Parks and Recreation

Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. on NBC. Twenty episodes into the second season.

So The Office has gone downhill. It isn’t anyone’s fault, really, but after nearly six full seasons, the show seems to have run its course. The characters aren’t surprising anymore (or when they are, it’s because they’re acting out of character), and some have calcified into one-dimensional creatures. The comedy simply isn’t as sharp or as funny as it used to be.

So it’s great that Parks and Recreation has risen in quality to take its place (at least in my affections—I’m just about over The Office). When the Office creators started Parks last year, it was little more than a cheap knock-off of The Office (which, of course, was itself adapted from Ricky Gervais’s UK original). But since those first tentative episodes, the Parks writers and actors have come into their own. The established mockumentary structure is still there, but Parks now has its own rhythms, its own themes, and its own oddball running gags. It might not surpass the American Office at that show’s height, but it certainly surpasses it now.