After languishing for three seasons in the shadow of the similar and more successful mockumentary series The Office
, Parks and Recreation
steps out on its own in the fourth season by taking a page from its better-known predecessor's playbook--namely, a combination of strong writing, an exceptional ensemble cast, and carefully chosen moments of genuine warmth and feeling. Part of the season's success must also be attributed to a solid central story arc--Leslie (Amy Poehler) Knope's run for the Pawnee city council--that also provides a structural hub for the many secondary storylines afforded to the large cast. The arc helps to ground Poehler's character, finally elevating her from a hapless Michael Scott carbon to an underdog whose goal of improving her standing is often challenged by the wide variety of extreme personalities in her orbit. Her biggest obstacle of the season is her council-race opponent, the overly confident but woefully unqualified Bobby Newport (Paul Rudd), who expects to coast to victory on his family wealth and superficial appeal. Leslie's attempts to manage her campaign while contending with a new romantic relationship with Adam Scott's Ben Wyatt and her parks and recreation staff, which have signed on as her campaign team, are told in smart, funny strokes that avoid the occasional buffoonery of past seasons and give Poehler a terrific showcase for her numerous talents (including directing an episode, "The Debate"). The supporting players also enjoy their own quality storylines this season, most notably Aziz Ansari's Tom Haverford, whose entertainment company crashes and burns in spectacular fashion, and Nick Offerman's Ron Swanson, who contends with not one but two ex-wives--both named Tammy--with designs on controlling his life. There are also an array of excellent guest turns, most notably Patricia Clarkson and Megan Mullally (Offerman's real-life spouse) as the Tammys, as well as Louis C.K. as Leslie's lovelorn ex-boyfriend. All of these factors contribute to a breakout season for a series that has in many ways supplanted The Office
as one of the best workplace ensemble comedies on television. The four-disc set of season four includes all 22 episodes, as well as extended cuts on four episodes, including Poehler's director's cut for "The Debate." A slew of deleted and alternate scenes provide a look at the improvisational work that goes into many episodes, while an uncensored gag reel highlights some impressively colorful flubs. The Swanson Zone
focuses on Ron's defiantly libertarian and occasionally bizarre worldview, while Road Trip
allows supporting players Chris Pratt and Aubrey Plaza to step into the spotlight for a quartet of vignettes that follow their misadventures on a road trip to the Grand Canyon. Leslie's campaign ads and several amusing promotional videos round out the supplemental features. --Paul Gaita
Four-time Primetime Emmy Award nominee Amy Poehler (Saturday Night Live, Parks and Recreation) returns for the hilarious fourth season of Parks and Recreation. The ever-enthusiastic Leslie Knope (Poehler) has her sights set on the City Council, but political campaigns are never easy - Leslie must deal with shady journalists, a deep-pocketed opponent (guest star Paul Rudd), bus accidents, and even a still-smitten old flame in her quest to serve her beloved hometown. This Peabody Award-winning season features "TV's funniest ensemble cast" (Entertainment Weekly) and phenomenal guest stars including Rudd (Knocked Up), Megan Mullally (Will and Grace) and Louis C.K. (Louie). Catch all 22 episodes uninterrupted and commercial free, from Primetime Emmy Award winners Greg Daniels (The Office, The Simpsons) and Michael Schur (The Office, Saturday Night Live).