Tagged: parks and rec

“Parks and Recreation” is coming back

I used to approach this period on the TV calendar with quite a bit of apprehension (the kind of apprehension where I knew it was just about TV shows, not about anything of any actual personal or material importance, but a kind of apprehension nonetheless), because typically, most of the shows I like have always been either on the bubble or on their way out. There’s no real reason for this. I don’t intentionally eschew shows with big ratings or anything. We can’t control what we like and what we don’t like, and when it comes to television — a medium where, if you opt to watch a show as it airs, you’re deciding to commit yourself to a certain numbers of hours each year (unlike, say, watching a movie or listening to an album, where the time commitment isn’t so large) — the vast majority of shows fail, so the odds of you happening to find a new show and realizing it’s for you and that show being renewed repeatedly are fairly slim.

In recent years, as most of the network shows I watch have either wound down or become unwatchable, this has been less and less of an issue. Most of my favorite shows — the shows I feel like I have to see — aren’t on the broadcast networks. The shows I liked on the broadcast networks this season are, for the most part, ending on their own (“30 Rock”) or are safely returning (“New Girl”). There are shows I used to like, and those became poor shadows of themselves (“Community” and “The Office,” which is also ending). There are really only two shows on the so-called bubble I really wondered about: “Happy Endings,” a delightful live-action cartoon that remains in limbo (though I’m oddly confident in the reports that it will be picked up by USA), and a show that I really like and highly recommend but also a show that is just very entertaining; and “Parks and Recreation,” the best show on network television for a few years now. I like “Happy Endings.” I love “Parks and Recreation.” And so the fact that NBC has opted to bring it back for a sixth season is just terrific.

This? This. Oh, and obligatory.

“Parks and Rec” renewed for fifth season

Update : And now it’s renewed for 22 episodes!

Original: It’s official: “Parks and Recreation” has been renewed. Alan Sepinwall reports that it has been picked up for 13 episodes, but that it should be on the fall schedule, so additional episodes could be ordered down the line. (That depends on how it does, how the new NBC shows do, etc.)

This is very exciting. Last night’s stellar fourth season finale — can Amy Poehler just have all of the awards now? Because she certainly deserves them — would have worked as a series finale, sure. But it was so good, and so damn touching, and also it deftly opened up new possibilities for several characters, that it would have been criminal (CRIMINAL) to end it there. Huzzah.

Things to Purchase: The “Parks and Recreation” Book

Hey, remember that time “Parks and Recreation” was off the air for a while because NBC is a very well-run network in every way imaginable? Funny story. The cast and crew filmed the first six episodes of their current season last spring, essentially moving from the second to third seasons without a break due to Amy Poehler’s pregnancy. That was followed by a hiatus, followed by filming the 10 remaining episodes in their third season order. Still reading? Okay, good, I’m getting to the point: With all of that spare time, the “Parks and Recreation” creative types put together a book. A real book, that you can order and read and whatnot. It’s called Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America. Tremendous.

This “Parks and Recreation” ad is spectacular

NBC has released the teaser trailer for next week’s episode of “Parks and Recreation.” It is amazing. It’s cut like the teaser for a thriller, rather than an episode of the best sitcom on television. And there’s a good reason: Megan Mullally, the real-life wife of Nick Offerman, returns as Tammy, one of the two ex-wives (both named Tammy) of Offerman’s Ron Swanson. I love, love, love that this is the Valentine’s Day episode for “Parks and Rec.”

After an ungodly wait, “Parks and Recreation” is back on television tonight

It has been 245 days — eight months, to the day — since this show last aired a new episode. In that time, there have been 15 new episodes of “Two and a Half Men,” 10 episodes of “Outsourced,” 14 episodes of “Mike and Molly” and an ungodly dozen episodes of “Keeping Up With The Kardashians.”

My point is, it’s been a bleak time for comedy, and whether you’re looking at the sitcoms or the unintentional humor airing while “Parks and Rec” sat on a dusty shelf, the discerning comedy fan can’t help but feel like something was missing.

The background: “Parks and Recreation” comes from Michael Schur, Greg Daniels and some of the other folks behind the Americanized “Office.” It stars Amy Poehler, Aziz Ansari and a lot of people you would recognize but can’t immediately name. The show premiered in the spring of 2009 with a pretty bad six-pack of episodes; lameness emerged from the show’s blatant desire to be “The Office, But With A Girl” and the lackluster structure.

In the fall of 2009, it reemerges. It’s a different show. It’s been fine-tuned, worked on. They disassembled the engine, reassembled it and rotated the tires for good measure. While other qualitative sitcoms (“30 Rock,” “The Office”) decline, it soars. The ensemble is pitch-perfect, the jokes just quick enough to make you pay attention but not so fast as to obscure the punchlines; the characters richer, deeper, interesting and relatable; Poehler’s character finds a middleground between Michael Scott-style buffoonery and first-season cartoonishness. Episodes tackled gay marriage, political sex scandals, financial problems faced by local governments and the scourge of public libraries. Guest stars included Louis C.K., Will Arnett (Mr. Amy Poehler), Justin Theroux, Andy Samberg and Megan Mullally, who in real life is married to the show’s MVP, Nick Offerman.

The fact that Offerman stands out so much among a show that also contains Poehler, Ansari, Aubrey Plaza and Chris Pratt should tell you something. (Rashida Jones is also involved, but albeit often serving as the straight man to the antics of Poehler or Pratt. She’s still plenty good.) If it does, please enjoy this GIF. If it doesn’t, please enjoy this GIF.

The show, as presented during the 2009-2010 season, was an entirely different animal than the first season incarnation. It also stood out in many ways from its peers. It’s worth noting that it was, of course, very funny. The actors found their groove and each stood out in their own way, getting chances to shine but also serving the ensemble whenever needed. The humor and vibe on the show was affectionate in many ways that “The Office” was not (save the Jim-Pam stuff and other occasional interactions); the characters were funny, relatable and real in ways “30 Rock,” as a live-action cartoon, was not interested in exploring; the meta-jokes were often subtle and woven into the fabric of the show; the warmth and positivity was infused in seemingly every episode, and required no ending monologue to remind us of that fact. It was smart, it was funny and it seemed to click on every level.

The show suffered missteps. Guest appearances by Fred Armisen and John Laroquette marked weaker-than-usual episodes. On some shows, this would be the sign of a rut, of an inability to deal with the ebb and flow of the television season and fitting other pieces into the puzzle. Instead, the show bounced back. The season ended with appearances from Adam Scott (“Party Down”) and Rob Lowe (every girl’s fantasy circa 1983-1986, every liberal man or woman’s fantasy from 1999-2003, and every middle-aged-woman who didn’t feel like changing the channel after “Desperate Housewives”‘s fantasy from 2006-2010). They have since been added to the ensemble for the third season.

By the end of the 2009-2010 season, there was no debate about what was the best comedy on television. I mean, sure, you could have such a debate, if you were so inclined, but I know people who watch “Two and a Half Men” and would swear by that; I know people who would deny that “30 Rock” took any such dip; I know people who don’t own televisions and would find the entire argument bourgeois. The point is, people feel what they feel and they say what they say. I consider myself a fairly objective arbiter of televised comedy, as well as a well-informed member of the subset of people who read a lot about entertainment and arts and culture, to say nothing of the fact that I can tell when something is funny and when it isn’t and I can most certainly tell you that “Two and a Half Men” is conclusively, objectively, not funny, not if you are willing to think about it, not if you are paying attention and not if you are conscious while the thing is airing. But “30 Rock” and “The Office” both had their wobbliest seasons; “How I Met Your Mother,” known as CBS’s attempt at not being CBS, was also shaky; NBC’s “Community” was good, if scattershot for the first half of the season; ABC’s “Modern Family” was enjoyable more than it was great, and “Cougar Town” blossomed in the second half of the season, but half of a pretty good season does not beat the whole of a great season.

At some point, “Parks and Recreation” ascended from the debate about the Best Comedy in Television and entered into the discussion for the Best Show on (Network or Otherwise) Television.

The ratings weren’t great, which is a nice way of saying they were bad (yes, even for NBC). The network had given it an early pickup, which was nice, and due to  Poehler’s pregnancy the show actually moved directly from the second season into producing the third, skipping the summer hiatus most shows get so that the third season could air, uninterrupted, in the fall of 2010. So, predictably, NBC benched the show, essentially in favor of “Outsourced,” a show that is at best a little bit racist but harmless, and at worst an abominable, weekly 30-minute attempt to CBS-ize NBC’s comedy lineup. (I would insert some line here about NBC’s problems, but let’s be honest, if you are reading this you likely already know about the nightmarish hellscape that is NBC’s current place in the pantheon of television networks.)

And so, we waited. We waited through four months of “Outsourced,” at least appreciating NBC’s decision to air the show at 9:30 p.m. (so true and wise and learned comedy fans could watch the first 90 minutes uninterrupted before turning off the TV at 9:30 each Thursday), if not grumbling that they gave the network’s sole (sole) decent timeslot to arguably the network’s worst show (I say arguably, because: “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno”). We patiently waited as tidbits about the show leaked out, as some advance word crept out here or there that Rob Lowe and Adam Scott were so funny and fit so well, and the episodes they had produced were so great, and man that Aziz Ansari really has scorching buzz right now, it’d be great if NBC had a comedy program featuring his talents that they could advertise and point to, as if to say, hey, if you like this guy, maybe give our 19th-place-network a shot?

Now, finally, finally, it’s over. “Parks and Recreation” returns tonight, landing in the plummest of plum NBC timeslots (9:30 p.m., after “The Office”). Recognizing that they had more comedies than timeslots, and keenly aware that they couldn’t spread them out on other nights because people sure as hell weren’t going to watch more than one night of NBC a week (except for football), they decided to jam them all onto Thursday nights. Instead of the traditional approach that had worked for nearly three decades on NBC (four comedies from 8-10 p.m., followed by a signature drama, which they had done almost continuously since 1984, save intrusions by Donald Trump and Jay Leno), they decided to air six sitcoms from 8 to 11 p.m.

“Community” leads off the night at 8 p.m., followed at 8:30 p.m. by the newbie “Perfect Couples,” followed in turn by “The Office” and, as we have noted, “Parks and Rec,” which is in turn followed at 10 p.m. by “30 Rock,” which is itself followed at 10:30 p.m. by the blissful silence that comes from turning off your television after watching two and a half hours of television and briefly pondering going to the gym or reading a book before maybe passing out on the floor with a half-eaten cupcake in your hands. (Or, if you are unable to switch the channel because you are trapped under something heavy, “Outsourced” will be on at 10:30 p.m.)

So, hopefully you’ll watch. Hopefully these shows will work and it’ll succeed, or else we’ll wind up with some Frankenstein of a schedule next year where it’s “30 Rock,” followed by a 90 minute “Law & Order: Vancouver,” followed by whatever “The Office” turns into without Steve Carell, followed by, of course, “Outsourced.” Hopefully you’ll watch. Hopefully these smart, truly good shows (and the others airing around them, depending on what “Perfect Couples” turns into) can actually find an audience and enough success to warrant their continued production (I speak mostly for “Community” and “Parks and Rec,” which need the ratings, as opposed to “30 Rock” and “The Office,” which are safely ensconced for now).

Tonight. “Parks and Recreation.” 9:30 p.m. Be there.