Buzz around Thursday’s third-season premiere of Parks and Recreation is pretty high, and there are plenty of reasons for it. For one thing, the show is great (I think so, anyway). For another, a lot of people might have discovered it during the lengthy hiatus between seasons two and three, thanks to the first two seasons becoming available on Netflix (s NFLX) Instant (which is what happened to me). But it certainly doesn’t hurt that a series of viral videos highlighting the show’s return have been released this week, showcasing the NBC (s GE) comedy’s talented cast as well as some skillful web strategy.
The most buzzed-about of these videos, with nearly 180,000 views, is the subtly-titled Rob Low Goes Nuts, which portrays the new recurring member of the show as a vain egomaniac with a mastery of four-letter words. It is pretty funny and you’ll probably enjoy watching it.
In addition, cast member Aziz Ansari stars in two original shorts for College Humor as their “Star of the Week”; only one of the videos, in which Ansari debuts a new title sequence for Parks and Recreation, features the show’s cast, but both end with a promotion for the show’s return.
This isn’t the first time Ansari’s been featured in supplemental web content for a major media property; in 2009, his character Raaaaaaaandy (from Judd Apatow’s Funny People) was featured in multiple original videos as well as his very own website.
Much like the Funny People content, these videos were created internally — at least in the case of the Rob Lowe video, which was produced by the Parks and Rec team and distributed by Funny or Die. “We had no problem with [featuring the video],” a Funny or Die spokesperson said via email, “Since first, it’s a very funny video and second, we have made videos for Funny Or Die with basically everyone in the video and we always support people who have worked with us in the past.”
Not only was this viral push something that came from the show’s producers, but both initiatives show an impressive amount of web savvy; using Funny or Die as the platform for Rob Lowe Goes Nuts ties in nicely with that site’s tradition of celebrities behaving unexpectedly. Meanwhile, focusing on Ansari for the College Humor push makes a great deal of sense, as Ansari got his start in the New York comedy scene, and has appeared in at least two dozen other College Humor videos.
Parks and Rec is just one of the six comedies that now make up NBC’s Thursday night line-up. But it’s the only one going to some trouble to court web audiences.
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