falulatonks: ([parks] leslie hunting)
[personal profile] falulatonks
in the most important government in the best city in the world."
"Suck it, Paris, France!"


So what happened was that the day before yesterday I decided people were talking about Parks and Recreation, but not about the specific parts of it that I adore it for, so I made it a list and posted it on Tumblr. Not only was it a hit, but I've already seen people pointing at it to get others to give it a try, which is wonderful. And I'm going to repost here now, so non-Tumblr users see it, too.

Top Five Reasons You Should be Watching
Parks and Recreation


5. PAWNEE


It's actually a little difficult to believe this show takes place in a fictional city, because the details of it are glorious. I love its landmarks and its bigger, more notable details - the burning of a bread factory, killing Indians, having murals called "A Lively Fisting" having a big company that everyone knows (Sweetums), being one of the most obese cities in America.

And it's not just that the history of it is elaborate, it's that the show has actually created a culture which everyone there knows fully. Characters do (fantastically spot-on) impressions of the morning talk show host and of the sleazy councilman, and everyone else gets it. Sweetums is a town feature. There's even a weatherman who drops by twice or thrice over the course of the season (and he's clearly the weatherman of Pawnee). The entire cold open of Christmas Scandal is a big in-joke where they sit around laughing at the government or crazy dogs.

It's also this show's world - a little wacky but convincingly realistic and internally consistent. Andy dropping by at random events to help out because he needs the money, for example; Leslie hitting a road block publicly and needing to go on that one talk show to clear things up. A cruel, evil library department. It’s these unique but oddly recognisable details that make the show look like it exists - these characters have lived before the show started, and will continue to live between episodes, behind the camera, after the show ends.


4. PROGRESS


Consistent development! Here are some things that changed by the end of the second series: the pit is now a lot. April has a permanent job in the Parks department. Andy has a steady job. Tom is divorced. Ron has gone from merely tolerating Leslie to recognising her as essential, a stand-up guy. Leslie has actual plans for her park.

Plot progress has, I feel, become less important to most comedies, and I understand where that need for fixed premise and situations comes from and how difficult it is to keep things moving - but I love that even when this show isn’t referring explicitly to things that need to be done or development that has to be covered, things are happening. Episodes aren’t dedicated fully to push something forward - there are completely realistic interactions between the characters and the way things unfold, and things matter.

I like being able to step into the middle of a show and enjoying it completely, and I think Parks and Recreation allows for that, but it’s especially rewarding to know that you will end up in places different from where you started. I love that it’s fine to get invested in these characters, their lives and their goals and their relationships, because things are absolutely going to pay off. It’s gratifying.


3. WOMEN


I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a show that writes or treats its female characters better than Parks & Recreation, and (just as importantly) with as little agenda. Leslie Knope is the best example of it - here’s a smart, capable, confident female character, who’s good at her job and passionate about it, who can say she’s good at hunting or surfing and actually be good at them. She is silly but strong, extremely idealistic but smart, enthusiastic but serious about it. She has female friends she adores (including her mother), which she shows unreservedly. She has a love life - with great boyfriends who clearly genuinely like her - but when she realises something isn’t going anywhere she can pull back and stop it, and she doesn’t mope or mourn its loss unnecessarily, because things keep happening to her, and she is defined by what she is and what she makes of herself - not who she’s with.

Here’s where the treatment of her character comes in - these are qualities she is loved for. Her feminism and crazy passion aren’t the butts of a joke. They aren’t things that she’s loved in spite of. A gruff, largely imperturbable character, the Man’s Man, is openly appreciative of her and loyal to her. Even when she’s making mistakes, she pushes forward, and the show lets her do it.

And look at the other women on this show! Ann, who is pretty and smart, but awkward and kind of stoic. April, who is quietly, confidently sarcastic, but sweet, and open to feeling things, and doesn’t mind telling an old married couple that she’s happy they’re in love, even if it isn’t cool. Interactions with them are not based on how they are girls, but how they are people. No mention of feminine wiles. No period jokes. No insults based on how girly they are. It’s so rare in comedies, and it’s incredibly refreshing.

How much I adore the ways these women interact with one another is only going to make this longer (“Ladies celebrating ladies!” Leslie Knope, I want to be your best friend.), so I’ll just quickly mention that the Leslie-Ann friendship is probably my favourite one on TV - they’re supportive of each other, sweet, caring.

The best part of this is that none of this is ever a Moral. Loving these characters and letting them be is not something the writers beat us on the head with - it comes to the show (and by extension, all the characters) easily, like it’s only natural that they feel that way, and you feel it, too.


2. THE PEOPLE


I can’t remember the last time I’ve adored an entire ensemble like this. All the characters have flaws, but every one of them is charming in their own way, and spending time with any of them is delightful. The cast is spectacular and that’s probably a huge part of giving each character a distinct personality, but it’s more than that - the writing backs that up with such rich history that there’s so much to explore for each of them. You can put one of them with any other character or in any other situation and it’s guaranteed that you’ll get something from it - something about their past, or something else about themselves - and it fits in with what we know of them beautifully. It makes them both interesting and ridiculously likable.

And these people are good people - both good, as in strong and well-intentioned, and people, as in human - vulnerable, well-drawn. Of course there are individual aspects of these characters that are silly or cartoonish, but somehow they come together to form people that you love and believe. Tom, for example, is ridiculous - kind of sleazy, loud, but he’s also a little sweet and earnest. Ron is every kind of extreme, yet you want to go hunting with him and get on his good side. As a result, when characters sit down and get serious with one another, it doesn’t feel out of place, because I know that people act like that, and these people will act like that.

I love that humour is never used as an excuse to force characters into acting differently or for them to act stupid - there’s a kind of maturity to these relationships, despite the silliness; an intelligence there formed by what they are and what they’re being influenced by. I like that each character knows and gets a different side of whatever character they’re interacting with, because that’s how people are. It's funny without losing its sense of character or intelligence, and I love it. I feel like the writers are acknowledging that viewers are smart enough to get it. to get people.


1. THE JOY!


This show makes me so happy! It goes beyond appreciating its quality, acknowledging what it does well - this show is genuinely wonderful. It’s ironic that a workplace comedy about the government is one of the most positive shows on TV right now - the humour is warm, and hardly ever mean-spirited. Characters enjoy the company of people they work with, they like them. Where things can backfire and go terribly, the show chooses to go lighter - e.g. the skit by the Parks department in Christmas Scandal being a huge hit, when it could’ve gone horribly wrong instead. Such a big part of this show is its heart - emotional pay-offs, characters becoming closer. These people know joy, they know love. Bitter, evil people are the ones we laugh at!

When I’m not laughing, I’m beaming or even tearing up a little bit - Parks & Recreation is a comedy, but it’s unabashedly positive and sweet and goofy, and bravely so. I don’t think there’s anything that puts me in a better mood - definitely nothing I feel better about enjoying or loving.


P.S.: How is it that I built up this show to ridiculous amounts over the long break and had it hit every note in the premiere anyway? More feelings and a better post later, but for now - so glad this show is back.
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July 2012

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