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Reviewed by Will Harris
t might not be fair to say that the origins of NBC’s “Parks and Recreation” were somewhat troubled, but even creators Greg Daniels and Michael Schur would probably admit that viewers were on the defensive when it first premiered. For months, there had been speculation that Daniels and Schur were working up a spin-off of “The Office,” but it soon emerged that it actually wasn’t a spin-off but, rather, a unique entity – well, y’know, except for the fact that it was done in mockumentary style, therefore making it look exactly like “The Office.”
Given that neither critics nor viewers were entirely kind to “Parks and Recreation” during its first season, it may have seemed somewhat staggering when the show returned for Season Two and started pulling in positive reviews, many of which dared to suggest that it had transformed itself into the funniest show on television. Although Season One was sufficiently hit-and-miss to inspire skepticism about the accuracy of these claims, lay your uncertainty aside: having watched it from top to bottom, we can confirm unequivocally that “Parks and Recreation: Season Two” is freaking hilarious.
Funny thing is, when you get right down to it, very little about the show has changed. It still focuses on Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), an overenthusiastic bureaucrat in the Parks and Recreation Department of Pawnee, Indiana, and her fellow employees. All that’s really different is that the show’s writers were able to implement all of their “what worked, what didn’t work” lessons from Season One and flesh out the characters. But, wow, what a difference it makes.
First and foremost, Leslie herself no longer feels like a female version of Michael Scott. Rather than simply bumbling her way through existence, she regularly demonstrates that she has the talent and ability to have gotten where she is, but at the same time, she also displays an insistence to forcing herself into situations and refusing to take “no” for an answer that clarifies why she’s never made it any farther up the food chain. Once you combine these things with a hefty helping of eccentricity, you get a great sitcom character. Leslie also finds herself in a romantic relationship in Season Two, and although her new boyfriend, Officer Dave Sanderson (Louis C.K.) doesn’t last, it results in some great material nonetheless.
The friendship between Leslie and Ann Perkins (Rashida Jones) strengthens during Season Two, as we see that Ann really does like Leslie, even if she is a little weird. The end of Ann’s relationship with Andy (Chris Pratt) opens the door for Mark (Paul Schneider) to step in, thereby also giving April (Aubrey Plaza) the chance to try in her ineffective little way to win Andy’s attention. We learn that Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari) is part of a green card marriage, though it’s turned on its side by having his wife, a Canadian, be the one who needs the American citizenship. Once it disintegrates, we’re left wondering if Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) might step in to comfort the former Mrs. Haverford.
These are just pencil sketches of the goings-on with the “Parks and Recreation” gang during Season Two. So much more goes on that it seems unfair to spoil it for you if you’ve yet to take a shot on the show, but you’ve got Tom trying to buy a share in the local strip club, Nick’s secret musical identity, and, in yet another surprising burst of comedic energy, the late-season addition of two state auditors, played by Adam Scott and Rob Lowe. In addition to the aforementioned Mr. C.K., there are also guest spots from Will Arnett, Andy Samberg, Fred Armisen, John Larroquette and Megan Mullally.
Confession time: I didn’t watch Season Two of “Parks and Recreation” until this DVD set arrived on my doorstep. Now, it’s one of my favorite sitcoms. Seriously, it’s that funny. You’ve come a long way, Leslie, and, man, I can’t wait for Season Three to get here. If you’re not as excited as I am, then you need to sit down and watch this set. It won’t be long before you’re a believer too.
Special Features: It should come as no surprise that a show from a couple of guys behind “The Office” would be released in a DVD set which includes literally hours of bonus material. Heck, you get that much from the deleted scenes alone. In addition, however, there are quite a few commentaries spread across the four DVDs, and the fourth disc offers a lengthy blooper reel, a live performance by Mouse Rat (a.k.a. Andy’s band) with a special guest appearance by Duke Silver, behind-the-scenes footage from Chris Pratt, promos the cast filmed to help promote NBC’s coverage of the Winter Olympics, a look into why ?uestlove from the Wu-Tang Clan had a problem filming a guest role, and, finally, Gabby Moreno performing the show’s theme song. Whew!