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DVD Review

DVD cover

Parks and Recreation
Seasons One, Two, Three & Four


Starring: Amy Poehler, Rashida Jones, Aziz Ansari, Nick Offerman, Aubrey Plaza, Chris Pratt, Paul Schneider, Adam Scott, Rob Lowe, Jim O'Heir and Retta
Fabulous Films / Fremantle Media Enterprises
RRP: £89.99
Certificate: 15
Available 03 March 2014

Created by Primetime Emmy® Award winners Greg Daniels (The Office U.S., King of the Hill, The Simpsons) and Michael Schur (The Office U.S., Saturday Night Live), comedy superstar Amy Poehler stars as Leslie Knope, an ambitious and hopeful small-town government worker, whose dreams are way bigger than her political talents. A hilarious saga of Government employees and local citizens turning a neighbourhood hole in the ground into a new public park...

This DVD box set collects together season one, two, three and four of Parks and Recreation in one box set.

The first season was originally broadcast in America in 2009. The show follows Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler). a naive, mid-level bureaucrat in the parks department of the fictional town of Pawnee, Indiana. Knope is sent to yet another boring town meeting to get feedback on the local residents. Due to the fact that she is followed by a documentary film crew, Knope finds herself rushing into making a promise for one of the locals who wants to know what the council are going to do with an abandoned construction pit which is spoiling their neighbourhood. Ann Perkins (Rashida Jones) is a nurse who is worried that the pit is a danger to others; her boyfriend, Andy (Chris Pratt), has already fallen into it and broken both his legs. Wanting to look good in front of the cameras, Knope promises to turn the site into a lovely park. However, things are against her and the rest of the season sees Knope fighting against everyone in the council and in the neighbourhood to transform the dangerous eyesore into a beautiful park.

Along the way she is helped/hindered by Ann and Andy, as well as her colleagues at the council. These include her assistant Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari) and city planner Mark Brendanawicz (Paul Schneider) who she once slept with. But it's her boss, Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman), who is going to be the hardest nut to crack - he doesn't actually believe in government and has spent his entire career attempting to do as little as possible.

Season one is comprised of six episodes, however there are seven on this collection as there are two versions of Rock Show. There's the Original (broadcast version) and Producer's Extended Cut.

It's pretty obvious that the show's creators previously worked on The Office U.S., as this employs a very similar mockumentary style.

Extras include audio commentaries on every episode (except the "Original" cut of Rock Show); Deleted Scenes (22 min, 53 sec which shed light on some of the unanswered questions about the show. It explains that Knope is always given the job of attending the public meetings because no one else wants to and that the rather odd residents were supposed to illustrate that the same people turn up and ask the same stupid questions at every meeting); "Hose" Cold Open (1 min, 17 sec segment that looks like it was the original Pilot opening shot); and Music Videos (3 min, 28 sec for 'Pit' and 'Ann').

The audio commentaries are worth listening to - for starters I discovered that if you go to you can download free MP3 tracks from Andy's band. But it's also interesting to learn that the dog poo fights were actually mashed potato in bags.

Season two picks up where season one left off. Pawnee government worker Leslie Knope is still trying to get the pit filled in outside Ann Perkins's house. But there is lots of other bureaucratic nonsense that keeps getting in the way - like her many other responsibilities as deputy of the Parks and Recreation department.

This season sees the inclusion of two new guest stars in the form of Knope's co-workers Jerry (Jim O'Heir) and Donna (Retta). Both appeared in the background in season one, but play a more prominent role in this season. Jerry is the guy who everyone pokes fun at, mainly because he's a bit of a clutz, while Donna is a mysterious, no-nonsense worker who cares more about her appearance and really loves her car. There are some truly sad Jerry moments in this season, including his mural design which is stunning, but no one takes seriously because in his opening speech he calls it his "m-urinal" by mistake.

The season kicks off with Pawnee Zoo, in which Leslie gets into hot water after marrying two penguins at the zoo in a publicity stunt. The idea goes south when it's discovered that the penguins are both male. Seen as a hero by the local gay community, Leslie also comes under pressure to resign when a selection of the townsfolk find her stance objectionable.

Other highlights include:

Sister City: Which sees representatives from Pawnee's twinned city in Venezuela visiting for a tour. However things don't go quite as planned and Leslie has to decide whether to stand up for her principles or let the visitors walk all over her and her great town.

Kaboom: In which Leslie is so pumped by a local "Kaboom" event (in which a team arrives in a town and, with the help of local volunteers, sets out to build a kids playground in a day) that she decides to fill in the hole in Ann's backyard without council approval.

Hunting Trip: Ron, Jerry and Mark's annual hunting trip is under threat when Leslie wants to tag along with Ann, Donna and Tom. Meanwhile, left manning the office, April and Andy start to form a closer friendship.

Women of the Year: Leslie is a little miffed when an award she's long wished for is to be presented to Ron. It's a woman's award, which makes it all the more annoying to Leslie. Ron has no intention of accepting the award, but can't resist winding Leslie up.

94 Meetings: So far April has pleased Ron as his new secretary as she's kept everyone from his door - he's not had one single meeting since she started her job... but there's a good reason for that. Thinking that it didn't exist as a date, she had been booking everyone in to see Ron on 31 March. Today is the day and there are 93 meetings scheduled.

Telethon: Everyone gets roped into manning the phones on Pawnee's annual telethon event. And to fill out the televised event all of the staff end up performing their skills in front of the camera.

Extras are pretty impressive and include six audio commentaries; Deleted Scenes (One collection on each disc which contains some great additional scenes for the episodes on that disc - 53 min, 40 sec; 43 min, 03 sec; 45 min, 14 sec; and 19 min); Producer's Extended Cut of three separate episodes; Season 3 Promo (3 min, 05 sec that sets up season three and includes a homage to Back to the Future); Blooper Reel (15 min, 21 sec); Pratt on Parks (8 min, 45 sec which looks to be a collection of behind the scenes video diaries with Chris Pratt for the NBC website); Mouse Rat Rocks the Wrap Party (9 min, 11 sec Mouse Rat performance with a special guest star); ?uestlove on: Parks (3 min, 09 sec spoof featurette that reveals how the Wu-Tang Clan were almost cast in some of the main character roles in the show); and Parks and Recreation Theme Song Performed by Gabby Moreno (49 sec).

Season three includes another 16 episodes. The first episode opens with a story arc that sees the team attempting to convince the powers that be that they should put on the town's annual Harvest Festival event. In addition one couple gets married; one character's ex comes back to haunt him... again; two colleagues start dating and two friends have a huge fight.

Highlights in this season include:

Time Capsule: When Pawnee decides to bury a time capsule, the locals are asked for ideas of what should go in it. When one man's request that the Twilight novels are included is turned down, he handcuffs himself to Leslie's office radiator and refuses to leave until his demands are met. When Leslie finally comes up with a solution to solve the problem, it ends up causing more problems, with everyone in the community wanting to put their favourite things in the time capsule.

Ron & Tammy 2: This is a joy for no other reason than it revolves around Ron and Tammy. Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally (Ron and Tammy) are married in real life, which obviously helps some of their more off-the charts scenes. The scenes of them fighting before making out are hilarious, as are the antics they get up to whilst together. Even though these are shown in short flashback scenes, it's doubtful whether a couple without the same off-screen chemistry could have pulled it off quite so convincingly.

Harvest Festival: The day of the Harvest Festival is finally upon them, but when Pawnee's much loved mascot, a miniature pony called Li'l Sebastian is left in the care of Tom and Jerry it doesn't take five minutes for them to lose him. Everyone spends the rest of the day looking for Li'l Sebastian.

Soulmates: When she joins an online dating site, Leslie is distraught to find that the computer matches her with Tom, with a 98% compatibility rating. Without letting Tom know what she is up to, Leslie asks Tom to lunch to see if they really do have so much in common.

Jerry's Painting: Jerry submits one of his paintings to a local art show. It's of a topless, female centaur who has more than a passing resemblance to Leslie, in addition the tubby little cherub also looks a lot like Tom. While Leslie embraces the painting, several locals feel it is disgusting and demand that it is destroyed.

Li'l Sebastian: Li'l Sebastian has sadly passed away, and it's down to Leslie and her team to put on a memorial service. Tom's friend, Jean-Ralphio has just started his own entertainment production company and Tom convinces Leslie that he would be the man to provide this fitting tribute.

Extras include Deleted Scenes (21 min, 47 sec); Gag Reel (23 min, 27 sec, which also include fake ads); Ron & Tammy 2 Trailer (2 min, 04 sec which was also in the Gag Reel, and is a spoof movie trailer); Crazy Ira and the Douche Commercial (26 sec, which again was in the Gag Reel); and audio commentaries on Flu Season (highlights include the fact that this season's funniest gag, for me, where Andy is looking up the symptoms on the computers and informs everyone: "It says here you could have connectivity problems", was actually an ad lib) and Ron & Tammy 2 (where we learn this was one of the six episodes they had to shoot at the end of Season 2, because of Amy Poehler's pregnancy).

Additional extras include Harvest Festival - Producer's Cut (which has a running time of 26 min, 12 sec when compared with the broadcast episode's length of 21 min, 21 sec); Deleted Scenes (15 min, 35 sec); and audio commentaries for Harvest Festival - Producer's Cut and Camping (which is interesting as it includes lots of different participants from various departments).

Extras on this season's third disc include The Fight - Producer's Extended Cut (which is 25 min, 02 sec long compared to the broadcast version which was 21 min, 21 sec); Li'l Sebastian - Producer's Extended Cut (which lasts 27 min, 53 sec rather than 21 min, 20 sec of the broadcast episode); Deleted Scenes (10 min, 41 sec); Commercials (3 min, 01 sec spoof commercials which were also included on the Gag Reel); Promos (6 min, 20 sec spoof promos, which are pretty amusing. There's one where Rob Lowe goes nuts, another where Aziz shows the other cast members a new opening credit sequence he's put together, and some of the cast trying to sell to the audience that season three is in 3D - which obviously it isn't); Li'l Sebastian Tribute (2 min, 01 sec which is the full tribute that was in the episode); and audio commentaries on the producer's cuts of The Fight and Li'l Sebastian.

The fourth season's ongoing story arc involves Leslie running for City Council. Things are shook up a little with the appointment of Andy as Leslie's assistant and April takes on a little more responsibility around the office. We finally get to meet Ron's first wife, Tammy #1 (Patricia Clarkson) who has a surprising effect on poor Ron.

Highlights in this season include:

Pawnee Ranger: It's the weekend of both Leslie and Ron's Ranger group meetings. Leslie started her group in response to Ron not allowing girls into his group. While Ron focuses his boys on survival techniques and learning about the hard knocks that life will throw your way, Leslie concentrates on letting her girls have fun... it's not long before the boys want to join Leslie's group.

Smallest Park: Chris asks Tom and Jerry to team up and redesign the Parks and Recreation logo. Andy decides he wants to enrol on a college course, but can't decide which one. Leslie and Ben work together on designing the look of the smallest park in the city (which is only several feet square), but when Leslie learns that Ben is leaving his job, and the city, when the park is complete, Leslie tries to stretch out the work for as long is possible.

Bowling for Votes: During a focus group to see how popular Leslie is with potential voters, one man says he wouldn't vote for her because she isn't "the sort of person he can imagine going bowling with." Leslie focuses on this and decides to take her team bowling in the hopes of meeting this man and proving him wrong. While at the bowling alley, Tom embarrasses Ron with his child-like, between-leg throwing style... but he gets a strike almost every go.

Operation Ann: With Valentine's Day approaching, Leslie gets the help of her team in getting Ann a date. For her special Valentine date with Ben, Leslie sends him on an elaborate treasure hunt. Totally out of his depth, Ben ropes in Andy and Ron to help him.

Sweet Sixteen: Born on 29 February, Jerry only has one birthday every four years. This year will be his 16th birthday and so Leslie plans a birthday surprise for him. April is getting fed up of Ann and Tom coming to her and asking her advice on their relationship.

Bus Tour: The highlight of this episode is Andy's ongoing investigation into who threw a pie at Leslie on the tour... Thankfully they missed, but they did hit Jerry smack on the head. Andy is determined to find out who was responsible.

Extras on this season's first disc include End of the World: Producer's Extended Cut (27 min, 22 sec - compared to the original episode's running time of 21 min, 38 sec); Deleted Scenes (30 min, 23 sec); Webisode: Road Trip (8 min, 57 sec short sketches based on Andy and April's road trip); and Leslie Tribute Video from Tom (1 min, 09 sec full video that was included in the show).

On disc two we get more Deleted Scenes (32 min, 38 sec); and Campaign Ads (4 min, 35 sec full ads some of which were included in the episodes, others which weren't).

Disc three includes Deleted Scenes (32 min, 06 sec); and Catch Your Dreams Music Video (4 min, 31 sec which includes clips from the series as well as Chris Pratt and the rest of the cast performing the song. Be warned though, as this video spoils whether or not Leslie wins the election).

Extras on the fourth and final disc include The Debate: Amy Poehler's Director's Cut (26 min, 01 sec, compared with the original episodes which was 21 min, 13 sec); Bus Tour: Producer's Extended Cut (25 min, 29 sec, compared to the original episode which was 21 min, 13 sec); Win, Lose or Draw: Director's Extended Cut (27 min, 27 sec when compared to the original episode which was 21 min, 16 sec); Gag Reel Uncensored (17 min, 04 sec which also includes spoof ads); The Swanson Zone (5 min - three mini Ron related videos); and Odds and Ends (11 min, 10 sec - 5 random featurettes).


Darren Rea

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