NBC's Parks and Recreation returned last night, after a far-too-long hiatus, with the season three premiere, "Go Big or Go Home", a Leslie Knope motto if I've ever heard one. From the onset, meaning just after that horribly narrated recap, it was clear that Leslie (Amy Poehler) and team were back! Of course, a few faces have changed. I didn't miss Mark (Paul Schneider) at all, even though I thought I would. I did rejoice in the excellent addition of Chris (Rob Lowe, Brothers & Sisters) and Ben (Adam Scott, Party Down), both of whom brought a really cool new element or two with them.
The show picked up three months after we last saw them, with each of the characters having had to find other work while their department was shut down. Of course, it's been longer than three months for us. Curiously, this episode clearly is set during the fall, so for awhile anyway, the series will be several months behind real time. The parks budget has apparently been slashed, though every single employee returned, so I don't know where the cuts were made, since reducing personnel would be the easiest cut to make. Financially, not for the series, which is full of excellent players, each of which would be a loss.
But Leslie has a plan to overcome that hurdle: Chris has been asking Ann (Rashida Jones) out for awhile, and so Leslie encourages her to finally accept, then bring up the budget during the date. of course, Leslie is nothing if not a micro-manager, so she hangs out very nearby, looking for an opportunity to swoop in. Ben, though, is not dumb, and suspects something is up by Ann's sudden acceptance, so he is also there, and able to intercept Leslie. The four of them end of doing dinner and a gay club together, and the chemistry is perfect. Ben is a true foil for Leslie, understanding her passion, but having had his beaten out of him. Chris is so genuinely sweet, he is perfect for Ann, and his heartbreaking story about how he should not be alive touchingly informs his overly optimistic character. I'm so glad Parks and Recreation did not wait to reveal a bit about the two newcomers' backgrounds, immediately making them feel like part of the family.