Parks and Recreation

Parks and Recreation: Season One

Meet Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), a small-town government worker with pretend post-partisan dreams.

In Parks and Recreation (Season One, NBC, 2009) she teaches us how to run fake town hall meetings; how to spin public rage (“These people are members of a community that care where they live, so what I hear when I’m being yelled at is people caring deeply”); and how to survey a speechless girl in a playground for research purposes (“Would you say that you are,’ Enjoying yourself and having fun, having a moderate amount of fun and somewhat enjoying yourself, or having no fun and no enjoyment?’ I’m gonna put a lot of fun”).

But trying to deal with a drunken bum stuck in a children’s slide is more complex. In Leslie’s world, it’s not what you do, rather what you say and how you look. That’s what really matters.

As a mid-level bureaucrat at the Parks and Recreation Department, Leslie is very good at not listening. After a local falls down a pit, she just sees a golden opportunity to develop a wonderful eyesore. And then she falls down the pit. In one sense, this is a very physical comedy and richer for it.

Also, in this documentary-style comedy with brains (from the creative folks who brought you The Office U.S.) it’s open season on political correctness for satirical purposes. So, by episode five (The Banquet), native Indian jokes are on the menu. Or as Leslie puts it in her laughably know-it-all way:

In a town as old as Pawnee, there’s a lot of history in every acre. This wooded area is the site of, um, the murder, actually, of Nathaniel Bixby Mark. He was a pioneer who was killed by a tribe of Wamapoke Indians, after he traded them a baby for what is now Indianapolis. They cut his face off. And they made it into a dream catcher. And they made his legs into rain sticks. And that’s the great thing about Indians, back then, is, they used every part of the pioneer.

Season One’s DVD bonus scenes are also hilarious. Here’s a government worker trying to play the race card:

When I was 18, I changed my name from Darwish Naved Ghani to Tom Haverford. And the reason being, look, you know, dark-skinned people with funny-sounding Muslim names, they just aren’t going to make it very far in politics. Okay, yeah. Barack Obama. That’s one counter example.

After working for the department for six years, Leslie is more than happy to share her accomplishments. “Recently, I led a city-wide drive to disinfect the sandbox after we had problems with the cats.” Equally as funny, are her framed photographs of female politicians, from House Speaker Nancy “Botox” Pelosi to Hillary “Pantsuits” Clinton. They’re Leslie’s role models you see. “You know government isn’t just a boys’ club anymore. It’s a great time to be a woman in politics.”

To put it succinctly, a post-partisan politician is a tax-and-spend spinner, who probably doesn’t like debating issues, because she can’t defend them. Leslie again:

You know, when I first tell people that I work for the government, they say, “Oh. The government stinks. The lines are too long at the DMV.” But now things have changed. People need our help. And it feels good to be needed.

 Also of interest is Nick Offerman’s character, Ron Swanson, a man’s man. And Leslie’s boss:

I’ve been quite open about this around the office. I don’t want this…Department to build any parks because I don’t believe in government. I think that all government is a waste of taxpayer money. My dream is to have a parks system privatized and run entirely for profit by corporations.

Like Chuck E. Cheese. They have an impeccable business model. I would work for Chuck E. Cheese.

 The Republican-minded Swanson though doesn’t hate Leslie he just hates what she’s doing to herself and longsuffering taxpayers.

But if you haven’t heard of this comedy, then you’re probably not alone. Thanks to the lack of publicity, few Australians will (a) know that Parks and Recreation is here (Mondays and Tuesdays, 11 PM, Seven) and (b) that it beats Australia’s sterile politically correct comedies hands down.

And maybe Parks and Recreation is tapping into our concerns about out-of-control local governments. Or the City of Greater Geelong, in my case.

Recently I received a threatening infringement notice for “stopping – contrary to a no stopping sign.” The penalty amount? $117:00 for breaking Road Rule Number 167 in my registered red car, approximate time 12:45. If the amount of the infringement is not paid too, then the matter will be brought before the Court, or the Children’s Court.

The sticking points? I don’t own or drive a red car. I don’t even have a clone.

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