In the perfect season premiere of Parks and Recreation, Amy Poehler’s character is now City Councilwoman Leslie Knope, and how satisfying is that to someone who aspires to the White House, even though the City Council is a part-time gig? She goes to Washington to visit her boyfriend Ben (Adam Scott) – more perfect for Leslie than we could have imagined when his character turned up – and meets some real-life politicians, in what might have been nothing more than a stunt, but turns out to be much more. With cameos by John McCain, Barbara Boxer and Olympia Snowe, the story is Leslie’s dream come true . . . except. In the shrewd, funny way of the series, she learns that she is a very tiny fish in the giant, shark-infested sea of Washington. And while she may enjoy being a big fish in Pawnee, it’s never fun to be reminded of that.
The brilliance of Parks and Recreation has always come from its balance of the ridiculous and the real. It was absurd that the whole town adored Li’l Sebastian the toy-sized horse, but what really made the idea work was the silly, high-comic, ultimately touching way Pawnee grieved en masse when he died. The series has grown better and better by finding that balance.
There is nothing depressing about the season premiere – that would be so unlike Leslie – but her recognition grounds the humor in reality and makes Poehler’s character as touching as she has ever been.
Here’s a look at Leslie meeting her idols.