Parks and Recreation: Season Five

Parks and Recreation: Season Five
8
Although it still proudly carries the torch lit by The Office, Parks and Recreation continues to carve its own path through the mock-doc sitcom landscape. Like its predecessor, discomfiting comedy is the stock and trade of this riotous series about a group of highly idiosyncratic employees of the Pawnee, Indiana parks department. However, where that mining of socially inept misunderstanding often took a mean-spirited tact in its predecessor, P&R revels in a peculiar sort of positivism. Paragons of anti-social behaviour April Ludgate (deadpan queen Audbry Plaza) and Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) aren't really malicious, as their respective sarcastic and B.S.-free attitudes reflect the inanity of people back upon themselves. And the people positioned for ridicule due to a lack of brainpower — Andy Dwyer (Chris Pratt) and Jerry Gergich (Jim O'Heir) — are dealt with in a way that effectively negates the cruelty factor. Both are hardworking, well meaning and hopelessly naïve. Andy is quite simply far too charming, manic and loveable to make a target of stray ire, while Jerry unflinchingly absorbs the flailing frustrations of his co-workers like a docile, bovine lightning rod. Maintaining the momentum gained ever since the additions of Adam Scott and Rob Lowe, this fifth season ranks among the best in the series, even though it initially threatens to become bogged down in government-boosting patriotism. Amid Leslie Knope's (Amy Poehler) adventures as the lone woman in the old boy's club of city council and the wedding preparations for her marriage to Ben (Scott), the writers spend a significant amount of time revealing and developing the maturity of the other principle cast members. We finally learn precisely why Jerry is so damn happy, despite being crapped on at work all the time; April is forced to bend her jaded vitriol to the service of functionality in the workplace; Andy strives to take his professional life seriously; Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari) is given a reality check on his flashy, unsustainable business schemes; Ron faces the terror that is dating a woman with children; Ann (Rashida Jones) confronts her maternal clock, despite not having a suitable partner; and Chris Traeger (Rob Lowe) takes a deep, dark look at the emptiness inside his previously impenetrable façade of optimism. With such a hilarious cast and sharp writing, it's no surprise that the special features are plentiful and often outright hysterical. Spread across all three discs, there are over 90 minutes of deleted scenes, many of which are funnier than the content that airs in the majority of network sitcoms. As a quick-witted purveyor of random absurdities, April Ludgate easily has the most amusing throwaway lines amongst these offerings off the cutting room floor. From the season's beginning in Washington, DC, we have a collection of short webisodes, featuring Andy visiting his acerbic, loving wife (pairing April with Andy was a stroke of genius that brings out the best in both characters), as well as a few network promos from the same location. Much more likely to induce gut-laughs than these is a PSA about bacon hording from Ron Swanson and the complete, unedited Patton Oswald filibuster rant that went viral, causing geek melt-downs across the blogosphere. Best of all though is a very long, totally uncensored gag reel. Chris Pratt and Aubrey Plaza are dirty, dirty birds in what may just be the most over-the-top funny set of bloopers and extraneous gags I've seen. Less amusing is the Mouserat "Menaceball" music video, which incorporates out-of-context footage from throughout the season. However, that's no reason to be deterred from picking up this excellent DVD package. Also: an extended cut of the "Halloween Surprise" episode is included. (Universal)