It’s taken us a while to latch on to Parks and Recreations, over here in Blighty, but the NBC series has been doing big business across the pond for some time, and is now in the midst of its fifth season.
The brainchild of Greg Daniels and Michael Shur, Parks and Rec (as it’s known to the kids) is a mockumentary focusing on local government in Pawnee, a fictional town in Indiana. You don’t have to be Robert Downey Jr. or Benedict Cumberbatch (or even Johnny Lee Miller) to guess which department the show concentrates on.
Heading up the Parks and Recreations department is Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman). Ron wants nothing to do with local government, and would rather spend his time crafting wooden flutes and fine canoes. However, Swanson’s second in command, Leslie Knope (played with great likeability by U.S. funny-lady-of-the-moment, Amy Poehler) is keen enough for the both of them. Despite her surname, Knope is an ambitious and optimistic local government employee, eager to rise through the ranks, yet perhaps a little naive in her beliefs that she can make government work for the better.
The show centres around Knope’s schemes to improve the (frankly shit) parks and recreational facilities of Pawnee, whilst the supporting cast blunder along around her (more on them in a little while). Season One is largely concerned with Knope’s attempts to turn a large (really, its huuuge) local crater into a park, so that the good people of Pawnee can get their frolic on. This might not sound like the basis for brilliant comedy, but remember, The Office was set in a Slough Paper Merchants and for a long time Alan Partridge was based out of The Linton Travel Tavern.
In all honesty, it took me a while to get into Parks and Rec, but by the time I began streaming the second season on dodgy websites, I was well and truly hooked. There’s a consistency between the seasons that really makes Pawnee feel like a genuine town. Shetland pony Lil’ Sebastian is the town’s beloved mascot. There’s a Springfield/Shelbyville style rivalry with the next town, Eagleton and the local library is ran by sex-fiend (and Ron’s ex-wife) Tammy (not to be confused with Ron’s first ex wife, Tammy, or his mother, also named Tammy).
If you stick with Parks and Recreation, you’ll find a lot to sink your teeth into, and I guarantee you’ll love it (seriously if you don’t like it, I’ll come round your house and apologise for recommending it). The show is so good, in fact, that it’s drawn guest stars such as Louis C K, Will Arnet, Andy Samberg and Justin Theroux, and if you don’t think those guys are funny, there’s just something wrong with you.
It’s going to take a while for UK audiences to catch up with our American cousins, but this handy guide to the main characters of Parks and Rec should help you on your way. Soon, you’ll know them all better than your own family.
Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler)
The show’s protagonist, out to save local government from itself. Tri-hard, serial dater and waffle ravisher.
Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman)
Man’s man and head of the Parks and Recreation department, Ron has been slowly subverting the establishment from the inside for decades. As well as being a connoisseur of fine whiskeys, woodwork, desk-mounted claymores and moustaches, Ron also has the honour of being my favourite character.
Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari)
Ultra-fly businessman Tom Haverford likes to feel like he’s being held back by the parks department, preferring to spend his time shopping. He’s a man of strict personal rules (‘Treat yo’ self!’) and one of the funniest and most endearing characters. Keep an eye out for his business venture, ‘Entertainment 720’.
Ann Perkins (Rashida Jones)
Former nurse and Leslie’s BFF, Ann spends a lot of her time mooning over the various men of the Parks and Recreation’s office.
April Ludgate (Aubrey Plaza)
We first meet April as she begins an internship in the Parks and Rec department. Her less-than subtle lack of enthusiasm greatly endears her to Ron, who ends up taking her under his wing. Could this be just what she needs to stir her latent sense of pride for Pawnee? No, not really.
Andy Dwyer (Chris Pratt)
Last seen merking terrorists in Zero Dark Thirty, Chris Pratt is on fine form as comedic foil Andy Dwyer. In the first series, he starts out as Ann’s boyfriend, but it’s not long before his laissez-faire attitude to life and love of rock and roll upset the nest.
Jerry (Jim O’Heir)
Don’t ask about Jerry. Seriously, don’t even talk to him. It’s best to pretend he just doesn’t exist. He’ll only disappoint you otherwise. Jesus Christ, Jerry!