When “Parks and Recreation” first premiered back in 2009, there was good reason to be skeptical of its success. In terms of its concept, structure, aesthetic, and even the subject matter to a certain extent, it was nearly identical to “The Office.” By that point the American “Office” was an established comedic powerhouse, and “Parks and Recreation,” at first glance, looked like a cheap knock off of that program. Luckily, though, first glances can be deceiving.

 

Set in the fictional city of Pawnee, Ind., this single camera mockumentary follows Leslie Knope, the deputy director of the Parks and Recreation department in the aforementioned township. Leslie loves her job — perhaps too much. She will do anything to ensure that hers is the best town in Indiana. Leslie fights to ensure the quality of her parks and Pawnee as a whole with unlikely her crew, including Ron, the overly masculine boss who believes all government is a nuisance; April, the cynical, sarcastic assistant with a dark sense of humor; Tom, an underachieving subordinate whose focus is anywhere but on the job; and, of course, her best friend, Anne Perkins.

 

The comedy is typically situational and driven by character. Usually, the jokes have something to do with either Leslie’s over-zealousness, or Ron’s manliness, or April’s sarcasm, and so on. In lesser hands, the concept would fall flat due to repetition, but this cast and writing staff have managed to keep it fresh — at least thus far.

 

Amy Poehler, the impeccably talented SNL alum, is the lead and star of the show. Her performance as Leslie Knope has been incredible throughout the show’s six seasons. Even if you hate “Parks and Recreation,” it is impossible to deny that Poehler puts all of herself into her character in each and every episode.

 

But we already knew Poehler was great. She has established that as fact through her extensive body of work. The real gems of the show are the talented young actors who caught their Hollywood break on this program. Aubrey Plaza, who plays April, has shown in this show, and other work she has done since, that she is as talented as any young comedic performer working in the business today. Chris Pratt as Andy, the dopey but lovable friend of the Parks department and romantic interest of a few different characters, has stolen the show on more than one occasion. This was his first real acting job, and already you can see how playing Andy has jump-started his career as an actor. Pratt starred in “The Lego Movie” and took on his first live-action leading role in the upcoming “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

 

The rest of the cast, including Nick Offerman, Rashida Jones, Aziz Ansari, Rob Lowe, and Adam Scott, also tend to give good performances, with really no weak link to be found.

 

“Parks and Recreation” was heavily influenced by “The Office.” There is no denying it. For fans of the latter, the similarity between these two shows can be an issue. However, if you can get through the first season, the weakest of the lot, I am sure you will be delighted by the originality and sincerity of the humor and characters in “Parks and Recreation.”

 

If you are all caught up, be sure to watch the new episode that airs on NBC tonight. If you are not caught up, the first five seasons are on Netflix, and the sixth is available on Hulu.

 

Have you seen “Parks and Recreation?” What do you think? Let me know in the comments below or reach out to me on Twitter @TuckerPoikonen.