‘Parks and Recreation’: Worth a second look

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When ‘Parks and Recreation’ launched last April it had everything going for it: mega-buzz, ‘Saturday Night Live’ darling Amy Poehler and the team that made ‘The Office’ a hit. But early reviews for the comedy, about Leslie Knope (Poehler), a mid-level bureaucrat for the parks and recreation department in fictional Pawnee, Ind., seemed to be just as mundane as the government goings-on the show was trying to poke fun at.

With a surprise renewal, writers got a second chance to prove just how funny -- and human -- Leslie and her crew can be. If the first episode is a reflection of where things are headed, viewers just might be inclined to start watching again. Why?


There’s less pit, more plot: Leslie spent the better part of last season trying to turn an abandoned pit into a park. Backing away from the zoning laws and city codes, this season’s premiere instead focuses on a hot political topic: gay marriage. The issue comes about when Leslie unknowingly marries two male penguins during a zoo promotion, instantly making her a hero to the gay community. She declares herself ‘queen of the gays’ by the end of the episode. Which means...

Leslie is finally letting loose: Get this woman a drink! Like last season’s ‘Rock Show’ episode, Leslie got to have a night on the town, and this time she was the guest of honor at the gay bar ‘The Bulge.’ She whoops it up big time and bestows on us her karaoke-style cover of Lady Gaga’s ‘Poker Face.’ Thank you!

Two words: Aziz Ansari: Aside from a few funny lines here and there, Ansari, who plays Leslie’s colleague Tom Haverford, was just backdrop last season. A surprise considering his ‘Human Giant’ background. He could still use more screen time, but is granted a memorable (if short) moment seducing a local TV anchor. His co-star, Aubrey Plaza, gets a few lines too. Her character, April Ludgate, congratulates Leslie after the penguin wedding, along with her boyfriend Derek, who is gay (but straight for her) and his boyfriend Ben.

Ramped up the awkward inter-office romance: We don’t need another Pam and Jim -- and thankfully, Leslie and Mark ain’t that. She’s still got a thing for the city planner (Paul Schneider) after last season’s hook-up. See? They don’t just make moony-eyes at each other. They go for it sometimes. Of course, now he has his eye on her new BFF Ann Perkins (Rashida Jones). We’re expecting even less longing and more action.

-- Emily Christianson