Parks and Recreation: Season Four, Episode One: I’m Leslie Knope

It’s been a long summer with an array of terrible television. At one point, I found myself watching Homes Under the Hammer and Scrubs marathons to pass the time, which is surely the lowest ebb one can reach. The problem was that all the great shows from America (most notably, all the sitcoms on NBC) ended in May for the summer whilst they shot their next seasons, leaving a massive void in many people’s lives. Whilst the majority of the NBC Thursday Night comedy line up is stellar, none was as missed as Parks and Recreation was, especially as it left us with so many cliff-hangers; would Leslie run for city council (thus resulting in her and Ben having to break up)? Would Tom’s ‘multimedia entertainment production conglomerate’ Entertainment 7Twenty last longer than a day? Why was Ron and Tammy 2 so scared of Tammy 1? And more importantly, Would Anne stop sleeping around with random men?

Well, after 3 long months, our favourite Pawnee’s finest are back and the fourth season looks set to maintain the show’s brilliant mixture of comedy, genuine emotional moments and wacky subplots (this week featuring a lot of penises). The theme of this season première was facing characters facing up to their problems. Leslie tried to hide her run for city council a secret from Ben as well as trying to put off breaking up with him. As soon as Tammy 1 was back on the scene, Ron went into captivity and grew a mighty beard (see above) until the storm hopefully blew over.  Whilst all this heavy decision making and soul searching is going on, someone with in the department has e-mailed everyone a picture of their penis. Anne being a nurse, notices the individual’s testicles suggest that they have the mumps and one way or another, she is flooded with pictures of every male in the department’s junk. This was a damn fine subplot that didn’t take up too much of the show’s time nor did it take the spotlight away from the main plot with Leslie, it just popped up here and there and brought along with it some hilarious lines. The same can be said for the story involving Andy questioning his future; can he attain his dream of being a rock star or will he remain in his shoe shine job?

But, as always, Ron Swanson was the highlight of this episode. From his run at the start of the episode, his BEARD~! to his moustache tremble right at the end, Swanson is the best character on this show and potentially one of the best characters on television right now. His deeply unimpressed look and grass roots style along with his alter ego Duke Silver (saxophonist extraordinaire) make him the ultimate foil to the wackiness unfolding around him. However, with Tammy 1 (an IRS agent who is the epitome of Ice Queen) on the scene, Ron will have his fair share of problems on the horizon as it seems Ron may have finally met his match.

The sweet moment that occurs at the end of each episode was kind of bittersweet this week. Leslie and Ben did break up (for now) and it was as emotional as sitcoms get, with Ben having to give up someone he truly cared about for the benefit of her future career prospects. It’s a testament to this great show that they handle such dramatic moments with a deft touch whilst refusing to let it ruin the fun of the show itself.

All in all, a fine episode and great start to the season. The Leslie/Ron stories look like they’re both going to be really interesting to follow as well as the many other stories having the potential for hilarity (especially Tom’s probably fruitless career in multimedia entertainment) . Shows often tend to begin to lose their steam around their fourth or fifth (see: 30 Rock) and it looks like Parks and Rec may avoid this trend and continue to flourish.

Line of the episode goes to Leslie with this brilliant request “I’m going to be direct and honest with you. I would like a glass of red wine, and I’ll take the cheapest one you have because I can’t tell the difference.

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