By Andrew Chandler
Workplace-based comedies are weird comedic beasts.
For every ‘The Office’ there’s a ‘Smoking Room’, for every David Brent there’s a Gordon Brittas opposite that almost negates the fun created by their comedic counterpart.
So yes, I’m a picky so-and-so when it comes to comedy. My attitude hardens all the more when I see it emanating from the old US of A, I’m probably even more critical of american comedy because I feel it has to work to get my laughs. I’m not anti-american, I’m just anti stale sitcoms. A recent revisit to Central Perk all but confirmed for me exactly how far comedy and, in particular, what makes me laugh has changed in the 20-or-so years since Chandler, Ross, Rachel and Monica sipped at their coffee and talked about how their jobs are a joke and their love life is D.O.A.
More recently I was even willing to give The Office (US) a go and found it a pale imitation of a show I hold so high as to almost be completely unreachable by even the funniest and wittiest of american sitcom writers. I was very close to assuming that american comedy and I had reached a parting of the ways, it could go it’s own way with episodes of Big Bang Theory and re-runs of MASH and I’d be free to go mine with my Red Dwarf DVD’s and an iPlayer streaming episodes of White Gold on repeat.
We’d both be happy, but we’d be happier just doing our own thing. Apart.
Then into my life strode the Parks and Recreations department from Pawnee, a rag-tag bunch of well meaning fools who are “run” by Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) and the positive powerhouse that is Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), the most well-meaning woman in America. Their jobs revolve around maintaining Parks and planning events that the residents of Pawnee might want to go along to. Not the most intriguing of set ups, no, but the strength of the supporting cast helps elevate Parks & Rec into the stratosphere.
Chris Pratt, Aziz Ansari, Rashida Jones, Aubrey Plaza and Rob Lowe are, arguably, the main reasons that Parks & Rec is able to keep the laughs flowing over seven series. Yes, Ron Swanson is a very quotable, hilarious legend of laughs, but the very nature of his character stops him from being the heart and soul of the series. His entire attitude to government is that the less his department achieves the better it is for the tax-payer. That being said when Ron does get the spotlight on him in episodes, they’re amazing, but more of the stories focus on Chris (I’m not famous yet) Pratt and the hilarious Leslie Knope.
Seven series might seem like a big commitment, but this is a fun, dip in and out show that you’ll want to revisit time and again. I’d definitely recommend this if you’re looking for a lighter series to watch inbetween binges of drama or zombie apocalypse, the fact that this show came and went without me even noticing it (the last series aired in 2015) has made me annoyed at myself for dismissing american sitcoms as being less funny than british based ones. This is a trend-bucking comedy that, whilst reeking of The Office, forges it’s own identity and manages to be funny on multiple levels constantly.
It can flip-flop between being crazy and mad-cap to thoughtful and political in seconds and keeps you hooked with hilarious situations, amazing characters and a cast that genuinely seem to be having the time of their lives by making each other laugh and if all else fails, Ron Swanson, watch this show purely for him. He’s a genius.