Friday, April 12, 2013

'Parks and Recreation'

12 April 2013

Mock documentaries are hardly a new phenomenon: Rob Reiner’s seminal ‘This Is Spinal Tap’ was released in 1984. But, in recent years, the success of ‘The Office’ (on both sides of the Atlantic) has led to a rekindling of the mockumentary sitcom. For some people the high cringe factor of ‘The Office’ made it almost unwatchable – it was often painfully funny. Greg Daniels’ new US TV series ‘Parks and Recreation’ is much gentler and I’m completely hooked. Leslie Knope, Deputy Director of Parks and Recreation in Pawnee, Indiana (wonderfully played by Amy Poehler) is typical of the naïve, self-deluding, somewhat stupid protagonists of most mockumentaries – but, unlike David Brent, Leslie Knope is a really sympathetic character and we are completely on her side. She’s also slightly more knowing than she first appears, often realising afterwards what a stupid thing she has just done. Actually the whole cast of regular characters in ‘Parks and Recreation’ are pretty likeable: they all have their faults but they are basically nice people. ‘Parks and Recreation’ is also laugh-out-loud funny in quite an old-fashioned way despite the modern mockumentary approach. It creates ridiculous situations (the penguin gay marriage) and treats them seriously. The tone is more Laurel and Hardy than David Brent – and there’s some nice slapstick too. Best of all the nature of the documentary that appears to be being filmed is never mentioned: all the characters give knowing looks to camera but no-one ever explains why there are cameras in someone’s living room. All of ‘Parks and Recreation’ series 2 is still on BBC iPlayer: if you haven’t tried it yet I would recommend taking a look. Who knew local government could be so funny and charming!

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