Remember years back, when at least half of the new sitcoms were blatantly trying to be Friends? Well, now it’s The Office. It’s blatant enough with Party Down, Rob Thomas’s Veronica Mars alumni-laden new sitcom about a catering crew – it’s got the workplace mixture of incompetent overachievers and slackers, it’s got the cinema verite look (if I’m using that phrase correctly, and I’m probably not), it’s even got some comedy, although quite uneven. But the new Parks and Recreation takes it to new heights. Not only does it copy the look and feel of The Office (this time, set in a local government agency rather than a paper company), it even borrows the conceit that this is a documentary, giving the various characters chances to talk directly to the camera And heck, it even outdoes The Office on one level: The Office started off kinda unfunny, and this one starts off really unfunny (a shame, because lead Amy Poehler certainly has shown talent elsewhere.)
Of course, originality is overrated on a day-to-day basis. When works is what works. Originality is only for those who are trying to seem unusual, like, perhaps, the lead characters of a series called The Unusuals. They get someone to confess by getting him to believe that a photocopier is a ile detector. That’s real original… or at least seems original if you’ve never seen the NYPD Blue episode that used it. Or the episode of Homicide: Life on the Streets. Or The Wire. Really, it’s the case of being the same sort of nonconformist everyone else is. And it’s just one example of how the unusuality of the characters depends on not having noticed similar characters before. The rich girl who doesn’t want people to know she’s rich so they don’t look on her as otherwise favored, the cop who has a deathwish because he’s dying anyway, we’ve seen these folks before. Amber Tamblyn is pretty charming as the rich gal, but that’s usual for her. There are some parts in here that could work, some okay actors, but they’ve got to find some fresh center to the faux freshness of the series.