There is, literally, nothing I don’t love about this show. This DVD box set was consumed in a couple of sittings. It’s a joy to behold. Let me present for you a list of reasons it’s one of my favourite shows.
1. The theme tune. Jauntiest, happiest theme tune for any TV show, maybe ever. Except for, say, Murder, She Wrote.
2. Amy Poehler. She was always a great comedic actress, from her occasional character spots on Conan O’Brien in the late 90s, to her stint on SNL and the occasional movie like Baby Mama or Blades of Glory. Her work as Leslie Knope enables her to showcase her brilliant comic timing, and somehow make local government ambition and idealism seem sexy.
3. Nick Offerman as Ron Swanson. Brilliant character, brilliantly realised by Offerman who plays him as the ultimate man’s man. He likes meat, hates big government, wants to be left alone. He has a photograph of every steak he’s ever eaten. I saw Offerman as a guest on Late Show with David Letterman, where he spoke humorously and with tremendous insight about the world of woodworking. He can hand-craft you a genuine 17-foot canoe for $18,500. And on the show, he comes up with gems like: I’ve been developing the Swanson Pyramid of Greatness for years. It’s a perfectly calibrated recipe for maximum personal achievement. Categories include Capitalism: God’s way of determining who is smart and who is poor. Crying: acceptable at funerals and the Grand Canyon. Rage. Poise. Property rights. Fish: for sport only, not for meat. Fish meat is practically a vegetable.
4. Aziz Ansari. As Tom Haverford, he epitomises urban-cool wannabe douchebagism, and owns the character. ‘Zerts are what I call desserts. Tray-trays are entrees. I call sandwiches sammies, sandoozles, or Adam Sandlers. Air conditioners are cool blasterz, with a z. I don’t know where that came from. I call cakes big ol’ cookies. I call noodles long-ass rice. Fried chicken is fri-fri chicky-chick. Chicken parm is chicky chicky parm parm. Chicken cacciatore? Chicky catch. I call eggs pre-birds, or future birds. Root beer is super water. Tortillas are bean blankies. And I call forks…food rakes.
5. The writing. The show was created initially as a spin-off of the US version of The Office, but the only aspect of that show it retrained was the mockumentary style. It’s consistently funny, has nothing if not engaging characters (who are fully developed), and doesn’t treat its audience like idiots.
There are several other reasons. No need to list them here…
And in what is increasingly indicative of the state of popular culture at the moment, the things that I like the most are struggling to find an audience. After having its season premiere delayed from September to February, the third season of Parks and Rec finished 116th in the ratings for 2010-11. It got nominated for Emmys, is widely regarded as one of the best, smartest shows on TV, but this is a TV-scape where the most popular comedy is Two and a Half Men. Of course the only way to fully appreciate this show is on DVD, as in Australia it’s shown late at night, out of sequence on one of the other commercial digital channels (which one, I don’t know, I lose track of these things). The DVD special features are great as we get ‘producer’s extended cuts’ of key episodes, a gag reel and web content they can’t show on TV. Seeing Rob Lowe go nuts was a treat.
It’s a great, great, great show. One for the ages, one which truly came into its own in its third season. I buy these things, as opposed to downloading them, in the hope that giving the makers of the show money will encourage them to make more content like it. Just ripping it from a file sharing site is fine, but as long as it’s a ‘try before you buy’ scenario. Quality TV needs to be encouraged; unfortunately the only effective encouragement is monetary.