Political satire at its finest

‘Parks and Recreation’ soon to say farewell to two cast members

Dave Bartlett talkingtelevision@gmail.com
Published on January 29, 2014
The cast of “Parks and Recreation.” — Submitted photo

Kathy Dunderdale wasn’t the only dedicated woman to leave politics during the last few weeks as “Parks and Recreation” saw protagonist Leslie Knope forced out of her dream job as a city councillor for the fictional town of Pawnee, Ind.

Some may be rolling their eyes right now, but as a former political reporter, I know dedicating your life to politics is almost never easy. It’s something I have no desire to do.

As for comparing real life to fiction, there’s a reason I haven’t written about one of my favourite shows before, besides a mention here and there. More on that in a minute.

While no real human would ever be so dedicated to any geographic area as Leslie (Amy Poehler) is to Pawnee, that exaggeration is just one of the things that makes “Parks and Recreation” a brilliant political satire.

But it wasn’t always the case.

I really disliked the show’s first season, finding it way too much like “The Office,” and not only in its faux-documentary, single-camera silliness. Knope’s character was a female version of Michael Scott in a different work place. Snorefest.

At the time I was getting bored of “The Office,” and because of the similarities, I stopped watching “Parks and Recreation” for at least a couple of years. But when I started watching again, the show had greatly improved after a retooling of both cast and Leslie’s character.

They took away the unaware ditziness and replaced it with a deep passion and extreme municipal pride.

And maybe it will be able to survive another readjustment, as both Rob Lowe (Chris Traeger) and Rashida Jones (Anne Perkins) are both in the process of being written out of the show, even though NBC recently renewed the show for at least a seventh season.

That’s the beauty of a composite cast. It’s greater than the sum of its parts, which is very important of a sitcom of this vintage.

If you’ve never seen the show, it’s about the motley crew that keep the Parks and Rec department of Pawnee afloat despite a sea of corruption, small-mindedness, business interests, budgets constraints and their own zany personalities and quirks — of which there are many.

Leslie, the uber-positive municipal saint — who starts the show as a manager in the department — motivates the many less dedicated people around her, and though they can find her cloying, annoying or intense, they have all grown to love, respect and be inspired by her tenacity and unwavering dedication to them and the town.

Ann, Leslie’s best friend who has become the public health nurse, and Chris, the outgoing city manager, are leaving Pawnee, are recently engaged (or not) and have a baby on the way.

The couple’s relationship is a bizarre map.

The rest of the large cast consists of new city manager and Leslie’s husband Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott), style entrepreneur and the city’s new business liaison Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari), head of animal division and all around oddball April Ludgate (Aubrey Plaza), her husband, the loveable dimwit Andy (Chris Pratt), and quite possibly the funniest man on TV — Nick Offerman, who plays department director Ron Swanson.

Swanson hates and mistrusts government, bureaucracy, big business, lawyers, banks … well, you get the idea. It’s his character’s monologues to the camera that consistently make me howl. Like this recent gem:

“There’s only one thing I hate more than lying: skim milk. Which is water that’s lying about being milk.”


“Fishing relaxes me. It’s like yoga, except I still get to kill something.”

And there are a bunch of regular reoccurring characters, too, from the social-media-addicted Donna (Reeta) to the good-natured guy who everyone picks on (and whose name they keep changing) played by Jim O’Heir, to the repugnant, slime bag councilman Jeremy Jamm (Jon Glaser).

It’s a fantastic show for anyone who enjoys political satire or endless ridiculousness, and it excels at both.

So, why haven’t I written about the show before? Quite frankly it was too close to home while I was covering city hall for The Telegram — I’ve been to public meetings that were more sadly comical than those on the show. But also, it’s been a show I never watch week after week, but one I record and binge on, a handful at one time. I’m not sure why that is, because it consistently makes me laugh out loud.

On a final note this week, a couple of hours after sending last week’s column on “Elementary” to the editor, I felt somewhat vindicated when the AVclub.com published a great analysis of why that show has surpassed the BBC’s “Sherlock.” It’s the kind of analysis I don’t have room for in my columns, but a recommended read.

Weblink: www.avclub.com/article/its-elementary-sherlock-how-the-cbs-procedural-sur-200870.

What show reflects your real-life

workplace? Send correspondence to Dave Bartlett at talkingtelevsion@gmail.com.