Enter Netflix, a digital vending machine, dispensing alternate universes just aching to be explored at your leisure. The rabbithole I happily and obsessively tumbled down landed me in Pawnee, Indiana: a small town that's "first in friendship and fourth in obesity." The Emmy-nominated "Parks and Recreation” (2009-2015) starring Amy Poehler, Rashida Jones, Aziz Ansari, Nick Offerman, Aubrey Plaza, Adam Scott, Retta and Chris Pratt before the movie star slim-down.
I expected an off-beat workplace drama I could half-watch while cooking dinner or use as background noise at work. What I discovered was a quirky, laugh-til-you-cry, cry-til-you laugh modern comedy that was as inspiring and intelligent as it was upbeat and hilarious.
The beauty and brilliance of “Parks and Recreation,” beyond the fantastic and varied cast and the drool-inducing continuity, is that Leslie Knope is a controlling, work-obsessed basketcase, and she never apologizes for it. While a romantic comedy would spin her neurosis, intelligence and dogged ambition as something to be cured by a man, Leslie, her motley crew of employees and friends, and eventual her husband are rightfully awed and inspired by her boundless energy and dumbfounded by her worth ethic. She’s pluckier version of Olivia Pope without all the murder or fashion sense.
With Donald Trump running for President a platform of hate, bullying and "I got guy" tactics, it's refreshing to visit a town where the Big Bad is Ron Swanson, Leslie's boss and dear friend who loves her more than he hates government, or Councilman Jamm, who opposes Leslie because he covets her attention.
"Parks and Recreation" also paints a vivid and bizarre mural of Pawnee, Indiana in a Simpsonian way through its unique local customs (drinking from a water fountain by putting the entire thing into your mouth); celebrities (delusional talk show host Joan Callamezzo and the late Li'l Sebastian); and businesses (Sweetums Corporation and Paunch Burger). It also features a variety of zany characters: my favorite being the stoner animal control guys, the Sapperstein twins and April's macabre friend Orin. Although nothing tops watching Leslie continuously achieve and surpass her goals and the crazy-strange-perfect love affair between April, a macabre college intern and Andy, the airhead musician with a heart of gold.