"History began on July 4, 1776. Everything that happened before that was a mistake." - Ron Swanson
Parks and Recreation is a comedy about local government in the fictional town of Pawnee, Indiana that ran for seven seasons from 2009 to 2015 on NBC. It centered on Leslie Knope, Deputy Director of the Parks Department, and her less motivated coworkers as she tirelessly worked to get through the bureaucratic red tape in order to get things done to better her community. It was filmed in a documentary style, allowing cutaways for the characters to comment on things as they are happening, and providing plenty of opportunity for the actors to ad lib. As the show and the characters matured, the focus did shift away from the work of the Parks department, but everything progressed in a believable and natural way. The real focus was always on Leslie's found family in the Parks department, and that remained the core and heart of the show until the end.
The best thing about Parks and Rec is the friendship between all of the characters. As with Community, most of the main characters on this show are not particularly the most empathetic people, but they love each other like a family. The first episode that really connected with me was when everyone came together to create a new mural for city hall because the presentation of their creation was so genuine. I also loved that it was truly an ensemble show. Leslie may have been the main character, but everyone was given their opportunity to shine in any given episode. Characters were paired up in different configurations all of the time, and it always brought out new aspects to their personalities, allowing them to believably develop throughout the show. Who would have thought in the beginning that April and Andy would have gotten together and stayed together as one of the strongest marriages ever portrayed on tv, or that Ron would become the stand in father figure for everyone on the show? On the subject of April and Andy, one of the most mind blowing things about Parks and Rec is how solid the main romantic relationships on the show were. There was never any forced drama or arguments, but that didn't mean that April and Andy or Leslie and Ben were boring or didn't have interesting storylines, which is kind of unheard of in most other shows. It's also the only series I can think of that seamlessly integrated not one, but two new characters into the show. Once Ben and Chris joined the group at the end of season 2, everything just clicked for me. Not to say that the first two seasons weren't good, but everyone on seemed to really up their game in season 3.
I do have some misgivings about how the show had every character follow the life script in the end. All of the characters were different and had their own distinct life paths throughout the show, so having each of them end up in a romantic relationship, most with children by the end of the show, was a tad disappointing. I mean, they even went so far as to pair up guest characters so no one was alone in the end, and it all just became a bit too cliche for my liking. I really like April and Andy as well as Leslie and Ben together, but I don't think everyone else had to end up in the same place in life. Parks and Rec was always about friendship, first and foremost, as well as achieving your dreams, so I'm not sure why the finale took the turn it did. My biggest gripes were actually Donna getting married, Tom getting back together with Lucy, and April having a baby because it all just seemed shoehorned in. I wish the writers had come up with a different future storyline for the majority of the characters because as it is, I found it extremely lazy and unimaginative, and it soured my view of the show after watching the series finale. Had the show ended with the episode where Jerry became the mayor, I think it would have been a more fitting ending.
Parks and Rec is an extremely funny low-stakes show that kept up its quality right up until the end. While I didn't particularly care for the series finale and thought that the time jump at the end of season 6 was a bit jarring, there were still some solid episodes in that last season. Everything is just so pure on this show, from Leslie's belief in the goodness of humanity, to Andy's wide-eyed wonder, to Chris' enthusiasm, to Ben's love of calzones, to the town's obsession with miniature horse Lil' Sebastian. I just really enjoy watching shows where you can tell how much everyone working on it cares about and loves what they are doing, and Parks and Rec is a perfect example of that. The cast is amazing as well as the characters they brought to life, and it just makes me happy when I watch it.
|Ben Wyatt, Chris Traeger, April Ludgate, Andy Dwyer, Ron Swanson
|Ron Swanson, Andy Dwyer, April Ludgate, Ben Wyatt, Chris Traeger
|Jean Ralphio Saperstein, Craig Middlebrook, Bobby Newport
|Jean Ralphio Saperstein, Diane Lewis
|The Camel, End of the World, The Comeback Kid, Bus Tour
|Harvest Festival, The Comeback Kid, Bus Tour
|April/Andy, Ben/Leslie, Ben and Chris, Ron and Leslie
|April/Andy, Chris and Ben, Ron and Andy