Amy Poehler carries the load in ‘Parks and Recreation’

Amy Poehler stars in Parks and RecreationParks and Recreation is basically a new version of The Office. There is absolutely no difference in the style, presentation, or punchline. The only real difference is that the majority of the comedy heavy-lifting is placed on Amy Poehler who has ultimately been dealt an undeveloped character. Like an embryonic Hilary Clinton parody, Leslie Knope (Poehler) is sadly uninspiring and ineffective in executing jokes, something especially disappointing since Poehler is obviously a talented comedic actress.

With two amazing supporting improv comedians – Aziz Ansari and Aubrey Plaza – and a less than stellar group of actors attempting to practice comedy, Parks and Recreation has ultimately created an unsuccessful mash-up that leaves Poehler in a negative light. The script is nothing compared to the writing in the show’s counterparts on NBC like 30 Rock or The Office. The constantly flat script is mainly uplifted by Ansari’s douchey character or the awkward teenager role of Plaza. The group of actors attempting comedy doesn’t really inspire or create any other jokes. Altogether, the show cannot function on the rumored Holy Grail of comedy that is Poehler.

Can Parks and Recreation still manage to survive? Absolutely, Poehler is the key to the show because of her proven track record in comedy. Her characters on SNL were hilariously ignorant but Leslie Knope is just ignorant, which makes for a not-so-dynamic character. Some of Poehler’s most effective characters on SNL were Amber the one-legged woman looking for a date (“Yeah, I’m rockin’ one leg… Jealous?”), her brilliant take on Rosie Perez, stellar Hilary Clinton, and memorable Kaitlin the obnoxious little kid. They were all amazing characters because they were extremely blissfully ignorant. Knope still manages to stand on a teeter-totter of ignorant and informed. The more ignorant Knope becomes the better show.

It is still a formidable effort on everyone’s part but it is absolutely more of a Monday comedy than a Thursday comedy. When you have to compete with shows that have proven their worth and contain amazing comedic talents, it’s a very hard sell; especially when it’s a reused formula. Switch it up Parks and Recreation! And give Ansari more lines.

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  1. Dean says:

    Wil,
    I agree with you that the show is uninspiring and boring but its distinctly different from ‘The Office.’ Part of the success of ‘The Office’ is that its easily relatable. Your office environment might not mirror that of Dunder-Mifflin/The Micheal Scott Paper Company but you will find yourself relating to at least one character or have been an eye witness to another. In ‘Parks and Recreation’ there isn’t any of that. Poehler’s character is similar to that of Micheal Scott on ‘The Office’ in that she is caring, passionate about her work, and can be a bit naive at times but I don’t think she is quite as ignorant of the world like Michael is. You can see the writers are trying to echo that but don’t successfully accomplish it. I don’t know if they are falling short or do it on purpose so you can see some kind of distinction between the two.

    What I do like about the show is Aziz Ansari’s character. He was funny on ‘Scrubs’ and he is funny now. I also agree Aubrey Plaza is a delight to watch. Rashida Jones isn’t bad either (and not a bad looking woman either). I bring her up last because I think maybe her character from ‘The Office’ should have been who they mirrored for Poehler’s on ‘Parks and Recreation.’ She was the polar opposite of Micheal Scott yet was human at times as well (i.e. playing warcraft during work hours).

    The problem with spinoffs is they try to continue the flow from the parent show while making it distinctly different at the same time. Its just too much. I am hoping the show gets better but there is a lot that needs to be done before it does.

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