An ensemble cast that ranks with the likes of Taxi, Cheers, and Arrested Development
The first season really didn't do much for me when I watched it on TV. It felt too much like just another version of The Office (US version). I wasn't crazy about the characters and some even annoyed me (Andy). I didn't watch the second season when it was on TV, but during my winter break this year, I decided to give it another chance since it had so many talented people in it... and boy am I glad that I did.
The second season is excellent. Right from the start with "Pawnee Zoo" the show won me over anew. Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) officiates a marriage between two penguins thats becomes a heated political issue among a few residents of her town of Pawnee because the betrothed birds are actually gay. She is then questioned, asked to annul the wedding, and even resign – but Leslie is always a character with the best of intentions, as we see in her response to her reasoning: "I firmly believed that it would be cute." Leslie then becomes a hero to the gay community in town, who throw a party for her at the local gay bar "The Bulge", where she resistantly takes the praise and by the end is DJing and singing Lady Gaga's "Poker Face." She is also taken onto the local tv show, Pawnee Today, for an interview regarding the issue, is hounded by both host and a community member, but she stands her ground because of her view of the marriage's "cuteness." But she doesn't say this out of naïveté or stupidity, moreover its because thats genuinely what she feels, and because she has no ulterior motives. Leslie Knope is incapable of deceit. And the few times when she does something that could be hurtful or wrong, she turns herself in, tells the truth or makes amends with her friends. She's not your average politician by any means.
I won't ruin the rest of the episode, but I wanted you to get a taste of how special Leslie Knope is. The more of the show you watch, the more you understand. Most anyone in town would go to bat for her because as one character puts it when asked to do the Parks department a favor: "Leslie is the kind of person who uses favors to help other people."
This nature of Leslie permeates the rest of the office and town, and brings together people that would otherwise not work well together, and encourage them not only to work together, but care for each other. And this happens naturally. She doesn't have to remind everyone how to treat each other – its that her positive, hopeful attitude is infectious... and it is infectious to viewers as well.
I started watching this show after a big breakup, and since 30 Rock was my girlfriend and my show, I needed a change, and found the perfect substitution with a show that you can watch and feel like these people could be your friends – and watching it is like visiting your friends.
Now you may ask yourself: All this love and caring is great, but it is a comedy, right?
The answer, of course, is yes. Very much so. And it is one of the smartest ones on right now. I laugh out loud more watching it over any other show on TV (including Modern Family, Big Bang, Louie, and Archer – all of which are very good shows).
The richness of the supporting cast is like no other. It compares closest to classics like Cheers, Taxi, and Arrested Development. It's the kind of show where from one episode to the next your favorite character will change.
Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman), Leslie's Libertarian boss, is an evident favorite. With the strong "manness" of Clint Eastwood, Sean Connery, and so many others mixed with skills of great outdoorsman, a love of meat, then mix in that super man-musk of Ron Burgundy... and you still just get a few shades of Ron. He is all these things, but still manages to care for his staff and Leslie's goals even in the face of his resistance of government involvement in anything. And there is so much more... but I will tell you he has two ex-wives named Tammy, one of which works at the Pawnee Library, which is unanimously referred to as the most evil place on Earth.
Then there's Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari), Leslie's assistant and aspiring entrepreneur/player in the Jay-Z and P. Diddy tradition... April Ludgate (Aubrey Plaza), Ron's lazy and mean secretary which are both qualities he hired her for... Ann Perkins (Rashida Jones), a local nurse who befriends Leslie and is an honorary member of the Parks department... and Andy Dwyer (Chris Pratt) – the one who annoyed me in the first season – has become one of my favorites with his dopey helpfulness and positivity and of course his oft-hilarious band, Mouse Rat, with songs that seem to call back to 90's rock and have some really great lyrics.
Of course there are more characters than that (Jerry, Donna, Jean Ralpheo, Tammy...), and we get the addition of Rob Lowe and Adam Scott at the end of this season which brings even more dimensions of fun.
All these characters come together in a spoof of local government wrangling, relationships, trips to local bars, camping, festivals, concerts, and all the good stuff of life and find wonderful and hilarious stories along the way. It doesn't end with marrying penguins.. there are fragrance and liquor release parties, a flu outbreak, government shutdowns, hunting and camping trips, a children's musician concert, telethons, drug stings, vandalism pursuits, Halloween parties, award ceremonies, blind dates, beauty pageants, neighboring town rivalry, animal control, many public forums... and just so much more..
Give this show a chance, even starting with Season 2, it is well worth the time. And then get ready for such an consistently amazing Season 3, that I'll be very surprised if they don't win the Emmy this year... It was near-perfect.