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Review: 'Parks and Recreation'

April 8, 2009 |  5:04 pm


It seemed somehow inevitable that 2009 would be an Amy Poehler year, that the actress would be lifted by the rising water that is Tina Fey -- her former "Saturday Night Live Weekend Update" co-anchor and her costar in last year's "Baby Mama" -- and by her part in the pop-cultural wing of the 2008 election, in which she imitated Hilary Clinton and rapped like (but not as) Sarah Palin.

So here she comes now, taking up residence on the Thursday-night NBCcomedy bloc alongside Fey's "30 Rock" and "The Office," whose producers Greg Daniels and Michael Schur are also behind "Parks and Recreation," the series formerly known as Untitled Amy Poehler Project. Reports of a "troubled" show, springing off a leaked focus group report citing, among other things, the lack of a "datable" male lead, are -- in the creative if not the commercial sense -- quite exaggerated. (The most favorable response, according to the report, came when Poehler fell into a hole, so, you know, go from there.) Tonight's opener starts slowly but hits cruising speed soon enough.

While it's not the spinoff of "The Office" that was early rumored, hoped for or feared, the show most certainly plays as a variation on that series: It's another faux documentary about a dimwitted middle-manager whose self-image jibes imperfectly with the world's view of her, and whose dreams of glory are founded on air. But the similarities between these shows is no more a handicap than -- to go to the roots of this genre -- those between Christopher Guest’s "Waiting for Guffman" and his "Best in Show." "Parks" tells its own story on its own terms.

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