The Campaign Heats Up When Parks and Recreation Returns

The third season of Parks and Recreation has been its strongest, and as the show returns for its final run of new episodes, expectations are high

Credit: CityTV

Knope We Can: Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) campaigns relentlessly for a city-council seat

Parks and Recreation returns hoping for a strong finish to its best season

Some of television’s sharpest, funniest comedies can be found on NBC’s Thursday-night lineup, with shows like Community, 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation pushing the sitcom format in fresh, new directions. 

Then again, it’s not like anyone’s watching; ratings for NBC’s once-mighty Thursday night have been beyond abysmal, and the phrase “Must-See TV” seems like a cruel joke. 

Yet the network’s lineup is as solid as it comes, especially now that Parks and Recreation is returning after a five-week hiatus. 

Parks and Rec’s Strong Season 3

This season ranks among the show’s best, following small-town government bureaucrat Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) as she mounts an election campaign for a seat on Pawnee’s city council. Well-intentioned, earnest and well-versed in local politics, Leslie hit a stumbling block in the form of Bobby Newport (Paul Rudd of I Love You, Man), the dippy heir to the Sweetums candy fortune.

Newport’s deep-pocketed attempts to sway the election (including negative attack ads and hiring a hotshot Washington, D.C., political consultant with a bag full of dirty tricks) have been hilarious, but also brilliantly satirize the way big money has corrupted the U.S. political system. 

Yet Leslie refuses to give up, and her little-engine-that-could attitude and accompanying slogans (including “Knope We Can” and “Yes We Can’t Not. Knope”) have been priceless. 

Parks and Rec Cast Enjoying the Ride

“It’s been a lot of fun this year to have an election as part of this season,” says Poehler, adding that she and the cast have felt that this has been the season “when everything feels like it’s really clicking.” 

Clicking it is. Supporting characters Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari), Chris Traeger (Rob Lowe) and Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) have all come into their own this season, becoming fully realized, fleshed-out characters that keep getting funnier the better we get to know them. 

As the show returns for the season’s final batch of episodes, we’ll find out if Leslie can make her political dreams come true or if the system will once again be subverted by money. Regardless of whether Leslie wins or loses, Poehler sees her character’s can-do attitude as an analogy for the growing popularity of Parks and Recreation:

“What Leslie lacks in experience she makes up for in enthusiasm. She’s a great campaigner. Leslie, much like the show itself, once you get to know her, you’re a fan.”