(Editor’s Note: We’re going to take a hiatus from games for this one. I’ve been meaning to do this article for a few months, but it got lost in the shuffle. Parks and Recreation was such a good show that I want to give it a proper send off. Don’t worry. The games will be back next week.)
(2nd Editor’s Note: I have been trying to break up my posts from appearing as a wall of text. Because of my respect for this fantastic show, I’m bringing back the wall for this article. TLDR: Parks and Rec is a very good show. If you haven’t seen it, watch it. You won’t be disappointed.)
When I last wrote a “Farewell” post, it was for The Walking Dead and it was because I just couldn’t handle the level of violence and misery offered by the show. I’m getting sensitive in my old age. American Horror Story suffered a similar fate after their love of shock seemed to trump any attempt at story. I never wrote an article about that show because (a) I don’t have the history with that show and (b) I didn’t have a web page at the time. My history with Parks and Rec is not as deep as Walking Dead, either, but it is significant.
I come not to bury Parks and Recreation. In fact, when I tuned into the most recent season a few months ago, I had no idea that it was the final season. Rather, I come to praise it as one of the most consistent shows ever. (Who knew that memorizing that speech would someday pay off? My 9th grade English teacher, that’s who!) I knew that sounds like damning with faint praise, but I’m not.
It wasn’t one of my favorite shows. I found it not because of a personal recommendation or overwhelming critical praise, but completely by accident. I think that it came up as one of the “Shows You May Like” or whatever Hulu calls it. I watched the first few episodes and just kept watching because it was always good. Other shows have ups and downs. That never happened with Parks and Rec. It just kept plugging along like the little engine that could. Again, I’m not doing such a great job of selling this. Admittedly, I’m a terrible salesman. Let me try again.
Initially I watched for the same reason that I suspect many watched. There are so many familiar faces in the show. Hey, she’s from SNL. That’s Pam’s boyfriend from The Office. No, not that one. The other one. The one that nobody liked because we were supposed to be all in on Jim and Pam. Speaking of, remember the whole Jim and Pam fight story line? Ups and downs, Man, ups and downs. Holy cow, is that Rob Lowe?
Eventually, I had watched enough for the other characters to become more recognizable. I didn’t like Tom much at first. He grew on me. I’m not sure if it was by design–though I suspect it was because the show never suffered from identity crisis, either–gradually Tom’s bravado became a thin veneer of armor to protect his soft and fuzzy heart of gold. Holy mixed metaphors, Batman! I saw myself in Tom’s story and I started to root for the guy. Even as he repeatedly hitched his wagon to John Ralphio (who is the closest to unwatchable as the show ever came and I never considered it), I looked forward to Tom’s scenes more and more with each passing episode.
My other alter ego on the show, April, appealed to me right away. Like Ton, she hid her true identity. Unlike Tom, but more like me, she used her acerbic wit to deflect any possible feelings. I instantly identified with her sarcasm as a defense mechanism. She was my first favorite character on the show.
Andy, who I mistakenly identified earlier as the they that everyone was supposed to hate on The Office to make them love Jim and Pam more, played such an iconic role that I have a tough time placing him in new roles. Similar to Sarah Michelle Gellar, who I will always identify as Buffy and vice versa. I always thought it was just because she was such a bad actor, but I’m having the same trouble with him. He played Starlord, one of my favorite comic book characters of all time and I still think of him as “Andy” and it even sometimes is “Andy” followed by a wide smile.
Donna was fine as “everybody’s sassy black lady friend”, Jerry was a bit tiresome as the fat, old, dumb white guy. Neither of them added enough to the show to be anything more than minor supporting characters, but they both fit into the roles well. Granted, they both became beloved, too, but at first they weren’t a reason to watch the show.
The main reason to watch the show, for me and others no doubt, was the incomparable Ron Swanson. Leslie might have been the main character of Parks and Rec, the other characters might have been the glue to keep the show together. None of that would have mattered without Ron. Put simply, Ron is Parks and Rec. Similar to Dwight, he represents everything the show stands for. There’s a reason that those two characters transcended to become memes and pop culture icons.
Other characters came and went as they do. The show continued being good and improved with each episode. I enjoyed the show so much that I branched off into another show because Hulu also recommended that one. I actually liked that show, Outsourced, better than Parks and Rec at first. I was clearly in the minority since it only lasted one season. Oh well, I guess I got my dad’s (I picked Betamax over VHS) talent when it comes to picking winners.
My collision course with this final season of Parks and Recreation marched onward to inevitability. Little did I know that it would happen so soon and so suddenly. Even as I watched, I thought that it was weird that they kept flashing forward to tell part of the story. It was a cool story telling device, but I never made the connection that they were doing it because we were saying good-bye to these characters. I learned through a podcast or the radio that it was the final season and then it hit hard.
I went back to watch the first couple of episodes again. If they were stopping the show, then I wanted to be able to experience the end with my undivided attention. I’m glad that I did. Each episode focused on one character and what happened to them after the show ended. True to form, it treated all of the characters with respect and gave them all proper send offs. I don’t think that I disagreed with a single ending for any of the characters. I was wrong when they got closer and finally revealed Leslie’s, which is odd because I’m usually able to follow the clues better than that. Nevertheless, the episode was great and all of the others were, too. That’s also strange for me because I’m usually difficult to please when it comes to endings. The best of them was Ron and I was just waiting for them to screw that one up, but they didn’t.
All in all, I guess I could say that this was one of my favorite shows. I didn’t aggressively watch it like Breaking Bad. I didn’t look forward to it like Walking Dead. I didn’t share it with Christine as I’ve done with many other shows. But, I did watch it and I watched it consistently and I watched it to the end. Not only did I watch it to the end, but I enjoyed that ending more than anticipated or expected. It might not have been a great show, but it was a very good show. It was always very good and that consistency is rare to find. Thank you so much for the years of entertainment, Parks and Recreation. Television is so much worse in your absence.