If you aren’t watching NBC’s Parks & Recreation, start watching it now. Every season has been better than the previous, and seasons 3 and 4 blew the first two out of the water. Like its veteran NBC counterpart The Office, Parks & Rec is shot in the mockumentary style, interspersing talking heads and b-roll into the show’s otherwise typical production. Like The Office, these talking heads are often the funniest parts of the episodes, as we see characters privately react to events the audience just witnessed. This both gives us a unique opportunity to get to know characters in the show more personally and allows for more subtext and less spoken explanation within the rest of the show.
Beyond the mockumentary style, Parks & Rec has the remarkable ability to make every character both absolutely absurd and unavoidably likeable. Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), the main character of the show, is an obsessive overachiever at everything she does, but she doesn’t come off as obnoxious or domineering, but loving and selfless. Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari) is part-womanizer, part-entrepreneur, and part-egomaniac, yet you can’t help but root for his ridiculous endeavors and love him just the same when he fails. Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman), my personal favorite, is a meat-loving, government-hating, patriotic libertarian, but his soft side will make you cry and forget about his ridiculous views (sorry Ron Paul). Even the one “normal” character, Jerry, is still a caricature of blandness, so much so that the other characters incessantly mock him for his normalcy. There are too many other characters to describe here, but trust me when I say that every one of them is uniquely absurd, lovable, and hilarious.
Though the characters on Parks & Rec are ridiculous, its stories and setting are entirely relatable. Set in a small Indiana town in a typical local government workplace, the show tells stories that feel familiar, even to a college student who has never had an office job. Efforts to exaggerate certain aspects of the town, such as the constantly angry citizens at town hall meetings and the passive aggressive alcoholic talk show host, in fact make the subsequent scenes seem more real and relatable.
I couldn’t recommend Parks & Rec more for anyone looking for a new show to watch or just something to do instead of comps (especially since the first 3 seasons are now on Netflix!). Like early seasons of The Office, Parks & Rec feels authentic because of its mockumentary format and down-to-earth setting, while at the same time offers characters that are both hilariously absurd and decisively charming. If you find yourself skeptical at the beginning, stick in there; the more you watch and the later into the episodes you go, the better the show will be.