I could write a book about how great Parks and Recreation season 2 was, and how stupid it was for NBC to bump season 3 to mid-season, and how incredibly funny season 3 (of which I have now seen seven–SEVEN!–episodes) is going to be. I could write a book because I feel THAT passionately about Parks and Recreation as one of the best (best written, best acted and, perhaps most important of all, best at making you feel gosh-darn good) comedies on TV right now, and I want everyone in the world to agree with me if they don’t already. I want George Washington to look down from heaven and think, “Oh no, my one regret for having created America instead of living in America’s future is that I was dead before I got a chance to watch Parks and Recreation.” I honestly want that. I want George Washington’s ghost to be jealous of US.

The book would be called Parks and Recreation: Watch It Or Die With Regrets, and all the jacket quotes would be like, “Not hyperbolic in the slightest!” and “I see the light, and now I love this show more than my wife!” But who would want to read a boring old book when they could just watch Parks and Recreation and see what I mean with his or her very own eyeballs? How many ways are there to say, “This show is the best, and you’re only robbing yourself of fun by reading a dumb book instead”?

My insane strength of conviction SHOULD be enough to compel you to watch the strong-as-ever Parks and Recreation when it premieres after The Office tomorrow night at 9:30pm. But for the questioners, doubters and George Washington’s ghosts out there (in your FACE, #1 Dead Prez!), here are five big, essential reasons to watch:

1. The episode 1 title is also the season 3 philosophy: “Go Big or Go Home.” Here’s what happened: Amy Poehler got pregnant IRL at the end of last season, so instead of a much-needed vacation, the P-Rex crew thought they’d need to crank out a bunch of high-quality episodes to air in the fall before she got all baby-bumpy. Whether by stress, delirium or the collective creative energy that comes from being under extreme pressure, they produced the first six episodes that you’ll see beginning this week, and they are–really no hyperbole here, promise–among the best half-hours of comedy that the show has produced, if not THE best. A large part of this is thanks to a new central conflict for the Parks department, to which we were introduced briefly last season: Pawnee is in government crisis mode, and Leslie must now justify the existence of her department (and, by extension, herself) or see it get eliminated under the Odd Couple hands of state budget-cutters Chris and Ben.

Much like the P-Rex writers themselves, Leslie and her gang flourish under the pressure, and this new conflict–and Leslie’s big solution, bringing back the annual Pawnee Harvest Festival–both raises the stakes and the hilarity, especially with all the new opportunities it gives the effervescent Leslie and hard-nosed Ben to work together.

2. Chris Traeger (Rob Lowe) and Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott). They’re back, they’re now series regulars, and they take this already-stacked cast (Aziz Ansari and Chris Pratt are as brilliantly oblivious as ever) to All-Star Team status. In fact, the budding romance between Chris and Ann (Rashida Jones) makes for some of the funniest stuff of the new season–and anyone who watched Jones’ storylines in season 2 knows why that is a big deal. Speaking of funny … watch Rob Lowe prove that he is (Language NSFW):

Rob Lowe Goes Nuts from Rob Lowe

3. Guest stars! The good kind. At this point only 30 Rock is competing with Parks and Rec when it comes to caliber and application of guest stars. Parker Posey and SNL‘s Will Forte both stop by in the beginning of the season, the latter of whom even manages to make Twilight jokes funny again. The incredible Nick Kroll shows up as, I kid you not, “The Douche.” Mo Collins returns as fear-mongering Pawnee Today host Joan Callamezzo, and Megan Mullally makes an incredible reappearance as Ron Swanson’s (her real-life husband Nick Offerman) ex-wife, which leads me to …

4. Episode 4 is all kinds of epic: “Ron and Tammy II.”
I don’t want to give too much away, but you’ll see Ron (best sitcom character of our era?) in a whole new light. And ridiculous hairstyle.

5. Oh, you need more reasons? Geez. OK. Then number five is a mini-list within a list of awesome and specific proper nouns that will make an appearance in season 3: Swanson Pyramid of Greatness. Lil Sebastian. Whale Tail. Eagle-Eyed Tiger. Ice Town. The Four Horse Meals of the Eggpocalypse. So. Like I said. “Duh.”

I realize may have oversold it. Watch anyway. And be glad I’m not writing that book.

Parks and Recreation returns Thursday, January 20 at 9:30pm on NBC. HERE’S A SNEAK PEEK!

(Image courtesy of NBC)

Meghan Carlson

Senior Writer, BuddyTV

Meghan hails from Walla Walla, WA, the proud home of the world’s best sweet onions and Adam West, the original Batman. An avid grammarian and over-analyzer, you can usually find her thinking too hard about plot devices in favorites like The OfficeIt’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and How I Met Your Mother. In her spare time, Meghan enjoys drawing, shopping, trying to be funny (and often failing), and not understanding the whole Twilight thing. She’s got a BA in English and Studio Art from Whitman College, which makes her a professional arguer, daydreamer, and doodler.