Well, for Poehler at least. The series, which has gone through a whole life of rumors and speculation already—from Office spin-off, to not an Office spin-off to exactly like The Office to just all around sucky—depends on a Steve Carrel-level performance from the SNL alum (and BC grad, go Eagles). And it looks like she delivers—getting mostly strong notices for her performance as Leslie Knope, a painfully optimistic small town public official with dreams of making a Difference.
Alessandra Stanley at the New York Times gushes:
Parks and Recreation ... is charming and funny in its own right and in its own way ... The credit goes mostly to Amy Poehler, who is delicious as Leslie Knope ... The pilot episode isn't perfect, but Ms. Poehler very nearly is.
Daniel Carlson at the Hollywood Reporter is equally praising:
it's Poehler who owns the show, and she proves instantly she's got the comic intelligence to carry a series like this one, which draws its energy from character interactions instead of the broad punch lines you'd get on, say, a Chuck Lorre show. She's awkward but not alienating, and she's eager without being repelling. Most of all, there's a genuine heart to her that gives the comedy a balance and lets it be mocking without resorting to cruelty. It's funny, smart and fast. I hope it sticks around.
Though Brian Lowry at Variety doesn't think Poehler's good work makes up for the rest of the show:
Poehler certainly has acting oblivious down to a wide-eyed science. Yet there's no escaping that this feels like "Office Lite," thrown together (and perhaps this comes from knowledge about its history) as a vehicle for the star rather than out of any grand inspiration ... "Parks" just doesn't quite pop — proving unable to make me care about Leslie's quest, loudly or otherwise.
The show's mostly-negative reviews focus on that same listlessness and lack of sharp edges, which we've always worried would be attendant with a comedy about... building a park in Indiana.
That said, the reviews have done enough to make us curious. We have a strange affection for Poehler—don't you just want to be her friend?—and Greg Daniels is owed at least the benefit of the doubt. Parks sounds like a pleasantly mild affair, made special by that beguiling certain Poehler something. And, in response to the more negative reviews, as Ken Tucker at Entertainment Weekly reminds us (in a B review),The Office took a little while to kick into high funneez gear when it premiered back in 2005. So it's possible (at least we hope it is) that the best of Parks is yet to come.