Like a lot of people, it seems, I at first dismissed Parks and Recreation as another The Office clone and didn’t much bother with it. I remember seeing the first couple of episodes, thought it was pretty funny but I’d seen enough of that schtick with The Office and put it down thinking I’d never come back. And I didn’t for a good two, maybe three more seasons. Then I started hearing some good buzz about it. When a friend commented about it on Netflix, I made my The Office dismissal, and she countered with I should skip season one and head straight into season two.
I gave that ago and when season two starts with Leslie Knope rapping the entirety of “Parents Just Don’t Understand” I knew it was up to something different. It was such a goofy, oddball, joyful little way to begin I couldn’t help but want to see what they’d do next. What they did was make a perfectly wonderful, and hilarious little TV show. The thing that I love about Parks and Recreation that no other show does is portray an entirely uncynical, full of joy, and positive world that is also really funny. So much television today, especially the comedies is full of such snark, sarcasm, and cynicism. Everything has to have a bitter bite. It's like our modern world cannot abide with hopeful, even slightly sentimental, humor. Yet Parks and Recreation has proven that’s not true.
Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope is just bursting with happy energy. She’s a government employee who not only truly believes that the government can be a source of good in this world but each week she proves it to be true. Even the characters with darker traits like Ron Swanson with his extreme libertarian views and April Ludgate with her embittered sarcasm open up and embrace their sunnier sides in the face of Knope’s joy. But again none of this is overly sentimental or cheesy. It is very funny. And such fun to watch.
It's extraordinarily sad to see it go off the air. One can only hope something similar will find its way to our screens, and that real soon. I’ve actually not yet seen this final season for various reasons, but I just can’t wait to grab the DVD and binge.
There is a complete collection coming out this week as well, but as far as I can tell it contains no extra features that weren’t already included in the individual season releases.
Also out this week that looks interesting:
Justified: The Complete Final Season: Justified is not the greatest show to ever hit your television but it does what it does really well. It didn’t reinvent the crime genre, but it did show just how good the genre could be when you’ve got really great people making it.
The Wire: Complete Series (Blu-ray): The greatest television series ever gets a fancy high definition remaster. From what I’ve read, creator David Simon was originally against it as they shot the series in regular definition, but once the bigwigs at HBO noted they were doing it without him he apparently got involved in a big way. The reviews have so far been very good. I’m not yet convinced I need to lay the money down (again) for it, but many will. And if you don’t already have the show in your home collection, now is the time to get it.
The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water: It's been a long time since I’ve watched Spongebob, but I’ve always marveled at its zany creativity. I’ve only heard good things about this movie.
Jupiter Ascending: The Wachowskis' big budget sci-fi extravaganza starring Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis got some pretty horrible reviews, but it looks like a big fun mess.
Focus: More bad reviews for this Will Smith/Margot Robbie con-man flick, but I’m always willing to watch Smith do his thing (and Robbie certainly isn’t bad to look at either).
Camp X-Ray: Kristen Stewart in a Guantanamo Bay drama. I’ve not seen Stewart in much of anything (sorry, Twilight fans) and Guantanamo is a difficult subject to handle well. But I’m interested. Kristen Lopez reviewed it and wrote "Stewart finally shows her talent in this thought-provoking drama."
Age of Consent - 45th Anniversary: It's hard to believe Helen Mirren was ever young, but here she is playing the vivacious free spirit on a beach alongside James Mason of all people.
McFarland USA: Kevin Costner gets a bunch of underprivileged Latino kids to run fast. Inspiring.
Cannibal Ferox (Blu-ray Deluxe Edition:) One of the many Italian zombie flicks to come out in the late '70s/early '80s. I can’t imagine they could really clean it up enough to merit a high-definition badge, but I guess they tried. It's also got loads of special features for those who just can’t get enough rotting corpses.