Parks 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.