Parks and Recreation, Amy Poehler
Credit: Chris Haston/NBC
Premieres: Thursday, Sept. 26, at 8 p.m. on NBC Stars: Amy Poehler, Adam Scott, Nick Offerman, Aziz Ansari What to expect: Leslie (Poehler) heads to…

Image Credit: Chris Haston/NBCRemember how the producers and stars of Sex and the City always talked about how New York City was the show’s secret fifth main character? Well, tonight I realized that Pawnee, Indiana itself is Parks and Recreation‘s secret weapon — and that the show wouldn’t work nearly as well if it were set in a less wonderfully quirky place.

Don’t believe me? Then watch the town hall scene from tonight’s episode again. Every time Parks and Rec ventures beyond City Hall, the show reminds us that we’re not watching a comedy about a group of wacky government employees working in a boring hamlet. In fact, those wacky government employees are actually the sanest people in town — Ron didn’t call the meeting a “crackpot convention” for nothing.

But that doesn’t mean that the eccentricities of Pawnee feel forced. On the contrary, some of the show’s funniest moments come when the extreme weirdness of its setting is revealed — when, say, Leslie explains what’s going on in one of City Hall’s numerous, horrifically offensive murals, or when she dispatches ridiculous bits of Pawnee history. (“For a brief time in the ’70s, our town was taken over by a cult.”) And then there’s how absurdly cosmopolitan Pawnee is: Why does this blip on the map have its own tabloid news show, zoo, beauty pageant, periodicals, and thriving nightlife scene? Pawnee is more than a setting — it’s a rich comic universe, like Springfield or Stars Hollow or, well, the Manhattan that could exist only in Sex and the City.

But enough about Pawnee. I haven’t even touched on ‘Time Capsule”s other highlights, like:

– April to Eduardo, in Spanish: “Jerry dressed up like a princess.” And Leslie, at the episode’s very end, explaining how there’s a blank spot on the time capsule tape because of Jerry’s bumbling: “He had one job to do.”

– Everything about Will Forte’s guest appearance, especially the way he eagerly offered to describe the Twilight movies shot-by-shot.

– Shauna Malwae-Tweep’s amazing headline: “Parks Department Foiled by Pipe Dreams.”

– Andy running down the hallway like a monkey. Internet: We need a GIF of this moment, stat!

– The Christian Twilight-detractor’s last words, which were barely audible before the show cut to commercial: “I have no interest in traveling to Russia, can I just say that?”

What were your favorite moments, PopWatchers? And do you agree that Pawnee itself is Parks and Rec‘s secret weapon?

Episode Recaps

Premieres: Thursday, Sept. 26, at 8 p.m. on NBC Stars: Amy Poehler, Adam Scott, Nick Offerman, Aziz Ansari What to expect: Leslie (Poehler) heads to…
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