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Sanctimony Looming on Parks and Recreation

The show can easily rescue itself, and maybe it will.

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After an unremarkable beginning, NBC's Parks and Recreation has come to rank among the best comedies on network television. That exalted status may not last, though, especially if the writers insist on dressing Ron Swanson like a princess again.

In the fifth season, Swanson, played with mustachioed perfection by Nick Offerman, has developed a romantic interest in a woman with insufferably cute daughters.

Perhaps the first endearingly portrayed Libertarian in televised history, Swanson is the kind of guy who says things like, "When people get a little too chummy with me, I like to call them by the wrong name to let them know I don't really care about them."

But he's starting to like the kids and in a recent episode, even allowed the little urchins to give him a princess makeover. It was like seeing Darth Vader let Punky Brewster play with his helmet.

Unlike characters in movies or books, the worst thing that can happen to sitcom people is for them to grow.

And it's happening on Parks and Recreation in other non-Swanson areas. April (Aubrey Plaza) has gotten behind building a dog park. Tom (Aziz Ansari) has abandoned the absurdity of Entertainment 720 for a sensible business plan. Rob Lowe's character, Chris--who refused to acknowledge anything but the most blindly optimistic scenarios--is now in therapy, cries a lot, and rarely says anything funny.

The show can easily rescue itself and maybe it will, but there's another problem: trite messages creeping into the dialogue. Political platitudes are never funny. And if you disagree, maybe you need to visualize world peace. See? Not funny.

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