Thursday, 11 April 2013

Parks and Recreation on BBC Four is the best new four-year-old comedy on tv

In the pitch to the network it might have sounded like the worse tv idea since Splash or that thing where they're trying to make sewing competitive, but US comedy Parks and Recreation manages to overcome its dull-sounding premise - life inside a local council department in small-town America - to be the best new comedy on UK tv this year so far.

Why? Because it's actually funny enough to make you smile, or even, you know, laugh.

Shot as a pretend documentary (no 'mockumentary' usage here, cheers), the characters are aware of the cameras with their Miranda-style asides or self-conscious pauses, but that's not the joke - the humour comes from the snark-free writing, and the growing Simpsons-like cast of characters.

It's led by Leslie Knoppe, the deputy director of the Parks and Recreation department of the government of Pawnee, Indiana. She's a sort of ditzy, hopeless and ambitious would-be politician who wants to build a park in an abandoned hole in the ground (they call it 'a lot', we call it 'a hole'), but in her efforts to raise the profile of this and other projects, as well as run her own well-intentioned but slightly chaotic life, her exploits are inevitably misunderstood.

Or they backfire, or she gets drunk and turns up at the house of man she's due to have a date with the next day and tells him she's no longer scared about it, that kind of thing.

She tells him about the bra she's wearing as he escorts her home while she then attempts an English accent to keep things light: "Let's go down to the pub to get a pint and put our knickers in some Beatles records, this is an English accent."

He visits her in the office the next day to arrange a second date.

First shown in the US in 2009, the show's into its fifth season there, and here BBC Four have bought seasons one and two.

And while everything you read about the show talks of it being 'a cult hit', its appeal is potentially much wider - so even if the size of its audience on BBC Four remains relatively small, that hopefully won't stop it from buying up the remaining seasons, a decision that the channel is still to make.

Either way, there's a lot to like about the people in Pawnee.

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