Parks and Recreation has officially wrapped up its final season, and with that we say goodbye to one of television’s current best sitcoms (and NBC’s last bastion of Thursday-night comedy). It is always good to see a beloved show bow out before going sour—and this is probably a good time for the show to end—but one cannot deny the inevitable heartbreak that accompanies this loss. The end of Parks and Recreation may be one of the more painful TV absences, as the show exists as a bright spot in an otherwise largely bleak sitcom landscape.
Unfortunately, fans did not have long to savor the seventh season, as the network quickly blew through the final thirteen episodes, airing two a week on Tuesdays until the series finale on February 24. In an effort to reflect on what Parks and Recreation has brought to television, here are five reasons fans will miss Pawnee and its citizens.
Five: still no Emmy wins. Over its six season run, Parks and Recreation has received eleven Emmy nominations, with one for outstanding comedy and five for outstanding lead actress for Amy Poehler. The Academy still has the 2014 and 2015 Emmys to redeem itself; however, the only nomination for 2014 is another for Poehler, who undoubtedly deserved to win before the show’s end. With no nod for outstanding series, Parks and Recreation may very well conclude its run void of Emmys for Best Comedy Series. Meanwhile, Modern Family builds a shed out of Emmys to house their awards.
Four: the citizens of Pawnee. The main Parks and Recreation cast consists of some of the best written and acted sitcoms characters on current TV. However, just as important to the show are the myriad of oddballs fans’ favorite government employees serve. Would the show be, after all, without Jean-Ralphio, Perd Hapley, Joan Callamezzo, or Sewage Joe, to name a few? Whether popping up to provide commentary, meddle, or wreak havoc, the characters act as signifiers for what makes Pawnee such a weird, wonderful town. Parks and Recreation‘s ability to so richly populate its fictional setting creates a place somehow both ridiculous and real, a place many would not mind calling home.
Three: Ron Swanson. The Parks and Recreation character gave fans the Swanson Pyramid of Greatness and such gems as: “Clear alcohols are for rich women on diets,” “Crying: acceptable at funerals and the Grand Canyon,” “Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing”; and “Give me all the bacon and eggs you have. What I mean by that is, give me ALL the bacon and eggs you have.” Need more be said?
Two: the convention-bending writing. In a medium awash in same story-telling conventions, Parks and Recreation has managed to sidestep many sitcom tropes. Everyone has seen the “will they, will they not” romances so many times. The curse, of course, is that audiences can only stand being strung along for so long before becoming bored with the lack of conflict once the romantic tension has ended. Parks and Recreation, however, tackled these romantic plots with grace. For the two major couplings of the show (April and Andy, and later Leslie and Ben) the writers chose to boldly declare “They will!”, and never look back. In doing so, they rendered characters that were still funny and interesting while also in happy relationships.
In this way, Parks and Recreation has shown itself to be adaptable. The show has seen more or less seamless transitions during several character departures and arrivals, a challenge for any sitcom. Therefore, while the characters are still the same at their core (April will always be dark, Andy will always be dumb, and Donna will always be awesome) the writers have allowed these people to grow in ways many sitcom characters usually do not.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, when is the last time one saw a workplace-set comedy built around the traits of a female protagonist who is not just good, but phenomenal, at her job? It is extremely refreshing to have a female lead who is respected by her peers for her reliable intellect and hard work. Indeed, Leslie’s physical appearance barely ever comes up in Parks and Recreation, and she rarely struggles to “have it all” but simply achieves it—an amazing accomplishment in network television when one thinks about it.
One: the optimism. There are two types of sitcoms: those that get their humor from terrible, selfish, or neurotic people doing terrible, selfish, or neurotic things (see Seinfeld, Arrested Development, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) and those that find humor in ostensibly good people encountering a foolish or misguided moment (see most other sitcoms). Parks and Recreation falls in the latter camp, in a most extreme way. At its core, this is a show about extraordinarily nice people doing nice things for their friends and their community. These are people who, above all else, truly care about others and their town.
What Parks and Recreation manages that many others do not is being so unfailingly sweet while avoiding being saccharine, and still being exceptionally funny. This balance creates something magical: a sitcom that has one feeling uplifted while rolling on the floor in laughter and wishing they could work for Pawnee’s Parks and Recreation Department, too.
Opinion By Lindsey Schauer
Photo by starbright31 – Flickr License