TV preview: Parks and Recreation

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

I don’t know if it’s possible to top Season 3 of “Parks and Recreation.” Sixteen perfect episodes gave us Pawnee getting hit by the flu — Rob Lowe’s “stop … pooping” might be the funniest thing I’ve ever heard — more of Tammy (Megan Mullally) in all her glory, the Harvest Festival with Li’l Sebastian and sadly, but hilariously, his funeral.

Not to mention the great moments from Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman): finding a typewriter, the burger cook-off, teaching government to a nine-year-old girl and, “What I said was, give me all the bacon and eggs you have.”

Every moment was filled with great jokes and fun, but the best move was developing substantial relationships between the characters.

The April (Aubrey Plaza) and Andy (Chris Pratt) coupling has and will always be silly, but there were some great tender moments. And Leslie (Amy Poehler) and Ben’s (Adam Scott) relationship was so well-developed that it transformed the series past its humble single-camera beginnings into a show with a beating heart.

Season 4 is obviously still very funny and the relationship stuff is strong, but “Parks and Recreation” goes somewhere I never thought it would — a dark place.

No, it doesn’t enter the brooding territory of “Louie,” but the sad undertones in the first two episodes reminded me of “Party Down.”

Leslie must break up with Ben because her public office aspirations mean their relationship would be a scandal. It’s bittersweet, not just played for jokes.

In the second episode Ron faces Tammy One (Patricia Clarkson). While it’s a magnificent bit of fun, we see a glimpse into his past that’s kind of depressing.

Don’t get me wrong, this is still one of the funniest shows on television. But when you create real characters like “Parks and Recreation” has done, there’s bound to be some real conflict as well.

"Parks and Recreation"

8:30 p.m. Thursdays on NBC

4 stars