What a difference a season makes. If they gave an Emmy for most improved series, Parks and Recreation
would have been a shoo-in for its turnaround second season that ranks atop the Ron Swanson Pyramid of Greatness (check out the season 3 sneak preview included as an extra). An Emmy for being TV's funniest series would not have been out of line either. Everything works, from the seamless ensemble and pitch-perfect character-based humor to the deft direction in the mockumentary style of The Office
. Unlike Michael Scott, however, Emmy nominee Amy Poehler's Leslie Knope is competent to a fault. The deputy director of the Pawnee, Indiana, parks department, she's a stick-in-the-mud, dyed-in-the-wool bureaucrat. But her insane work ethic and maniacal devotion to her job has earned her the grudging respect of her less-than-enthused coworkers, including Swanson (Nick Offerman, a master of the deadpan), her libertarian, antigovernment boss; Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari), always on the make but a sheep in wolf's clothing; April Ludgate (Aubrey Plaza), a disaffected Daria
type; the hapless Jerry (Jim O'Heir), who gets less respect than Meg on Family Guy
; and sassy Donna (Retta Sirleaf). Unlike other workplace comedies, Knope is not the calm center around which an engaging group of goofballs orbits. The voices of reason in this series belong to Leslie's best friend Ann (Rashida Jones) and her boyfriend Mark (Paul Schneider), whose relationship is one of the through lines of this season. The breakout star this season is Chris Pratt as simple-hearted lug Andy, who gets a job running the city hall shoeshine stand where he can pursue Ann, his former girlfriend, but who enters into a sweetly played Jim and Pam-like friendship/romance with April. Very special episodes include "Ron and Tammy," featuring Megan Mullally (Offerman's real-life wife) as Swanson's scheming ex-wife Tammy, who works for the library, the inexplicable bane of Leslie's existence; "Hunting Trip," in which Leslie proves herself worthy after imposing herself on a guys-only bonding weekend; and "Practice Date," in which Leslie panics over her first date with a decent, straight-shooter cop (Louis C.K.). As in Modern Family
, each episode is brimming with hilarious bits of business (like Andy's "I am on hold" song and April's lesson in the art of the spit take in "Hunting Trip"), character grace notes (Ron's alter ego, a smooth jazz smoothie named Duke Silver), and unexpected touching moments that ground the series. This four-disc set works overtime with prodigious extras, including hilarious deleted scenes for every episode, several convivial audio commentaries, webisodes featuring Pratt, and dated but still gold medal-worthy Winter Olympics promos. --Donald Liebenson
Amy Poehler (Baby Mama, Saturday Night Live) leads an ensemble cast joined by guest stars Rob Lowe (The West Wing), Will Arnett (Saturday Night Live, 30 Rock), and Andy Samburg (Saturday Night Live) in the hilarious second season of Parks and Recreation. Pawnee, Indiana’s most enthusiastic public servant solves all of her town’s problems - hosting a local telethon, ridding the golf course of possums and getting unhealthy energy bars out of park vending machines. By her side - but not necessarily doing anything - are her friends and colleagues: lady-killer Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari); disinterested intern, April (Aubrey Plaza); best gal pal, Ann (Rashida Jones); shoe-shine extraordinaire Andy (Chris Pratt); charismatic city-planner Mark Brendanawicz (Paul Schneider); and their anti-government boss, Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman). Primetime Emmy® Award winners Greg Daniels (The Office, The Simpsons) and Michael Schur (The Office, Saturday Night Live) bring you all 24 episodes of the comedy that critics are hailing as the “a terrific show” (Ken Tucker, Entertainment Weekly).