A superb cast and top-shelf writing continues to propel the comedy juggernaut that is “Parks and Recreation”. The fourth season rolls merrily along with the episode “Born and Raised,” which continues the show’s hot start to the new TV season. “Parks” was more topical than usual this week, but tweaked perfectly for the fictional town of Pawnee, Indiana, which Leslie Knope has just written a book about!

The Players:

  • Director: Dean Holland
  • Writers: Aisha Muharrar
  • Cast: Amy Poehler, Rashida Jones, Nick Offerman, Adam Scott, Aziz Ansari, Jim O’Heir, Retta, Aubrey Plaza, Rob Lowe, and Chris Pratt

Episode: “Born and Raised”

Leslie has a new book out about the history of Pawnee, so she is off to promote. But while promoting her new book, Leslie falls prey to some “gotcha” journalism via TV host Joan Callamezzo. Meanwhile, Ann is determined to bond with Ron and April.

The Good:

  • Cold Open: Dan Castellaneta (“The Simpsons”) shined doing his best honey-toned (and deeply irritating) NPR radio host impression. And let’s not forget Nefertiti’s Fjord, because we need more lesbian Afro-Norwegian funk duos.
  • Ben and Tom: We’re seeing a lot of Tom and Ben together, and it’s rockin’! Their lunch with a sloppy drunk Joan Callamezzo was funny, as was the scene when they drop the wasted Joan back at home.
  • Sexy Art: Speaking of Joan’s home, there was some tasty art on her bedroom walls. And by tasty art I mean kooky, sexual portraits – of Joan!
  • Return of the Mac: Andy is back as Bert Macklin – FBI.
  • Chris: Rob Lowe scored nicely in the episode, delivering in some humorous scenes and providing the ‘it’s not where you were born, but where you are from’ moment of zen to Leslie as she deals with the reality that she was not born in Pawnee.
  • Alf: The Ann/April exchange which ends with April declaring that Alf is her favorite character on “Sex and the City” might be my #1 funny line from the episode.

The Bad (but not that bad):

  • Small Talk: Ann, played by Rashida Jones, is a character I like, but can get lost in the shuffle week to week. Her storyline Thursday about doing whatever it takes to get Ron and April to talk to her – for more than a few seconds – provided some killer one-liners, but was the least impressive of the three stories happening in the episode.

Overall:

Solid. The season is just grooving along. “Born and Raised” delivered plenty of laughs and sweet moments, even with the Ron-April-Ann storyline a notch below the other two – but still providing quality humor! Amy Poehler as Leslie continues to impress, even small doses of Ron and April are greatly appreciated, and I could watch an episode of just Tom and Ben hanging out. Same goes for Ron and April.

Maybe not enough Ron Swanson for some last night, but the Gotcha! Dancers no doubt filled that entertainment void. As we look ahead to episode four, can we slot “Parks and Recreation” as the best comedy on TV, or will the “Modern Family” folks lose their mind? It’s a good argument, but so far I’d say “Parks and Recreation” has been tops of the new season.

Rating: 9/10

“Parks and Recreation” airs on NBC at 8:30 pm (ET/PT) on Thursday nights.

What did you think of last night’s episode?