Parks & Recreation

Rating: ★★★

Passably entertaining if occasionally frustrating and soppy feel-good sitcom. The show borrows a The Office mockumentary format, but without any actual narrative device explaining the cameras or cutaways (in some ways a relief, there was no need for the show to handle the fourth wall and they would only have messed it up). You're treated to a comedy about employees of one of the seemingly least significant government departments in an insignificant town in Indiana.

Two of the main highlights of the show were both messages it wanted to impart. First, it articulates multiple times the ideal of respect for the enemy. Most notably, Ron Swanson, the libertarian who took a job in government to prevent it doing anything, hired Leslie Knope, a pathological idealist with an almost religious passion for public service, not because he agreed with her but because he respected the strength and sincerity of her beliefs. Frankly, I am a sucker for this sentiment, so it stood out to me. The second message was more core to the show: the message was that public service -- actually working for the actual government -- is meaningful and worthwhile. Acknowledging all the bureaucracy and corruption, and even the fickle nature of public office, the show nonetheless makes the case that in public service you will encounter impressive people and make genuine improvements to people's lives. This last is perhaps most notable because it is unique. I have never before seen a show that tries to sell me on the idea of working for the government, or that argues that public servants can in fact be upbeat, industrious and possessed of strong moral fibre. In ways it is a valuable corrective to a cultural background of cynicism.

Earnest messaging aside, the show isn't terribly special. I enjoyed April and Ron, and some of the Pawnee town horrorshow aspects, but the other characters mostly bored me. The failure of the show to actually revolve around creating the park it started off focused on was quite noticeable, and the churn of characters led to some awkward issues (for one, at one point the show runs a competition to design the park, despite Leslie already having plans as a parting gift from a friend who was in the early seasons). The show then focuses instead on Leslie as a character, who therefore has to become increasingly implausible -- though they do manage to temper this a little until the final season.

It's fun enough to watch, occasionally has good moments, and does not trough that low between them. Low-effort mood-lifter.