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Parks and Recreation: Season One
Universal Studios Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 9/8/2009
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 9/12/2009
Before I go anywhere with this review, I have a confession to make: I've never seen a single episode of The Office. It's not that I've actively avoided it, I've just never seen it. I like the cast, especially Steve Carrell. I rarely jump into new shows when they premiere -- I typically catch them on DVD. But, I never got The Office to review and there were so many other things to watch and now it's five seasons later. So, when I heard that the creators of The Office had a new show coming on, perhaps it was residual guilt which lead me to check it out. Whatever the case, I watched Parks and Recreation when it aired this spring on NBC, and now that first season has come to DVD.
Parks and Recreation is set in the small city of Pawnee, Indiana. The show focuses on the city's government, specifically the Parks and Recreation Department. Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) is the deputy director of the department, and she takes her job very seriously. Her mother, Marlene (Pamela Reed), is a long-time government official, and Leslie wants to do her Mom proud. Leslie works with Tom (Azia Ansari), a slacker who never seems to do what Leslie tells him, and April (Aubrey Plaza), an apathetic assistant who barely seems conscious. Leslie's boss, Ron (Nick Offerman), is the ultimate bureaucrat who doesn't want to be bothered with anything. Leslie learns of an abandoned building project which has left a very large hole on a corner lot. Andy (Chris Pratt) fell into the hole, breaking both legs, and his girlfriend, Ann (Rashida Jones), wants something done about it. Leslie decides that filling in the hole and building a park will be her new mission and the accomplishment which gets her noticed. She promises Ann that the park will be built and Leslie convinces Ann to help her. Leslie also turns to city planner Mark (Paul Schneider), with whom she once had a one-night stand, for help. Can the hapless Leslie actually make this happen?
Having only a six-episode "season", Parks and Recreation doesn't have a great deal of time to when over the audience. Viewing the show on DVD changes this somewhat, but a lot is squeezed into a little over 2 1/2 hours here, and you'll either walk away unsatisfied or wanting more -- I really don't see any in-between. The end result is a true mixed-bag, as the show has elements which work and those which fall completely flat.
The show's biggest asset is the cast. I was a fan of Poehler's work on Saturday Night Live and I enjoy her apparent lack of fear, but I don't know if I would have qualified her as a good actress. However, Leslie Knope is the part that she was born to play. Leslie is an earnest and energetic person, but her zeal does have some self-doubt, and Poehler is able to communicate all of this perfectly. Rashida Jones seems to be building a career playing confused and exasperated partners, as Ann is very similar to Jones' character inI Love You, Man. But, she's very good at this role, and she acts as the link to the audience -- she's the only sane person on the show. Speaking of typecasting, Aziz Ansari seems to only be able to play slack, smart-ass characters, but there's no denying the fact that he's funny here. The biggest surprise here is Nick Offerman. I was not familiar with this actor, but he nails his role as the ultimate "hands off" politician.
The drawback of Parks and Recreation is that the material doesn't always live up the talent of the cast. Again, I haven't seen The Office, but many of us have been in dysfunctional working environments, so I would have to imagine that the show is easily accessible. That's not the case with Parks and Recreation. Part of the show's point is that no matter how gung-ho the worker is, politics and bureaucracy are boring. However, even if you are making fun of boring things, the result can be boring, and the pacing of the show is quite sluggish at times, and, let's face it, we're watching people talk about things which aren't very exciting to most of us. The show also has trouble nailing down its exact comedy style -- Is it a straight satire? If so, then why the physical comedy? Or is this just a "stupid" show, as Leslie certainly doesn't seem very smart. The use of documentary style doesn't do the show any favors either. My biggest question here is, "Who's shooting this and why?", but I guess that's beside the point. While the in-camera confessionals are funny at times, the style doesn't flow well and can impede the comedic timing. Clearly, this style has worked on The Office, but that doesn't mean that it's transferable to other plotlines.
The first six episodes of Parks and Recreation are an interesting experiment. We are given a nice story arc which allows time for us to meet the characters and to attempt to adjust to the show's rhythm. The beginning is definitely wobbly, but the show does seem to gain its footing by the end. The program is undeniably funny at times, and the last episode of this run, "Rock Show", continues several laugh-out-loud moments. The show actually ends with some cliff-hangers, so I'll be checking out Season 2 to see how they are resolved. I hope that the show finds some stability and begins to live up to its potential.
Parks and Recreation: Season One can't stick with a band name on DVD courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment. The single DVD contains all six episodes of the show's first season. The episodes have been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look very good, most notably primary colors. The image is never overly dark or bright. We did get a hint of artifacting here, but overall, this transfer rivals digital broadcast quality. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Being a comedy show, we don't get a ton of dynamic audio effects here. The theme song sounds fine, and the music in "Rock Show" comes through in surround sound. We get some nice stereo effects from street scenes and any crowd scene. I didn't detect any notable subwoofer effects.
The Parks and Recreation: Season One DVD contains several extras. There is an AUDIO COMMENTARY on all 6 episodes, and they are as follows: "Pilot" has Greg Daniels, Rashida Jones, and Michael Schur; "Canvassing" has Dan Goor, Seth Gordon, Nick Offerman, and Michael Schur; "The Reporter" has Dan Goor, Nick Offerman, Morgan Sackett, Paul Schneider, and Michael Schur; "Boy's Club" has Greg Daniels, Dan Goor, Nick Offerman, Chris Pratt, and Alan Yang; "The Banquet" has Amy Poehler and Beth McCarthy Miller; "Rock Show" has Greg Daniels, Rashida Jones, Chris Pratt, Michael Schur, and Alan Yang. The final episode, "Rock Show", can be viewed as aired, or you can choose to watch the "Producer's Cut", which runs 5 minutes longer. We get DELETED SCENES from five of the six episodes and they run about 23 minutes in total. A lot of these feel like longer versions of scenes from the finished shows, but there are still a few funny moments here. "'Hose' Cold Open" (1 minute) is a deleted scene from an unidentified episode. Finally, we have two MUSIC VIDEOS from Andy's band for the songs "Pit" and "Ann".
Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long