Saturday, April 18, 2009

TV REVIEW: NBC's "Parks & Recreation"

I held off on reviewing Amy Poehler's new series becasue I didn't want to make a snap judgement. Unlike hour-long pilots, 30-minute comedies don't usually have enough time to set the vibe and introduce the characters to create a cult-following in their first episode. While there are plenty of "Office" and "30 Rock" viewers now, it wasn't due to overnight success. When ABC's "Cavemen" was cancelled, many bloggers sited how unfair it was that other shows with lower ratings didn't get axed first, but there were also those who were all to happy to say good-riddens, having only given the series a one-episode viewing. There's an episode of "The Office" where Michael and Dwight go to New York to party with Ryan. It's depressing and pathetic and worst of all there's no Jim-Pam subplot. If a channel-flipper had seen that episode, they wouldn't be the least bit attuned to what's actually happening on that series--multiple viewings are a must.

That said--after seeing two episodes--I found Poehler's character Leslie Nope, an ambitious city politician with dreams of presidential power, to be adorably optimistic at first. She seemed like a genuine fresh character for Poehler. But as I watched the second episode, I grew annoyed by the fact that whenever she wants to guarantee a laugh, she puts on this bug-eyed expression and starts mumbling nonsense--funny nonsense, but nonsense nonetheless. While I do find it amusing, I'm a little disappointed. Poehler had introduced us to this new character, yet I could spot traces of her SNL schtick and her Baby Mama wackiness. It was like I was watching Poehler not Leslie, which is extremely distracting. Not to mention, I was hoping she'd challenge herself and show us a whole new side.

Much like "30 Rock" and "The Office," the funniness is partially dependent on the ensemble cast. Aziz Ansari's ("Human Giant") pervy crass humor as Tom stands out the most, which isn't really that hard to do when you're merely competing against a temporarily crippled user (Chris Pratt from Bride Wars and "Everwood"), a stereotypically unfriendly teenage intern (newcomer Aubrey Plaza), an unhelpful and indifferent boss (comedian Nick Offerman), a boring and semi-helpful nurse (Rashida Jones from I Love You Man), and what's supposed to be the resident Jon Hamm (Paul Schneider from Lars and the Real Girl and The Assassination of Jesse James). "The Office" can at least boast a bevy of scene stealers. They can spend an entire episode following Phyllis or Oscar around--running an errand, on a sales call, or simply telling the show through their perspective--and it would have you cracking up. But I don't want to spend 30 minutes learning about that nurse or that intern.

However, like I said before, comedies should be given multiple viewings. So I'll cut it some slack for now.

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