Hi! I’m Jonathan! How y’all doing today? Isn’t it glorious weather? Like a childhood summer. Now you sit tight and I’ll fetch your menus.
Cynical Brits will tell you they hate the ‘phoniness’ of some Americans, the smiling and chirpiness and hope. Parks and Recreation could not be made in Britain.
Indeed, it struggles to even be shown here. After a sporadic run on BBC4, the fourth series is only now making its way to UK screens via the digital channel Dave. For context, season four aired back in 2011 over in the US, and the entire show ended earlier this year with its seventh season finale.
But you know what? Parks and Rec is exactly what British people need in their lives.
The basics: it’s a life-affirming sitcom set in a local government department, following their ups and downs as they try to make the world a better place, one picnic area at a time. Amy Poehler stars as Leslie Knope, the most gosh-darn-rootin’-tootin’ bureaucrat you will ever meet: Calamity Jane with a remit over outdoor leisure facilities. Her boss is man-moustache Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman), a hardcore libertarian who believes his own job is a waste of taxpayers’ money.
Amongst the supporting cast are the sleazy but big-hearted Aziz Ansari, handsome but big-hearted Rob Lowe and dour but big-hearted Aubrey Plaza. Chris Pratt is almost unrecognizable as the schlubby but big-hearted Andy; you might have seen his nipple flaunting turn as Star Lord in Guardians of the Galaxy, or his recent adventures in a very different sort of park. Poehler holds it all together, but the cast quickly develops into an ensemble, then a family.
No, wait, stop retching. Parks is not sugary junk, despite the Pawnee town slogan: ‘First in Friendship, Fourth in Obesity.’ Poehler spent almost a decade snarking on Saturday Night Live, so Parks has some of the most deliriously funny, breathtakingly tart jokes anywhere on TV.
You’re advised to power through the first season, which is only good enough to disappoint. Some characters are the snide folk you find in ordinary comedies, and certain running storylines are wisely left behind as the show finds its stride. By the end of the second run, it’s like the sun has come out, and the fourth series is mother-fricken Disney World levels of joy.
Parks and Rec is often compared with 30 Rock, made by Poehler’s best friend Tina Fey, as they feature a similar mix of precision gags and workplace mentorship. But while 30 Rock thrives on anarchy, Parks isn’t afraid to take its time and let you fall in love with its characters.
The Brits love cynicism, and for good reason: it’s helped us through two world wars and centuries of drizzle. But writing something this funny without falling back on smugness is an impressive feat, the comedy equivalent of working without a net. Parks and Rec is the rare show that won’t just make you laugh; it might actually make you a better person.
Now you have a great day, ya hear?
Parks and Recreation series four is shown tonight, 8pm on Dave