By Caryn James | James on Screens January 20, 2011 at 6:24AM
There are so few really smart network sitcoms -- I'd count four, including ABC's Modern Family -- it's hard to say whether it's good or bad that three of them are back-to-back on NBC on Thursday. The network has been floundering for years, but it has also been steadily redefining its comedy with series like The Office and the brilliant 30 Rock that rely on droll wit rather than punchlines.
Tonight Parks and Recreation, with Amy Poehler as the endearingly officious Leslie Knope of the Pawnee, Indiana parks department, returns (9:30 ET), sandwiched between new episodes of The Office and 30 Rock. (And I know we're all supposed to love Community now, but it's not on my list.)
Nothing on TV matches the media-savvy sophistication of 30 Rock's writing, but Parks and Rec has developed its own gently loopy tone. In its third season, the series has moved away from its faux-documentary roots, and focused on its goofy, exaggerated characters. Rob Lowe and Adam Scott have been added to the regular cast as state auditors trying to get a grip on Pawnee’s budget. And there is much romantic intrigue, most of it misbegotten; the jealousies and misunderstandings make for terrific comedy. You have to wait until episode four to see Parks Department head Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) in cornrows, but don’t miss it.
The cast of Parks and Rec includes some of the sharpest comic actors around, including Offerman (there is no one droller) and Aziz Ansari. Here's Ansari's spoof opening credits for the new season:
Ahd here Poehler, Scott and others shrewdly mock 3-D.