A quick review of "Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America" after the jump:
What impresses me the most about "Parks and Rec" is how detailed a show it is. Over the course of the show's run, it has built a complex and somewhat realistic world for its characters to inhabit. The town of Pawnee itself is reason enough to tune in each week, in addition to the wonderful main characters and sharp dialogue. It's a stunning creation: complete with an elaborate history, numerous locations aside from City Hall, and a tremendously entertaining cast of recurring characters. "Arrested Development" is the only other sitcom I've seen that come closes to this level of world-building, which rivals many TV dramas in its richness and depth.
"Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America" only furthers that depth, and it does so in hilarious fashion. Want to know how Sweetums got started? It's here, and very much in keeping with everything we've seen on the show. The history of Pawnee's beauty contest is literally loaded with jokes, some of which aren't immediately obvious. This is quite simply a must-read for fans of "Parks and Rec": containing references to tons of earlier episodes (including an entire sidebar devoted to Greg Pikitis) as well as numerous footnotes where Leslie and company (mostly Leslie) make additional comments on the information provided. Other great sections include an in-depth history of Pawnee's founding, April's discussion of the town's community college, and a whole chapter featuring Leslie ranting about Eagleton.
A few things don't work. Some of the features written by the other characters are hilarious (everything from April and Ron, for instance). But other pieces, such as the ones written by Chris and Donna, don't work nearly as well in print as they might have on the screen. And given how packed the book is with information and jokes, perhaps it's inevitable that a few of them fall flat. The most obvious example is the discussion of Reasonableism (the cult that took over Pawnee in the 70s) which just isn't very funny. Overall, though, the amount of brilliant stuff far outweighs the few misfires. And if you're a "Parks and Rec" fan, I repeat: you will love this. (Non-fans may still enjoy it, but not nearly as much.)
I am in awe of the "Parks and Rec" creative team at this point. They have thought everything out. This is a fairly traditional workplace sitcom, but it's taken great care to be more than that. This book continues that trend, and it'll be interesting to see whether the information in it is referenced in upcoming episodes. Do you have to read it to enjoy the show? No. But doing so will enhance your enjoyment, and if you're like me you will be laughing throughout. It's a superb read.
P.S. Short review, I know, but any lengthier critique would inevitably end up giving away some of the jokes. And that just seems wrong when they're as well put together as they are here. The book is great, and you should read it if you haven't already. That's pretty much all you need to know.