It has been a rough week in the Econo Man/Petite Chablis household, folks. The two of us managed to pick up some sort of stomach virus, and spent Monday and Tuesday lying on the couch, watching TV, making pitiful groaning noises, and examining the fridge for foods we thought would stay down. My husband heroically left the apartment to teach his pre-midterm lecture/review session; I heroically left the apartment to get Gatorade and toast when we determined that we did not, in fact, have any foods that were likely to stay down. (Thank goodness we live in a neighborhood with a convenience store 3 blocks from us.)
So instead of writing about anything smart or meaningful, since I spent most of the past 48 hours watching TV, I’m going to talk about TV. Specifically, the show I think might just be the funniest one on television right now: Parks and Recreation.
Parks and Recreation debuted last season, and initially it was pretty underwhelming — not bad, but not something I got all excited about. But it’s taken a huge leap in its second season, and I find myself enthusiastically recommending it to everyone and anyone with whom I talk TV.
The show, filmed in a mockumentary style similar to The Office, centers on the Parks Department in Pawnee, Indiana. The main character, Leslie Knope, is the Deputy Director of the Parks Department. Leslie takes her job very seriously — probably too seriously — and suffers from frequent delusions of grandeur. But despite these flaws, she’s smart, capable, and a genuinely sweet person.
The show mines a good bit of humor from the world of small-town local government. People attend public forums to ask questions like, “I found a sandwich in one of your parks, and I ate it, and I want to know why it didn’t have mayonnaise on it?” But most of the show’s humor (and its appeal) stems from its characters, people like Leslie’s self-absorbed co-worker Tom Haverford, who fancies himself a part-time nightclub promoter, or city planner Mark, a player by nature who is nonetheless trying hard to maintain a stable relationship with Leslie’s sensible friend Anne. Teenage intern-turned-receptionist April is hilariously deadpan, but still manages to convey the pain of her crush on Andy, the guy who runs the shoeshine stand (and Anne’s ex-boyfriend).
But the funniest character is Leslie’s mustachioed, pseudo-libertarian boss Ron Swanson. It’s hard to describe what makes Swanson so hilarious — it’s a combination of Nick Offerman’s understated line readings and the excellent writing — but perhaps these quotes will give a hint:
Ron on government: “I think the entire government should be privatized. Chuck E. Cheese could run the parks. Everything operated by tokens. Drop in a token, go on the swing set. Drop in another token, take a walk. Drop in a token, look at a duck.” (“Sweetums”)
Ron on strip clubs: “Strippers do nothing for me. I like a strong, salt of the Earth, self-possessed woman at the top of her field: your Steffi Grafs, your Sheryl Swoopeses. But I will take a free breakfast buffet anytime, anyplace.” (“Tom’s Divorce”)
Ron responding to a dinner party invitation: “If I wanted to bring a large number of deviled eggs, but I didn’t want to share them with anyone else, can you guarantee fridge space?” (“Leslie’s House”)
If you haven’t seen this terrific show yet, check out the episodes that are currently up on Hulu. I’d suggest “The Possum” or “Woman of the Year” as the best introductions to the series’ characters, but “Sweetums” showcases the brilliant local government humor the show is so good at.
Anyone else watch P&R? What are your can’t-miss shows?