I don’t even know what to say about Parks and Recreation. It’s over. It was here, and when it was the world was very good. As a TV lover, I’m just glad I was able to be here from the beginning and witness the magic as it was happening — able to appreciate it (even if dumb ratings may have tried to say it otherwise). Parks has always felt so special, and it’s hard for me to be all third-person-writer about it. The love runs wide and deep, y’all. Not as if that wasn’t part of Mike Schur and Greg Daniels’ masterplan all along. Or just a happy by-product of liking and loving everything you do. And so it went out the same way — full of hope and happiness and with an eye toward the future.
Leslie Knope loved being a public servant, and that sort of optimism is infectious. And it imbued the series with something so many others don’t: heart. Comedy can sometimes be a polarizing thing (heck, that’s a lot of the time) — there’s so much comedy out there that comes from a negative place or premise. Picking on things in a mean way, steeped in prejudice, etc.
But in that Parks was unique: it was always a show that found its comedy in the optimism of its characters. All of them people fully formed: and not a mean spirit among them (all those Garry jabs notwithstanding because I mean, c’mon). Which is exactly how the show sent them off by furthering their growth and journeys later in life. In many ways it was wish fulfillment of the highest order — Look at all they did! All the ways their dreams came true! — but it also felt true to the heart of the show, and the honor with which they wrote these people.
And oh, was it funny! Middle Korea. The return of Janet Snakehole. Cones of Dunshire: Winds of Tremorrah. April’s zombie birthing make-up. “You talk to bears. Done.” Ann compliments. Insurance fraud schemes that go ♫♬ incredibly off-cooooouuuurse ♫♬ (sing that one like you’re Jean-Ralphio). Failure: An American Success Story. There were cameos aplenty (did we mention Chris and Ann?!) — from Typhoon to every Saperstein and even Horatio Sanz. It was silly and indulgent and also perfect.
There were new babies, new business ventures, new homes, new passions in life, and plenty of new careers. But they always came back to one another, even when everything around them changed. It was their bond that remained the same. One that had Leslie Knope at the center of it. At once endearingly honestly emotional and genuinely funny, Parks was a chocolate-covered potato chip. Or maybe popcorn and Raisinets. Either way, it gave you just the right balance of heart and laughs, it always looked for the best, and packed it all into one satisfying little series about public servants in local government.
It’s been said to death already but because the Parks team prided themselves on being a family, they felt like family to the audience (in a non-creepy, televised sorta way). They weren’t just a collection of tropes or stereotypes — they had history and idiosyncrasies and always grew as people; they evolved in a way that felt natural. And never not fueled by goodness. If there was malice or evil-doing it was something they would band against or — more often than not — try to remedy.
So thanks, Leslie. And Ben. And Ron. And Tom. And Donna. And April. And Andy. And Craig. And Jean-Ralphio. And the cast and crew and Mike and Greg — you guys made us a very special thing and for that we are forever grateful. For giving people something to laugh about that always found cause for celebration of the good (and very weird and very funny) in life.
Oh and thanks to Garry too, we guess. DAMNIT, GARRY!
– Open Question: was it Leslie or Ben who was POTUS at Garry’s funeral? Our money’s on Ben because he had the American Flag pin on, but one of my roommates pointed out there was enough time for each of them to have two terms in this scenario so, y’know, DON’T STOP BELIEVIN’. HOLD ON TO THAT FEELIN’
– How did Donna only come in 9th in Italy’s Got Talent?
– Sandra Dee O’Connor
– I love that Craig and Typhoon were flying in the plane of the future.
– Cones of Dunshire: Winds of Tremorrah — “punishingly intricate.”
– April giving birth in zombie make-up is what we IN THE BIZ call the MOST most-perfect thing.
– Garry Gergich’s perfect life as a 10-time mayor, dying at the age of 100 peacefully in his bed with his never-aged-a-day wife (good for YOU, Gail)!
– An America that’s run out of beef is no country I want to know.
– “End of speech.”
Oh and one more thing to remember: Work hard at work worth doing. It’s what Teddy would’ve wanted you to do.