A Eulogy for Parks and Recreation: The End of a Comedy Era

Thursday nights at my house were considered sacred. If and when I finished my homework for the day ahead, I was able to sit between my parents in front of the television and partake in the NBC Thursday Night Comedies: The Office, 30 Rock, and Parks and Recreation. On Tuesday February 24, 2015, the last of these three spectacular shows will come to a close after seven seasons: Parks and Recreation. Parks and Rec, as it is known, was seen as the underdog to the uber successful, and highly awarded The Office and 30 Rock. With the exception of Amy Poehler’s 2014 Golden Globe, Parks and Rec has never won any award. However, that just proves the cult following this show has.

With its humble beginnings in April, 2009, I was a bit skeptical of this new show. The pilot was cute, but I didn’t know if the premise could sustain itself. By Season Two, I was lost. I watched an episode on the airplane and was confused. Would Leslie Knope ever build this dream park? Who was Mark Brandowitz and why was he here? As the show developed, so too did the story line. By Season Three, Parks and Rec had found it’s voice. What started out as a spin-off of sorts in the mockumentary style of The Office, Parks and Rec had turned into a heartfelt show about a passionate, driven, intensely loyal, and sincere government servant who only wanted to make her home, Pawnee, Indiana, as well as the world, a better place, following in the footsteps of her idols Madeline Albright and Hillary Clinton.

In a town full of pessimists, Leslie strives to transcend public opinion and utilize her optimism to better the lives of others. In the pilot, Leslie is holding a Town Hall Meeting to take complaints from the citizens of Pawnee. A nurse, Ann Perkins, bravely raises her hand and talks about how her boyfriend fell into the pit next to their house and broke both of his legs. Leslie proposes to Ann that she will do whatever it took to turn that pit into a park. That metaphor is the perfect description of Leslie Knope- Leslie takes whatever is thrown at her and turns “pits into parks.” Leslie is loyal to Ann through thick and thin. Whether Ann changed careers, boyfriends, or personalities (of which there were a few), Leslie was always there as the number one best friend, always on her side. Their friendship even spawned the now popular holiday, “Galentine’s Day” where February 13 is used as a day to celebrate the female friends in one’s life as well as the greatest compliments a person could use. (“Ann, you spectacular, golden-tongued sunflower.”)

Leslie’s relationship with Ben Wyatt proved to the world that a strong woman doesn’t need a strong man by her side to run the world. All she needed was someone to support her professionally, love her deeply, and take her to JJ’s Diner for waffles. Their love is something that is so beautiful, as he compliments her intense enthusiasm.

Tom Haverford is a struggling entrepreneur with big ideas. His vocabulary is unique, just take his food language. (“Sprinkles are rainbow rice for your milky ice.”) His business ideas are outside the box. (“Snail mail, an escargot delivery service) He is quite the lady killer as well and has finally learned the art of commitment. Underneath his spoiled persona, Tom is a vulnerable child who only wants to seek approval from his role models.

Ron Swanson is everybody’s favorite character because he is the kind of person who every one knows parts of, just not all those parts put together. He is a government hating, pessimistic, bitter, monotone, meat-eating, wood-carving, man who deep down learn how to love. He values his relationships with his good wife, ex-wives, step-kids, and friends. I cannot do him or his Pyramid of Greatness justice. Everything that comes out of his mouth is indescribable. (“Crying: Acceptable at funerals and the Grand Canyon.”) He is a hero to all.

April Ludgate Dwyer has been a part of the crew since day one. As the dark, emo, sad intern, April underwent the biggest transformation during the run of the show. As someone who didn’t care about anything or anyone, April found herself and a husband. As someone who hates affection and excitement, she, along with the rest of her peers, finds a role model in the super lovable and enthusiastic Leslie. April learns from Leslie how to be a leader and loyal friend and grows up before the viewer’s very eyes.

Andy Dwyer is the most lovable goof-ball since Tracy Jordan from 30 Rock. When we first meet Andy he is a struggling musician who broke both of his legs. Yes, we all forget that he dated Ann. However, as the show progresses, Andy uses his naive and childish personality to his advantage and is a ball of fun. His band Mouse Rat also wrote the greatest song, “5000 Candles in the Wind” in memory of Pawnee’s beloved miniature horse Lil’ Sebastian. (See what I mean by borderline ridiculous). With the support of his amazing wife April, Andy finds his calling combining his two greatest gifts: music and potty humor and becomes children’s musician, “Johnny Karate.”

Donna Meagle is one of my personal favorite characters because she is so underrated. She is everyone’s favorite pop culture loving, badass, sophisticated, smart, and strong women who does not have a filter. However, it is her brutal honesty that make her tender moments all that more emotional. Donna and Tom spawned the ever popular “Treat Yo’Self” phenomenon: literally a day to treat yourself to the finer things in life.

Finally there is Jerry/Larry/Terry/Gerry Gergich, the lovable, clumsy, oaf that rounds out the gang. Jerry, as he will always be known, is the sweetest, kindest, person who does not receive the time of day from his friends. There is always that person who just can’t seem to get it right. But Jerry always looks at the bright side of things, even when Leslie can’t, and even when he screws up. In true Parks and Rec fashion, that’s enough about Jerry.

It is now that I will say what the ending of this show means for the future of television. Shows like The Office, 30 Rock, and Parks and Rec can’t be on forever and overstay their welcome as its stars have moved on to bigger and better things such as producing new shows and acting in Hollywood blockbusters. However, these three shows have added ten years of absurdity, hilarity, and heart to the traditional situation comedy. Incredible actors like Steve Carell, Tina Fey, and Amy Poehler created the era of a strong lead who is backed up by an incredibly talented and wacky group of friends that are supporting them through life’s challenges. There is, and will never be, shows like The Office, 30 Rock, or Parks and Rec on television ever again as they have proved to be too smart for the average television viewer. Dunder Mifflin, TGS, and the Pawnee Parks and Recreation Department worlds have contributed many phrases and ideas to popular culture, merchandising, and the idea that being smart and funny is considered cool. It is now time to turn off the channel that has been set to the shows of our middle and high school years and begin a new era of laughter.