Shows you should be watching: “Parks and Recreation”

If you're not watching NBC's “Parks & Recreation,” well, why not? That's a serious question; you've been missing the best character-based comedy since “King of the Hill.”

Now in its fifth season, “Parks & Rec” stars Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope, a small-town politician and parks department employee.

Knope is obsessed with improving the lives of everyone around her, to a neurotic and self-sabotaging degree. This is probably starting to sound generic, and for the first season, it pretty much was.

In its second season, the show quickly became my favorite on TV. It sits in an uneasy spot between the inanity of “Community” and the grounded character studies of old episodes of “The Office.” 

While the town of Pawnee, Ind. is meant to be an exaggeration of small-town life, from Poehler's ridiculous hate of neighboring Eagleton to the local high school's racist mascot (the “Pawnee Drunken Savages”), it actually gets a lot of the small details right.

Aubrey Plaza has grown her April Ludgate character into one of real depth, beyond the gothic and youth intern clichés of the show's first season. Comedian Aziz Ansari who plays Tom Haverford, a delusional parks department bureaucrat, makes bankruptcy seem glamorous.

What makes it TV's best show, however, is the cast of believable, if ridiculous, characters it has created over the last few seasons. Nick Offerman has created a classic in Ron Swanson, a man's man libertarian who attempts to keep government at its most effective, and to never eat vegetables: “That's the food my food eats,” Swanson says.