Why was it so easy to watch eight episodes of “Parks and Recreation” this weekend?


You know the kind of weekend where taking shelter from an intimidating mountain of homework leads to an impulsive dive into the bottomless pit of Hulu Plus? Shockingly, the thought of a “Parks and Recreation” marathon outweighed the appealing idea of hitting the books. After burning through every episode aired this year, it’s easy to say the show remains a goldmine of comedy, and packs the most hilarious and well-rounded ensemble on TV.

“Parks and Rec” has always been good at pulling off setpieces, but the scene where Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman), Chris Traeger (Rob Lowe) and Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott) suffered from food poisoning was a glorious bit of physical acting from all three of them. While watching the trio in a constant state of painful clenching was hilarious, even better was the way Scott played Wyatt's devastating realization that they were poisoned by his beloved calzones.

Moments like that make it clear that “Parks and Rec” knows exactly when and how to deploy its ensemble, and its constantly shifting showcase of dynamics always manages to find new jokes to tell and character notes to explore, no matter which characters are interacting. Offerman predictably shines in every episode, continuing to make Swanson, a character grounded in inertia, the funniest man on TV.

Five seasons in, “Parks and Rec” is still telling stories with the confidence and consistency of a much younger show. By giving its characters desires and dreams outside of the parks department, it’s also expanded its focus in interesting ways. By making Leslie Knope a city councilwoman, the show has expanded the scope of its exploration of small-town politics.

Storylines like Swanson protesting Knope bailing out a struggling local video store aren’t exactly pinnacles of subtle social commentary, but the show’s introduction of the toxic Councilman Jamm (Jon Glaser) has given it a villain for the first time. Having an unambiguously scummy character to keep things moving has let “Parks and Rec” bring actual stakes to moments like Knope intentionally bombing an emergency response test for the good of the parks department.

Few shows are able to maintain comedic momentum for five seasons. “Parks and Rec” hasn’t faltered yet, and is constantly finding ways to keep its storylines and characters moving in compelling directions. More than that, it’s such an effortlessly charming, witty show that you barely need an excuse to spend “just one more episode” with this excellent ensemble.