British audiences are often left out in the cold when it comes to the best US comedies.
The BBC showed both Seinfeld and The Larry Sanders Show at unsociable, erratic times despite the fact that the former is one of the biggest ever American sitcoms, and the latter is one of the most influential. Tina Fey’s excellent 30 Rock never got going either, bouncing from Five to Five USA to Comedy Central.
However, BBC4 has proven a better fit for quality comedy from over the pond. They were quick on the case with Seinfeld writer Larry David’s caustic and hilarious Curb Your Enthusiasm, and now they’ve secured the amusing Parks and Recreation, currently on its fifth season in the US.
Parks and Recreation was co-created by writers of the US version of The Office, Greg Daniels and Michael Schur, and stylistically it borrows heavily from that show (which in turn was based on Ricky Gervais’ UK original).
Although the show takes time to find its feet, its entertaining cast of characters make it worth sticking with past season one. Ahead of its arrival on BBC4, here’s our guide to the comedians who have made the show a hit…
Amy Poehler (Saturday Night Live, Mean Girls), plays Leslie Knope, who works in the Parks and Recreation Department of the fictional US town of Pawnee. Her unfailing optimism is admirable given the widespread apathy amongst her colleagues.
Rashida Jones (The Office, The Social Network) is the kind-hearted Ann Perkins who becomes Knope’s best friend after they team up to transform an abandoned pit into a park.
Ann Perkins’ unemployed, wannabe rock star boyfriend is played by Chris Pratt (Moneyball, The Five Year Engagement). Dwyer is the reason Ann and Leslie meet, after he falls into the abandoned pit and breaks both his legs.
Aziz Ansari (Scrubs, I Love You Man) plays Tom Haverford, Leslie’s apathetic colleague who uses public meetings as an inappropriate forum for chatting up women.
Nick Offerman (Sin City, The Men Who Stare at Goats) has a ball playing the moustachioed Ron Swanson, Knope’s macho boss who openly expresses how little he cares about his job and spends most of his day playing and beating Tom at Scrabble.
Aubrey Plaza (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) is April Ludgate, a deadpan and disinterested intern whose facial expressions undermine Knope’s over the top enthusiasm at every turn.
Paul Schneider (All the Real Girls) plays Knope’s colleague and one-time love interest Mark Brendanawicz in the first two seasons, with Adam Scott and Rob Lowe appearing in later episodes, along with a number of other regular guest stars.
Are you a fan of Parks & Recreation? Which is your favourite character?
By Milo McLaughlin