Parks and Recreation review in Slate magazine
December 2nd, 2009
In the world of meager TV ratings, the line separating a loser from an underdog can be blurry, but with its second season, Parks and Recreation has vaulted definitively into the latter category. Contributors to Salon, the Los Angeles Times, and New York are among those who have rallied on behalf of the show, which has gone from an erratically funny nonevent to astonishingly good.
Leslie has become less of a punching bag (or, rather, a more multifaceted one), and Ann has dumped Andy. These shifts in plotting have freed up the writers to make better use of the ensemble cast, where charm runs deep into the bench: Who knew that Jerry, a pencil-pushing piece of Season 1 furniture, would blossom into a hilariously tragic office Eeyore?
The season truly hit its stride with the fourth episode, “Practice Date,” in which the characters dug up dirt on one another in an office background-check game—a funny, economical way to bring them more vividly to life. Tom, we learned, is in a sham marriage, hitched to a Canadian hottie not because of his Casanova talents but because she needed a green card. The revelation at once punctured his slimy façade and deepened our sympathies for him.
Unburdened by the pit plot, the show’s writers have also taken aim at targets beyond an ineffectual City Hall: a hypocritical beauty pageant here (a turkey shoot no less enjoyable for its familiarity), hysteria over gay marriage there (as provoked by a pair of homosexual zoo penguins). And the writers have been making ever more frequent detours into an inspired absurdity that tugs against and tweaks the show’s bureaucratic backdrop. In “The Camel,” Leslie’s boss was brought to the verge of orgasm (and beyond?) by a good shoeshine; in “The Hunting Trip,” we watched as Tom and several others convinced themselves they were being stalked by the Predator.