As The Preface’s loosely-defined “pop culture” columnist, I’ve been graced with the freedom to write about whatever’s been tickling my fancy at any given moment.
So frankly, I’ve no idea why it’s taken me so long to write an article about one of my favorite TV shows of all time, besides maybe the anxiety that I just couldn’t do the show the written justice it deserves.
That show is “Parks and Recreation,” which has aired on NBC since 2009. The for-a-time lukewarm “Office” knockoff, which during its humble beginnings egregiously embraced the mockumentary gimmick, is now in its sixth season critically regarded as one of the most cleverly funny sitcoms of the past half decade.
This fortunate turn happened sometime during its second season, with “Parks and Rec” finally gaining the nimble footing it so desperately needed, relying on the evolution of its characters to propel it into sitcom goodness.
The perky protagonist Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), Deputy Director of a parks department in fictional Pawnee, Indiana, was no longer just a female version of Michael Scott, just as the legendarily mustachioed Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) was no longer just a sternly stereotypical boss.
Instead, every part of the show’s ensemble cast had begun to come into their own, escapading and gallivanting together as friends, workmates and soulmates.
Which is why an episode like last Thursday’s “Ann and Chris” was a bit tough to stomach, but not because it was a misstep or at all underwhelming. On the contrary—it was a near-perfect sendoff for two great characters we’ve come to know almost as well as our own friends.
Maybe my sentiment is due to “Parks and Rec’s” humble Midwest setting (while still affording the unique oddities and quirks that accompany the Hoosier State). Or maybe it’s that these characters are falling in love and getting married and moving away and having babies; they’re growing and learning and leaving.
Whatever the case, this show certainly hits close to home in more ways than one.
After all, the point of television, at least in part, is to mimic real life. To make us laugh and cry accordingly. To give us something to identify with. To give us someone root for.
If that’s true, what “Parks and Rec” has managed to achieve is no small feat. Finding the balance between the wanton hilarity of a network sitcom and the touching moments of real life is the Holy Grail for half-hour broadcasts, a sweet spot the ramshackle cast of characters from Pawnee, Indiana, manages to hit just right.