The show opens with our star Amy Poehler awkwardly interviewing a young girl about the exact level of fun she is experiencing at the moment in a public park (“would you say you’re having a moderate amount of fun and somewhat enjoying yourself?”), at which point she is interrupted to roust a homeless from the slide by forcing him out with a broom. And thusly we are introduced to the relentlessly enthusiastic Leslie Knope, a woman who’s clueless-ness is rivaled only by her indefatigable love for her job.
She has a definite Michael Scott-esque quality to her, but dialed back about 15% on the stupidity, incompetence, awkwardness, basically everything that makes him such an insufferable doofus. Instead, she comes off as a more relatable, if still pitiable, character. Someone we come to love to cringe at. And cringe we do, as she makes an ass of herself for 22 extremely pleasant minutes, setting up what will hopefully be a good series, judging from the first installment.
The episode follows Poehler and her apathetic coworker, played by Aziz Ansari, as they attend parks and recreation meeting at a local school and are berated for everything from the foulmouthed crackheads in the park to the mayor being a “9th level mason.” But in the midst of the townsfolk and their idiocy, an exasperated Rashida Jones takes the floor to complain that her musician/bum of a boyfriend fell down a hole, and she wants something done about it. After Ansari takes a moment to hit on her in a massively inappropriate fashion, Leslie, with a hint of desperation in her eyes, vows to not only fill in this nefarious hole, but to build a fabulous park where it once was. And so begins her quest to build a new park, which seems to be the story arc for the season.
Knope travels to Jones’ home, surprising her and her now crippled boyfriend by actually making an effort to follow through on her momentous promise. She then falls down the hole, or as she puts it, “visited the bottom of the pit” and has to be nursed back to health by Jones before returning to work with a neck pillow duct-taped to her as a makeshift brace.
She begs her boss to consider her proposal for the new park, but he seems more interested in doing nothing indefinitely. He has been thoroughly jaded by the parks department, later voicing the fact that he’d rather work at Chuck E. Cheese (they have a killer business model, after all). Upon his refusal, she tries to gain leverage by appealing to her former lover (she considers them as such, while he couldn’t remember sleeping with her until the documentary crew reminds him) Mark, who’s also, predictably, jaded. He breaks the mold of predictability occupied by her other coworkers, however, by deciding to help Poehler, upon seeing her coworkers laughing at a picture of her, injured in the aforementioned hole. Like I said, she might not be competent, but she is definitely pitiable.
With Mark’s help, Poehler’s proposal is approved, and she is rewarded with a heap of bureaucratic gibberish amounting to a subcommittee inquiry something-or-other, that being, for her, a great victory. Enough of one, at least, for her to enjoy some champagne with her newfound friend Rashida Jones. As they both get drunk and extol the virtues of parks, recreation, and America, Ansari recounts Poehler’s previous drunken exploits, and we the audience are left sharing in their triumph, but disconnected enough that we’ll still enjoy their eventual failure just as much.
Recap by Evan Stewart