Thursday saw the debut of NBC's new comedy Parks and Recreation, starring Amy Poelher and Aziz Ansari as as a local government administrators every bit as ambitious and incompetent as one might expect from the likes of series creators Greg Daniels and Michael Schur, who adapted The Office for American audiences. Parks employs a similar mockumentary style, playing up humdrum moments and workaday minutia with expository interviews, steadicam field shots and pervasive awkwardness (which The Office does well) and already employing brazen silliness in lieu of plot and wide-eyed camera smirks in lieu of punchlines (which The Office increasingly does too much). Parks' pedigree may well prove to be both its biggest asset and its biggest liability, but after only one episode (in which Knope takes on the arduous task of transforming an abandoned lot into a career-making community park, at the behest of a concerned citizen, played by Rashida Jones), it's just too early to tell. So I'll wait a few Thursdays to pass my final judgment, in the meantime offering up some queries about what might be in store for the show. Have any qualms or predictions of your own? Share in the comments.
Will Loudon Wainwright appear in every episode?
Here's hoping. Also would like more totally non sequitur Laura Linney references.
How is Leslie Knope (Poelher) not just a female Michael Scott?
So far, she seems to have slightly more pointed career goals and marginally more developed social skills than Dunder Mufflin's charmingly incompetent boss, but she'll have to quickly move beyond the fumbly-bumbly schtick if the show wants to establish her as her own special breed of idiot. (Whether this is the best use of Poelher's comic brainiess is a whole other issue.)
Can America handle two Indian good ole boys?
Played by Columbia, S.C.-born Ansari, Tom Haverford's "I'm what you might call a redneck" bit is somewhat autobiographical, and was probably filmed before Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal delivered the speech that earned him snickering comparisons to 30 Rock's sublime simpleton, but dang. Uncanny.
Is the beardy boyfriend of Ann Perkins (Jones) played by Justin Vernon?
No, it's some guy named Chris Pratt—or so they say.
Did Poehler do her own stunts?
Because Leslie's tumble into the pit at the abandoned lot was probably the funniest part of the episode. More physical comedy, please! (And if that's asking too much, any other kind of comedy will do. Really.)
Am I supposed to like Leslie?
She's dim-witted, committee-obsessed, blindly optimistic and more than a little opportunistic. She invokes George W. Bush and Richard Nixon as shining examples of democracy, maddening comedic softballs that prove successful irony is more than just saying the opposite of what you really mean and grinning blankly at the camera. But there were a few flashes of charming warmth, not the least of which was her drunken slurring of "Lady Marmalade" at the end of the episode. It surely wouldn't do much for Leslie's career for her to be wasted for the rest of the season, but it might make for more satisfying television.
At what point will I start watching this show because I really like it and not because I'm "still giving it a chance"?
This upcoming Thursday, hopefully. If not, there's still 30 Rock.