Friday, February 25, 2011

The Queue Continuum: Seasons One and Two of Parks and Recreation

Perhaps the initial lukewarm reviews scared me off, but for whatever reason I did not watch Parks and Recreation until a couple weeks ago.

It took me about four days to catch up.

Now, everything I heard about Parks & Rec led me to believe that--much like its counterpart The Office--the first season sat somewhere in between godawful and not very good. Since I've still not seen any episodes of The [American] Office from its first season other than the abysmal pilot yet found a way to be invested, I took the same approach to Parks & Rec. Starting with the first episode of the second season, I chugged along, holing up in my intermittently heated apartment during the recent snap that Texans call winter and burning through all 24 episodes in no time. By the time the fourth episode rolled around ("Practice Date"), I found myself starting to give a damn. When "Ron and Tammy" was finished, I was hooked.

Within a few days, I had not only finished the second season, but I had gone back and watched season one in spite of my leeriness, and had caught up on what I had missed of this current third season.

I feel confident saying Parks and Recreation is better right now than The [American] Office has ever been.

I think the show's real strength--and what sets it apart from its sister show--is that no one is unfathomably inept. The Office's true shortcoming has always been Michael Scott. Not only is he irritating, but he is such a bumbling idiot 95% of the time that suspending the level of disbelief necessary to buy him as anyone's boss at least in any long-term scenario is so taxing that it actually makes me tired. While I like Steve Carell, Michael Scott's exit can only be good for the show at this stage.

In the first season, Leslie Knope was essentially the female version of Michael Scott. In addition to being socially retarded (and I actually mean this in the sense that her social development was retarded, you whiny, PC douches), she was barely competent. Luckily, Greg Daniels and Michael Schur (presumably) identified that this dynamic was not working, and there was a paradigm shift insofar as way in which the character of Leslie Knope was portrayed. As the second season began to take shape, her awkwardness was still present, but she was no longer bordering on being incompetent. This adjustment drastically alters the show for the better. With Leslie becoming relatable, there is a transformation from mediocrity to sublimity.

The true key to its success, though, is that the characters are great. Parks and Recreation is a character-driven show, but unlike The Office all of its characters seem real*. Each character, no matter how small actually brings a lot to the show. I could wax ecstatic about everybody on the show, but I've got a better idea.

*If it is hard to believe that Michael Scott could possibly have risen to where he is, then it is even harder to believe that Dwight Schrute could exist at all.

Watch for yourself.


Young Man Duggan said...

I've watched it from the beginning, and it started out very slow. Fortunately for us and the show, we feel that invested time warrants continued faith, and we've been paid back entirely, since it's been consistently funny for the most part.

Young Man Duggan said...

I also would like to point out that you've never liked the American version [because of your obvious preference for the British one from the beginning], but I don't think you've allowed yourself the ability to fairly judge either one. While Michael Scott is a bumbling idiot most of the time...David Brent is very much the same way. It seems to me that since he has a British accent he's immune to the same judgment awarded to his American counterpart.

Josh "Old Man" Duggan said...

I have seen every episode of The American Office outside of the first season. I like it. It definitely is not better than the British one. The difference between David Brent and Michael Scott is that there seems to be zero self-awareness with Michael Scott (at least pre-Holly) and there was at least a modicum of self-awareness with David Brent. I'd probably dislike David Brent a lot more if he had as much screen time as Michael Scott has had.

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