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Office / Parks & Rec Watch: Parkour and Recreation

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Spoilers for the season premieres of The Office and Parks and Recreation coming up after the (parkour!) jump:

Maureen Ryan has a great rant up at her blog about how series ruin themselves by overplaying will-they-won’t-they relationships among characters. One of the best examples of a series not doing this is The Office, which played up the Jim-and-Pam suspense for a couple of seasons, then got them together so sweetly but matter-of-factly—not injecting their relationship with too much engineered drama—that it became part of the show with becoming the show.

The Office seems ready to do the right thing by Pam’s pregnancy as well. After doing the head-fake of suggesting a long arc about Jam trying to hide their expectance of Jam Jr., the show quickly ripped off the Band-Aid, having Jim chivalrously disclose it to shield Stanley, whose affair Michael had clumsily (and, typical of him, unnecessarily) revealed to the whole staff.

And because the show wisely decided not to play up the babymamma drama, it started off the season with a down-the-middle episode that simply reintroduced us to the characters and—through the device of having Michael spread rumors about everyone—gave nearly every person in the broad ensemble a moment. (The champion of the evening had to be Andy Bernard, who rather than be outraged by Michael’s rumor that he was gay, had a crisis of sexual identity: “Michael, am I gay?”)

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As for Parks and Recreation’s return, I had only one minor quibble: Pawnee has a zoo? How big is this town, anyway? Beyond that, “Pawnee Zoo” was spot-on, and had me cracking up beginning to end. (Confession: Everytime someone says “Here’s the situation,” I feel exactly the same temptation that Leslie gave in to.)

A good comedy about civic bureaucracy needs to do a good job merging the political and the personal, and this episode did it beautifully: first, by having Leslie stir up a gay-marriage controversy through a cute stunt involving “marrying” two penguins, then by showing how she compounds the fiasco because of her desire to be universally loved.

Meanwhile, the show’s doing a better job of using and balancing its supporting characters: Aziz Ansari’s Tom Haverford isn’t monopolizing his scenes anymore, while the show has thankfully figured a way to keep Chris Pratt’s Andy in the action—as well as the pit! (The toughest part of living in which, he says is “keeping my suit pressed. And the rats.”)

Aubrey Plaza, meanwhile, is quickly becoming a favorite of mine as Leslie’s intern-emy April; love her look of hostile boredom through the entire visit, changing to sudden delight as soon as she learns the penguins are both male: “That’s awesome!” (See the clip, above.)

Next week’s episode is even better, making excellent use of both Ron and the pit. Keep Knope alive!