Originally Posted: February 27, 2015
I remember watching the Parks and Rec pilot on my iMac, alone in my bedroom, in the spring of 2009. If memory serves I actually paused the episode of The Office I was watching to check out Amy Poehler's new comedy. iTunes was giving it out for free as they usually do for new shows. I remembered thinking about how this show was originally going to be a spin off of The Office. When the change to make it an original series happened I remember it being bittersweet. I thought, "Good. A spin off just wouldn't be as good or it would have been too similar but also dang! That means no potential for an Office crossover. Which could have been fun." I laughed a little bit during the Parks pilot. Not as many times as I laughed during my first episode of The Office but I did nonetheless. It felt strictly like an Amy Poehler-vehicle. I thought it was funny but that she was too much like Michael Scott, which is understandable. However despite those concerns, I saw potential. I think everyone did. We knew it would pick itself up and find its own, unique, footing. And it did. Definitely in the second season, obviously, but it started showing as early as the second episode, Canvassing. An episode that really started showcasing other cast members.
April, Andy and Mark were caught not canvassing and instead playing Rock Band. Hilarious mostly because of Leslie walking in on Andy belting out "My Own Worst Enemy" by Lit. It was this cool, funny moment that I think showed us a glimpse into where the writers wanted to go with the show, tonally. Here we had this deadbeat-musician-boyfriend living off of his hardworking-community-minded-nurse and girlfriend. Textbooks say we should hate him and he should continually be used as a plot device. A purely conflict-creating character used to make a likable lead like Ann more likable. Instead, Andy is the punchline to an Act-long set up. We love him in that moment. Parks said, "Yeah. He's funny. Everyone is funny. We're going to do whatever we want." Parks was a show about resilient, brilliant and talented people that were still obviously flawed and real. They often succeeded or maybe I should say they succeeded often while learning and slowly changing. It was romanticized realism.
They dedicated themselves to being a Leslie-driven ensemble even if that's clearly a little contradictory. Everyone was going to be funny and worth caring about. An unfortunately different approach, but a good one. Parks dared to be different but not just for difference sake and while never sacrificing quality. It wasn't "Let's be different just to be different!" it was, "Let's be different because that's what's right for these characters. That's what's funny for them and that's what's good for them." And bravo to that educated bravery.
Finally, here we are at it's end. The last episode, One Last Ride. It was a moving, slightly less-funny and clever ending to a great show. There was a lot of information and ground to cover. Saying goodbye to a lot of characters, all of which we cared a great deal for, made it tough to deliver the sitcom demand of "Three laughs per page." But we didn't need it. Laughs were still present as always but what we got in addition was an extra amount of warmth and hope. We time traveled and got something we don't usually get from a sitcom ending; a nice look into where these beloved characters were going. It was a sweet send off. I thoroughly enjoyed Parks and Recreation and I'm grateful we had a show that was unlike most others.
Thanks for treating us, Parks.