THE SHOW "Parks and Recreation"

WHEN | WHERE Season premiere 9: 30 p.m. Thursday on NBC

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WHAT IT'S ABOUT Ah, breathe in that air! Smell that "sweet sugar of bureaucracy at work," says new Pawnee, Ind., councilwoman Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), who has swung a trip to the nation's capital. On official business to directly apply for federal funds to clean up the Pawnee River, she's really there to hang with Ben (Adam Scott) -- who took that job to work on a congressional campaign. Of course, Andy (Chris Pratt) had to tag along because April (Aubrey Plaza) is helping Ben. Back in Pawnee, Ron (Nick Offerman) is handling Parks and Rec; his management style is controversial. At a company social function, he insists, "Barbecues should be about one thing -- good shared meat."

MY SAY Washington not only offers Leslie -- as well as "Parks and Rec" -- a wonderful new sandbox to play in, but wonderful new playmates as well. There are two effective senatorial cameos here -- Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) -- but a third one by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is just about priceless. This trip won't last long, then it's back to Pawnee, but at least the promise of future junkets remains. Leslie and her outsized enthusiasm for everything D.C. is a gold mine.

BOTTOM LINE Meanwhile, it seems almost redundant to say, but "Parks and Rec" remains funny, sharp and inventive.

GRADE A-