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Second Look: NBC's "Parks and Recreation"

I was curious to check out the second episode of NBC's Parks and Recreation ("Canvassing") last night to see if my feelings about the new Amy Poehler-starring series, from creators Greg Daniels and Mike Schur, had changed at all.

After watching the series' second episode, I was struck once again how the mockumentary format that the duo borrowed from The Office just doesn't work here. In fact, I believe it's what's holding the series back. Too often the characters rely on overused talking heads to convey information that would be far more humorous if they were said to actual people (I'm thinking of Leslie's bit about returning to the park on her birthday with her White House staff as an example) than to the unseen camera crew.

Additionally, the use of the hand-held cameras works much better in the physical confines of The Office, where the Dunder Mifflin crew works in bullpen-style seating rather than in tiny, cramped offices. Far too often, the shots on Parks and Recreation are hidden camera-style, filming the action inside the office of, say Nick Offerman's Ron Swanson, through the slats of the window blinds.

I did roar with laughter when Leslie and Ann (Rashida Jones) stumble into her house to discover Leslie's colleagues playing Guitar Hero: World Tour with Ann's boyfriend Andy (Chris Pratt) and Andy's band name: Just the Tip, but much of the episode felt flat. The canvassing scenes in particular were about as interesting as actual canvassing and I thought it was far too early to introduce the notion of Leslie's mother, much less one who also happens to work in local politics.

But I am curious to know what you thought of this week's installment of Parks and Recreation. Was it an improvement over the pilot episode? Are you as bothered by the series' mockumentary format as I am? And will you continue to watch?

Next week on Parks and Recreation ("Reporter"), Leslie (Amy Poehler) invites a reporter to do a story on her park project but she and her committee have trouble staying on message; Mark (Paul Schneider) is called in to help save the story but only makes the situation worse; Tom (Aziz Ansari) kisses up to his boss (Nick Offerman).


Unknown said…
I was at PaleyFest last night so haven't seen this episode yet but it sounds like you were less than thrilled. hmmm.
Anonymous said…
I really enjoy this show. The cast is strong and the writing is good.
I also believe that given time it could grow into something really strong. NBC has a much better history of letting its series develop so my fingers are crossed.
Wes said…
It's an OK show. Not great, not bad. Watched it after 30 Rock which was prob. a mistake as it paled in comparison. Hate the docu look and wish they'd get rid of it. Poehler and Rashida are very good. Rest of cast is just OK.
Barrett said…
I completely agree that the documentary style was the wrong decision for this show. It should be really, really funny. The cast is great and I love the premise but I feel like the characters are completely confined by having to talk to the camera. And, as you said, since there isn't one big office with everyone in it (like in The Office) it feels weird and cramped to have the camera peeking in to each of their individual offices so often.
S Broggie said…
Although I'm leaning toward agreeing with you on the mockumentary format, I'm liking the show. The writing and cast are good. The characters are really good, with all kinds of possibilities. Plus, in my book Amy Poehler can do no wrong.
Anonymous said…
I agree with you Jace. I keep noticing the camera shots and I don't think that's a good thing.

I enjoy Poehler and think the show has potential, but only if someone has the smarts to make some changes. Lose the jerky cameras and the entire mockumentary format for starters.

I'll keep watching, but I can't see the show lasting like it is.
Anonymous said…
it's just not there yet. not bad, not great. very underwhelming, which is disappointing.
Unknown said…
I thought it was better than the pilot, but the mockumentary format was even more distracting this time around.
RB said…
I don't think the problem is the mockumentary format itself. The "White House" comment could have been said to another person with the documentarian filming it -- the camera crew wouldn't have taken anything away from that joke.

The problem is that the format isn't being used for any discernible purpose. There's no tension created by the camera crew, and nothing we learn from the talking heads that couldn't have been learned from watching the characters in scene.

In The Office, characters revealed or implied truths to the camera crew that they couldn't in public. What Jim and Pam said about each other to the documentarians contradicted what they said to each other, because their feelings were secret. What the characters said to the cameras about Michael could not have been said to him, because he had power over them. There's none of that tension here. It's the setup that's the problem. Taking away the mockumentary format wouldn't do anything to add the tension and stakes the show needs.
TVBlogster said…
Love Daniels and Schur. Love the wonderful, funny lovable Poehler and the adorable, funny Jones, but the mockudrama only works for "The Office". Duplicating the format here isn't working for me. I understand the humor is in Leslie Knope's unabashed ambition, enthusiasm and lack of self awareness, but having it evolve around a big dirt pit as the motivation for character development/interaction and plot movement isn't doing it for me. I mean, how long do we have to deal with a hole in the ground? I like this cast. This could be better. Still hoping this will improve.

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