was worth sticking with.

Time magazine's James Poniewozik says the cringe humour of the early episodes gives way to simply being "bust-a-gut funny. It's impressive how many different ways the writers have found to make a hole in the ground funny."

The embarrassing thing is I can imagine myself spouting some of her lines. Please wash my mouth out if you hear me saying: "You know what, America is awesome - it's all delicious beverages and hot guys."

Parks And Recreation debuts on C4, Tuesday at 7.30pm.

- NZ Herald

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