Hmm… I spent a lot of time last week explaining why I liked Parks And Recreation and why I thought it had tremendous potential that could be developed in future weeks and then… this? This wasn’t a terrible half-hour of comedy by any stretch. It drifted by easily enough. But I’m already having to scour my notes to remind myself of the stuff that was funny. Aziz Ansari’s Tom Haverford forgetting, or really just not bothering, to hide the Easter Eggs in the opening sequence? That was pretty funny. Leslie stumbling on her co-workers playing Rock Band rather than canvassing? Also pretty funny. Leslie using Rovian push-polling to get the results she wants? Kind of funny. But only kind of. (Okay, “Nine out of ten meth users said the exact same thing,” was pretty funny.)
Otherwise, the laughs were pretty thin on the ground. And the episode was so loosely plotted that their absence was sorely felt. We meet Leslie’s mother (Pamela Reed) who’s also her apparent inspiration, but don’t really get to know her. We spend some time canvassing but don’t really get much of a feel for Pawnee. Finally, there’s the town meeting. But apart from Leslie’s attempt to filibuster with a history of the city and, finally, a reading of The Phantom Tollbooth, the gags seem pretty easy. Even Nick Offerman’s Ron, the standout from the pilot, doesn’t get a lot to do, and seems a bit neutered by his own boss.
Also, I’m not sure I liked Leslie so much this week. The pilot balanced ambition with genuine concern, but here she just seems like a heartless striver ready to do whatever it takes. Not that we have to like her for the show to work, of course, but the balance I thought this show was going for—between idealistic civic pride and the realities of modern politics—goes out the window if Leslie becomes as corrupt as the system she’s trying to work.
Maybe next week?