TV Review: ‘Parks and Recreation’ Makes Case For Best Comedy

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CHICAGO – “Modern Family” may have just won the Emmy and “Louie” & “Curb Your Enthusiasm” both had very strong summer outings, but the fourth-season premiere of NBC’s “Parks and Recreation” (and the equally-hysterical episode that follows it) makes the case that the Amy Poehler vehicle is the best comedy on television right now. With incredibly smart writing and increasingly impressive performances from the entire ensemble, “Parks and Rec” just keeps getting funnier. TV Rating: 5.0/5.0
TV Rating: 5.0/5.0

The new season picks up right where the last one left off with Leslie Knope (Poehler) mulling a decision to run for office and what that would do to her relationship with Ben (Adam Scott). Meanwhile, Tom (Aziz Ansari) has quit to form his own company, Entertainment 720, with Jean-Ralphio (Ben Schwartz), and a recently-singed Ron (Nick Offerman) is in crisis mode after learning of the return of his ex-wife Tammy 1 (not Tammy 2, as played by Megan Mullally, but Ron’s first ex-wife Tammy, played beautifully by Patricia Clarkson, mostly in episode 2).

Parks and Recreation
Parks and Recreation
Photo credit: NBC

Naturally, the season premiere of “Parks and Recreation” ties up loose ends and answers key questions. Will Leslie run for office? Will she have to break up with Ben to do so? How is Tom doing on his own? How quickly can Ron grow facial hair back? Unlike a lot of comedies, the writers of “Parks and Recreation” don’t waste any time transitioning from last season into this one with a beautifully-crafted 22 minutes that serves as a bridge between the seasons for hardcore fans but is also hysterically funny on its own.

Parks and Recreation
Parks and Recreation
Photo credit: NBC

As Leslie deals with the immediate decision of choosing a career she’s always wanted or staying with a man with whom she seems to be falling in love, the entire Pawnee government gets e-mailed and/or texted a picture of a penis. Where a lot of writers would have gone for easy jokes, the penis-text plotline and how it plays out, especially for Ann (Rashida Jones), is incredibly funny. Its development is one of the smarter sitcom subplots of the year.

Finally, there’s Andy (Chris Pratt) and April (Aubrey Plaza), two characters who have been in the forefront recently through their growing relationship but take a bit more of a back seat in the first two episodes of the new season. That’s not to say they’re not great and there’s a major development for Andy when Tom offers him a job at Entertainment 720. Rob Lowe’s Chris Traeger doesn’t play that major a role in the premiere but gets some incredible moments filming a P.S.A. in episode two.

This cast just continues to get better and better with each passing season. There have been growing pains for “Parks and Recreation.” It started out as a bit too much of a clone of “The Office.” Jones and now-gone Paul Schneider looked uncomfortable. Poehler played her character too broadly. But last year marked a major turning point for the show, one that just got more and more confident as it went along. Now, it’s one of those rare programs in which there is not a weak link. I always say that a show like “Parks and Recreation” is only as good as its weakest supporting cast member and “Parks and Recreation” is perfect from top to bottom.

Offerman has garnered most of the supporting actor praise (and Emmy snub tweets) but the entire ensemble simply rules. And, as they get more comfortable in the shoes of these characters, they seem to be making each other better. The first two episodes of this season feature some of the best comic timing you’ll see on TV all year. Let’s hope they can continue this hot streak through December. If they do, there will be no debate as to what comedy is the best one on TV.

“Parks and Recreation” returns for a fourth season on Thursday, September 22nd, 2011 at 7:30pm CST on NBC. It stars Amy Poehler, Rashida Jones, Aziz Ansari, Nick Offerman, Aubrey Plaza, Chris Pratt, Adam Scott, and Rob Lowe. content director Brian Tallerico

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