Parks and Recreation is back for a fifth season on NBC, and the half-hour comedy came out swinging with a snapping premiere episode featuring cameos by Barbara Boxer, John McCain, and Olympia Snowe. The show’s fans have a lot to look forward to this season beyond cameos from unlikely suspects as Leslie Knope takes on her new role as a city council member and tries to balance a long-distance relationship with Ben.
US network NBC put a lot of energy into developing a strong comedy block with offerings like 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation, both of which distinguish themselves by having strong female leads. For a moment, it seemed as though the network was looking forward with its programming, initiating an era of female-driven shows with a fresh take on modern society. Unfortunately, with its pass on The Mindy Project, the network appeared to be throwing itself into reverse gear, as Alyssa Rosenberg pointed out on Think Progress; from being a comedy leader, NBC went to hovering fearfully at the back of the pack, afraid to take a chance on something new. Rosenberg, and others, suggested that NBC might have been unwilling to take on another show with a female lead, as though network officials believe there’s a limit on how many female-driven comedies the network can run.
It’s hard to say exactly when I figured out Whitney. I’d been dreading it since this summer, when I heard that Whitney Cummings — a spectacularly hacky stand-up who trades in tired “women are different from men” jokes, plus “edgy” sex — was getting her own sitcom. My dread level rose when Cummings took to the Internets to defend it. She announced that it was “basically about balls and sex and that sort of dumbness,” and that “all we do is talk about sex and vaginas and vejazzling [sic] about how [sic] the Kardashians are sluts and I’m in a freaking nurse costume trying to have sex with my boyfriend and he’s getting a concussion.” So, you know. Witty stuff. Then there were the promos — endless shots of Cummings leaning forward, mouth agape; kissy faces at the camera; “jokes” like “The Silent Treatment: Punishment Or Reward?” — and the certainty that Whitney was, indeed, going to be awful. But it wasn’t until the pilot episode, and the rape joke — the revelation that, on this show about the quirks of a long-term relationship, one of the “quirks” included Whitney’s lovable-doofus boyfriend having possibly raped her on their anniversary while she was passed out on sleeping pills — that I finally got it. Whitney is the Outsourced of gender.