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On Amy Poehler's "Parks and Rec": Gotcha Journalism and Birthers

by Caryn James
October 6, 2011 3:52 AM
1 Comment
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It’s a Sarah Palin paranoid-fantasy come true, just in time to ride the wave of her not-running-for-president announcement. On the next episode of Parks and Recreation, when Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) promotes her new book on the local Pawnee television show, she becomes the victim of gotcha journalism, complete with a giant “Gotcha!” logo behind the snarky host.

What does the lame-brained journalist try to get her on? A birther issue, which puts her in the company of Obama. That should be a great comfort to Knope, deputy director of Pawnee’s Parks Dept. currently running for city council with dreams of becoming U.S. President, a woman who keeps photos of Madeleine Albright and Hillary Clinton in her office – not photos of them with her, just their photos.

That’s the kind of droll little detail that has made Parks and Rec one of the sharpest comedies on television – and with 30 Rock off at the moment, probably the smartest. In its fourth season, the series is sharper than ever as it combines small-town ambience (totally without condescension), absurdist humor (I can’t tell you why it was so funny when the whole town mourned the death of L’il Sebastian, a miniature horse, but it was hilarious) with an increasingly pointed connection to the politics and pop-culture zeitgeist.

The book Leslie is promoting, Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America, is also a real-life tie-in book, ghost-written by someone (not Amy Poehler) as the fictional character. This carries on the inane pattern of ghosts churning out books by TV characters, the way someone produces novels as Richard Castle, the mystery writer Nathan Fillion plays on Castle. I haven’t yet been tempted to open one of these tie-ins, but I think I would consider voting for Leslie Knope; maybe she could run with Stephen Colbert. I know I've voted for less conscientious candidates, simply for lack of options.

Here’s a clip from the episode (Thursday on NBC), with Leslie signing her book for her co-workers.

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