We’re counting down the Top 10 Comedies of 2011. Each pick will be revealed on Hulu’s homepage every day of this week. Selections 10-2 can be viewed here.
I recently heard it theorized that sitcoms take writers about three seasons to really get a good handle on their characters and tone and that they usually become truly great after the first two. Well, in 2011, this theory has found a poster boy: the entire cast of “Parks and Recreation.”
Last season saw the excising of one character whose arc seemed to be complete and the addition of two characters that completely enhanced the dynamic of the show—Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott) and Chris Traeger (Rob Lowe). Not only did they allow for more drama and more interesting relationships but these guys respectively represent one of the best straight men on television and one of the most funny and genuinely joyful characters I’ve ever seen.
And that was just last season.
Writers took all year to fully engrain those characters into the show and develop the way the dynamic has changed, but now the show is really able to dig into the good stuff. In season four, this show has become all about character. We’ve had three whole seasons to fall in love with Leslie Knope and all of her comrades. In fact, Leslie—with her persistence, caring, and unabashed hope—has become an inspiration all her own. Seeing her have the opportunity to live out her dreams and pursue a candidacy for government office fulfills an arc set up on the show as early as its first episode. But I think what’s truly special about this season in particular is seeing those around her realize just how special she is, too.
Ben’s gift of a Knope 2012 button and his understanding at every turn of Leslie’s goals and their relationship together was a truly emotional moment. And that’s followed by the entire “Parks and Recreation” office pledging their support, a perfectly timed moment of sentimentality, which has really become a specialty of the show in the last few years.
Leslie and Ron Swanson’s relationship has become the best platonic relationship since Liz Lemon and Jack Donaghy, primarily because of the subtle and sparse ways they show admiration for each other. Background characters like Andy Dwyer and April have been carefully developed into lovable aspects of the ensemble as well, and even the least featured of the cast such as Donna and Jerry have had their opportunities to shine. What really makes this show work is not any one joke or comedic style, but the way they’ve made us care for these people. These are truly admirable characters we can root for and get attached to.
And let’s not forget: Ron Swanson is awesome enough to make the show all on his own.