It is said pretty often that- Drama is tough and comedy is often not in our wheelhouse. The talent of humour is a dicey one. It is difficult to breach the thin line of subtlety that makes an act totally funny, totally stupid or totally cringe-worthy. Reflection is the most important skill in the pursuit of humour and the more you reflect upon the world around you, the more wit and humour you can generate in your work. This segment- How to write a great sitcom- will highlight some great sitcoms, the art of making them, their characters, the script and what makes them genuinely funny. The sitcom in focus today is the Amy Poehlar produced satire on the world of local government Parks and Recreation or Parks and Rec, as it is usually referred to.
Parks and Recreation is about the employees of a branch of the local government of the fictitious town of Pawnee, Indiana, USA known as the division incharge of the Parks and Recreation. The division is headed by Ron Swanson who is a libertarian and a man of strong principles. The protagonist of the show is Leslie Knope, played by Amy Poehlar, who is the assistant director of the parks division and she is a dedicated and part-neurotic government employee. The division consists of Tom Haverford, an Indian origin employee incharge of scheduling; Donna, who is incharge of the managing the division, Jerry Gergich, the pushover senior employee incharge of filing and April Ludgate, a 19 year old intern at the beginning of the show whose ideology about life would make you afraid, VERY AFRAID. Leslie’s best friend is a nurse in the St. Joseph’s Medical Centre, Ann Perkins and she has a child with the city manager Chris Tregor. Ann’s ex-boyfriend, Andy, married April when she turned 21 and he works initially at the show shine stall in the city but then serves as the assistant to both Leslie and Ben, Leslie’s husband. Ben White was the assistant city manager to Chris Tregor after which he resigned from his job, served as a congressional campaign manager, worked in an accountant firm for a brief period and then took the job from the city manager when Chris Tregor quit his job.
It is confusing and intermingled, but what TV show running for nearly 7 years isn’t?
The Art of Making
The show follows the single camera direction system. It takes a cue from another popular sitcom, The Office, which was created by the creators of this show. The single camera system allows the proceeding to follow a mock documentary system where the events are followed by the interviews of the characters. A unique format, this adds to the perceptual reality and wit to the show as it generates an unassuming spontaneity.
Leslie Knope- She is a strong feminist who initially worked as the assistant director of the parks division, then was elected into the city council, got recalled, regained her job in the parks division and then unlimitedly went on to become the head of the parks division in the mid-western region of the USA. Work is Leslie’s heroine. Pawnee is her true affection. Waffles are her favourite food. An eternal optimist and thoughtful person, Leslie’s ideologies conflict with her initial boss’s, but her never say die spirit and identity forced Ron into respecting her. Her maternal instincts for her hometown forces her to levy taxes on the consumption of soda while putting her own job on the line and she hates Eagleton which looks down upon Pawnee. She loves her husband, Ben White, has a sis-mance with Ann Perkins and her strong views make her a bane in the eyes of her enemies. She is loved, she is hated and she is respected, she is Leslie Knope.
Ben White- Ben White is a HUGE sci-fi nerd and an accountant nerd. He is a nerd. He is unusually intimidated by the policemen and though he seems like a fascist hardass (Leslie’s Words), he is later shown to be somewhat of a pushover. Ben is extremely smart but has problems adjusting to Leslie’s level of thoughtfulness. This awkward Chemistry makes this relationship more endearing to watch.
Ron Sawnson- He is, for me, the funniest person in the show. Ron Swanson is an irony. He works at a high position in the local government but he is deeply anti-government. He believes that a man should work for his country rather than working for the government (he describes the government as a blood sucking parasite that sucks on the nation’s tit until it was sore chapped nipples, ouch). He can eat a party platter in under five minutes, he can make a wedding ring using a lamp in an hour, he is one of the best woodworkers in Indiana and he has cried only twice in his life. Ron Swanson is a man’s man and a delight to watch. Also he has an alter ego, Duke silver, who is a smooth talking jazz saxophonist who plays in a local bar in Eagleton. WHAT?
April Ludgate- April Ludgate is the weirdest person you will come across in all of television. She is intense, intimidating, emo and uncomfortable to be with. She is a dark character who likes to prank around and hurt people. She cares for nothing, mostly but she cares for the people she love. Though largely shown to be aloof and distant, her chemistry with her husband, Andy, is one of the best in the show. She loves her friends and her meanness is endearing.
Andy- Andy is a child in his 30s. Unusually dumb and extremely athletic, Andy has a heart of gold. He wants to be an FBI agent and a rockstar. He has a band known as Mouserat, and he is very proud of his music. The extremity of his traits with that of his wife’s is amazing and hilarious. Andy is a care-free, happy-go-lucky jock.
Ann Perkins- Ann is the straight man in this dysfunctional system. She is shown to be normal and caring person whose only shortcoming is that she gets swept away in the characteristics of her boyfriends. She ends up having a kid with Chris Tregor and moves to Michigan, against the wishes of her best friend Leslie. Ann Perkins is the apple of Leslie’s eye, who compliments her for her beauty and ends up making her uncomfortable.
Chris Tregor- Born with a rare blood disorder, Chris’s parents were told that Chris would not live her long. Having survived that, Chris grew up to be an extremely optimistic person, a quick talker, a vegan and a fitness freak. He is extremely good looking but contrary to his appearance, Chris has troubles finding the ‘One’. He wants to be the first person who lives up to the age of 150 and his fitness and dietary stringency is borderline irritating. His relationship with Ann Perkins is another in this sitcom, which shows a chemistry between two extremely opposite people.
Tom Haverford- Tom can be defined in a single word, SWAG. He loves his swagger. He loves it so much that he can marry it. Tom is a short thin Indian origin guy born in the USA whose childhood bullying treatment resorted him to redefine his lifestyle. He listens to R&B music and likes to quote lines from terrible movies. Tom is also an entrepreneur. Most of his businesses fail but he never gives up. His friends are imbeciles but he never leaves their side. A visionary, a misguided one and a charmer, too much so, Tom Haverford has swagger.
What makes it Work?
Parks and Rec is an example of how a non-slapstick, clean, witty, comedy can be successful. The properly defined and fiercely original character are fun and winning. The script is crisp and the situations are relatable. What works for Parks and Rec? It is a slice of life itself.