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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Parks and Recreation introduces "I'm Leslie Knope"

     NBC's Parks and Recreation premiere, "I'm Leslie Knope," finds Leslie (Amy Poehler) fumbling about breaking up with Ben (Adam Scott), something that becomes urgent when a disturbing incident kicks her campaign into high gear. Said incident is an e-mailed penis photo, which Ann (Rashida Jones) diagnoses as ill. This soon leads to Ann's inbox filling up with more and more genitalia pictures. Ron (Nick Offerman) hides in the woods from Tammy One (Patricia Clarkson, Six Feet Under, Shutter Island), who is going to audit him. April (Aubrey Plaza) takes over for Ron, and helps Andy (Chris Pratt) move up in the world.

     Leslie is faced with an incredibly difficult choice: Ben or her career. She isn't unique in having to make that decision, but it's heart breaking to watch her go through it. Technically, Ben is her boss, even though they have the chemistry of equals. Leslie's decision to run for office, though, has been a long time dream, finally come true. She cannot possibly give that up, after she has worked so hard. The good news is, if (when?) she wins, Ben will no longer be her boss, and they can be together. Right?

     Ben loves Leslie very, very much. How else can one explain the grace with which he steps aside when she cannot bring herself to end things? He touchingly gives her her first campaign button, knowing just how important it is for Leslie to hold an elected position, likely the first of many. Not many guys could make such a noble sacrifice, and this only makes Ben more worthy of her affection.

     Ron and Leslie's relationship has grown into something just as sweet, in an entirely different way. When Leslie gets stuck, she runs to Ron. He has confidence in her, and supports her. Even when Leslie moves out of the Parks and Recreation department, she will probably always return to her mentor. Not only that, but their relationship goes both ways. Through Leslie, Ron realizes he must return to confront Tammy One.

     Which may be a blueprint for future seasons. After all, even is Leslie loses this election, which could happen, though shouldn't, she will run again. Being in city government means she can still be in the building and in the cast. Surely, an elected Leslie would find plenty of time to get involved in Parks and Recreation activities. This also opens up higher positions for other cast members to move, and would be a good development, all around.

     Andy is already making progress, as he takes Tom's (Aziz Ansari) old job as Leslie's assistant. April makes that happen, and proves her leadership skills. Does this mean that when Leslie moves on, April may take her job? Andy can be an assistant, but he could never handle what Leslie does. April probably wouldn't work as hard as Leslie, but she does have the gumption to make things happen.

     Tom remains in the cast, stopping by frequently in "I'm Leslie Knope" to drop off branded material for his new business, Entertainment 720. Will this continue, or will Tom seek to return to the Parks and Recreation fold? Considering the only job for him at the moment might be shoe shiner, let's hope that Tom can make it in the private sector. After all, the city government has plenty of use for event planners, or whatever it is that Tom is / will be doing.

     Parks and Recreation also stars Rob Lowe, Retta, and Jim O'Heir. The series airs Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. on NBC.

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