Problems With NBC's 'Parks & Recreation'

There’s more trouble for Jeff Zucker and Ben Silverman. NBC’s upcoming Universal Media Studios sitcom Parks And Recreation was supposed to be a real winner since the mockumentary comes from Greg Daniels and Michael Schur of The Office and stars Amy Poehler. I say “supposed” because there are problems galore in the rough-cut pilot, according to a March 18th-dated “Consumer And Market Intelligence Research Summary” which I saw this weekend. Considering the show starts airing April 9th, can Parks And Recreation get fixed in time? You be the judge: here are some excerpts from the 12-page report (9 are charts and graphs):

• PARKS AND RECREATION’s overwhelming resemblance to THE OFFICE caused many viewers to simply see it as a “carbon copy” of a successful show. The pilot was seen as “predictable” and lacking in character development, even for a pilot. PARKS AND RECREATIONS needs to differentiate itself from THE OFFICE; otherwise it runs the risk of being seen as “derivative,” “forced,” and “unoriginal.”

• Expectations for this show are very high, especially among OFFICE viewers. Many had seen the promos and were expecting an “OFFICE-type mockumentary” with the same tone, but felt the pilot was too close and similar to the OFFICE. However, many OFFICE fans were quick to point out that THE OFFICE did not become their favorite show overnight. For many, the show grew on them overtime and viewers expect a similar pattern with PARKS & RECREATION and, given their excitement for the show, most are willing to give it a longer commitment than they would another new comedy. This goodwill is stronger than usual, but viewers will expect to see the show to be as good as THE OFFICE soon. Furthermore, labeling the show as being “from the producers of THE OFFICE” adds credibly to the show and helps raise viewers’ expectations.

• Focus needs to evolve away from the pit — consider showing Leslie [Amy Poehler] and her team dealing with various parks and recreation duties. There is a lot of interest in exploring the comedy potential in a government office. The bureaucracy that exists at this type of local government is “very believable” and viewers hoped it could provide for some quirky and silly situations. Based on the promos that are currently airing, most expect storylines to take place in parks around the city.

• Although many saw her as the “Michael Scott character [from The Office]”,  Amy Poehler was well liked. SNL fans felt her character Leslie was a bit “too serious” and “too low-key” and many expected her to have more energy and enthusiasm, especially when she is getting drunk at the end of the show. Viewers appreciate her “big heart” and the fact that she is trying to help Ann and Andy.

• The show could use a genuinely likeable male lead. The lack of quality male characters was evident in both the Dial Test and Focus Groups. While Leslie, Ann and April are good characters; all the men in the show were seen as “sleazy” in one way or another. Because there are no “datable” men in the cast, there is little “romantic tension” or “interesting relationship potential” in the show.

Execution & Tune-out
• The beginning of the show needs to better explain the setting and situation. Many were confused as to the reasons and motivations behind the “documentary.” Many asked if it was about Leslie or Ann or the pit even given that the show opens on Ann and Andy and not Leslie.

• Pacing was seen as “slow”. 40% of Viewers felt the “pace of the show was too slow.” This was especially evident during the scenes in the conference room or offices of the municipal building.

• Good positive spikes in the opening scenes and during the classroom open forum session but positive spikes flatten during the scenes in Leslie’s office and when she meets Mark out on the patio (Approx Mins 8:30-9:30).

• Highest positive spike comes from Leslie falling into the pit.

• The last 6:30 (approx) suffer from lower positives and higher negatives as “slower” and “more tedious” scenes are featured. Ron’s opinion on the role of government and his discussion with Mark received low positives throughout. The conference room discussion about the committee’s name as the tag was “too long” and “too much of the same joke” for many viewers.

• High tune-out during the opening 4 minutes, especially during Ron’s description of public forums. Tune-outs resume after the classroom forum scene when the action takes place in Leslie’s office and out on the patio during her discussion and testimonials with Mark.

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