Judge Patrick Bromley is often mistaken for Aziz Ansari.
Our reviews of Parks And Recreation: Season One (published September 8th, 2009), Parks And Recreation: Season Three (published September 14th, 2011), and Parks and Recreation: Season Four (published September 5th, 2012) are also available.
"I think it's a real shame when people focus on the tawdry details of a
scandal. Personally, all I care about is Councilman Dexhart's policies; not
whether he was high on nitrous and cocaine during the cave sex…which, by
the way, I heard he was."
Season Two of The Office showrunner Greg Daniel's other (better?) show, Parks and Recreation, showed a vast improvement over the short first season, becoming one of the best half-hour comedies on TV. In case you missed the excellent second season—and, judging by the show's low ratings, there's a good chance you did—the DVD release is your chance to catch up and redeem yourself.
Facts of the Case
Here are 24 the episodes that make up Parks and Recreation: Season Two:
• "Pawnee Zoo"
• "Beauty Pageant"
• "Practice Date"
• "Sister City"
• "Greg Pikitis"
• "Ron and Tammy"
• "The Camel"
• "Hunting Trip"
• "Tom's Divorce"
• "Christmas Scandal"
• "The Set Up"
• "Leslie's House"
• "Galentine's Day"
• "Woman of the Year"
• "The Possum"
• "Summer Catalog"
• "94 Meeting"
• "The Master Plan"
• "Freddy Spaghetti"
I'm not one to brag, but I have to say it: I told you so.
When reviewing the first, very truncated (only six episodes) season of Parks and Recreation on DVD, I made note that by the end of the season, the show had found its voice and had become a show that would be worth watching. Well, here's Season Two to prove my point for me. Parks and Recreation has become one of the best comedies currently on the air. The show, which once could easily have been accused of being too similar to The Office has evolved into its own thing; yes, the workplace setting and documentary approach is the same, but that's it.
The biggest contributor to Parks and Recreation's second season success is the excellence of the ensemble, which has fast become one of the strongest and most likable on television (NBC just about has the market cornered on this, what with The Office, 30 Rock and Community all on the network). Amy Poehler, who leads the ensemble, has really come into her own as Leslie Knope and distinguished herself from Steve Carrell's Michael Scott. She's no longer the clueless buffoon, but rather the endless energetic and optimistic center in a community rife with apathy. That's what gives the series its central drama; Leslie is slowly but surely dragging the Pawnee Parks Department over to her side and actually inspiring things like hope and change. It comes in small doses—often, almost too small to measure—but it's there, and it's a testament to the strength of Parks and Recreation that it's able to score laughs from things like positivity and enthusiasm. These aren't dark or desperate laughs, and we are not meant to laugh at the characters (most of the time; there are more than a few laughs to be had at Andy's expense, particularly early on when he's not quite the loveable goof he transforms into). We like everyone in the Parks Department. We want Leslie to succeed in her efforts to improve her community. We want things to be better for everyone. It may not seem like much, but what's the last sitcom you can remember that made you feel that way?
Rashida Jones is still stranded with the role of straight woman, and while it's a part she plays well, her character remains more dispensable than others. She's not the audience surrogate the way Jim or Pam is on The Office (I promise I'll stop making comparisons soon) and is rarely at the center of the action. Her main reason for being seems to be that she's the first ripple in Leslie's wave of change; that's an important function (for reasons mentioned earlier), but it doesn't always play into the comedy side of things all that strongly. Still, I'm glad to see that Parks and Rec isn't at all interested in turning Ann and Mark into this show's Pam and Jim (there; now I think I'm done). Some lip service is paid towards that idea, but the romantic relationship is wisely kept mostly to the sidelines. In fact, Mark doesn't even make it to the end of the season, and while Paul Schneider is an amiable performer I'd be lying if I said that bothered me much. Instead, we get Rob Lowe and Adam Scott for the final two episodes of the season, and the pair brings an entirely different energy that I'm excited about going into Season Three (I say this partially because I'm a big, big Adam Scott fan; anyone who isn't ought to track down both seasons of Party Down). If there are two actors and characters who could conceivably improve an already first-rate ensemble, my money's on these two.
Of course, the greatness of the cast shouldn't take away from the writing, which has really sharpened and improved in the show's second season (it doesn't hurt that comedian Dana Gould, possibly one of the funniest people alive, came aboard as a producer for Season Two). The plots are more ambitious than in the first season, but also better constructed and executed. Episodes like "Hunting Party" and "Ron and Tammy" are new classics of the series, offering great character moments that also reveal something about who these people are (any episode that centers on Ron Swanson is guaranteed to be great, because Ron Swanson is the best. THE BEST.) In my recent reviews of both The Office: Season Six and 30 Rock: Season Four, I made mention of how both series had their weakest seasons to date. While I still believe that to be true, I think it was exacerbated by just how good the two new kids in NBC's Thursday night lineup—Community and Parks and Recreation—have been. They're showing those more established, more acclaimed shows just how it's done.
All 24 episodes of Parks and Recreation: Season Two here, spread out over four discs and presented in their original broadcast aspect ratio of 1.78:1. Like its network counterpart, The Office, the shows look terrific even on standard definition DVD (as of now, there is no Blu-ray release), with warm colors, accurate skin tones and no visible flaws. The 5.1 audio track concentrates all of the dialogue in the front and center channels, reserving the rear speakers for the occasional ambient sound. Obviously, it's nothing you're going to show off your home theater with, but it gets the job done with nothing to complain about.
The main attraction in the supplemental section is the whopping two and a half hours of deleted scenes, available to watch either by episode or with a "Play All" function. The cuts all makes sense—it's only a 22-minute show, and there's only so much that will fit in a given episode—but if you're a fan of Parks and Recreation, the deleted scenes will extend your enjoyment of the show. The deleted stuff plays well on its own, and is often every bit as funny as the scenes that made the cut. Also included are commentaries over six of the episodes: "Sister City," "Ron and Tammy," "Hunting Party," "Woman of the Year," "The Master Plan" and "Freddy Spaghetti" (the latter two have commentaries over the longer "Producer's Cuts" included on the set). The commentaries include different permutations of cast and creative crew—everyone from Amy Poehler, Aziz Ansari and Aubrey Plaza to co-creator Greg Daniels to writer Harris Wittels to guest stars Fred Armisen and Megan Mullaley. Because of the people involved, the commentaries are mostly a lot of fun, though the more participants there are the harder their conversations are to make out.
Rounding out the special features are a few gag featurettes, including "Pratt on Parks," a series of webisodes made by star Chris Pratt; "Mouse Rat Rocks the Wrap Party," which features a set from Pratt-as-Andy and his band, and "?estlove on Parks," featuring the drummer for the band The Roots sitting down to talk about the show and doing a fake screen test. Additionally, there is an amusing blooper reel, a short piece on the show's theme song featuring composer Gabby Moreno, a couple of commercials that originally aired on NBC during the Winter Olympics and a "sneak peek" at the upcoming Season Three.
After a half season away (presumably so that NBC could launch the xenophobic abomination that is Outsourced), Parks and Recreation will be back this January. Paul Schneider isn't returning, but Adam Scott is, and I'd call that trading up. Long live the Pawnee Parks Department.
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