Bye bye, Parks and Recreation,
Miss you in the saddest fashion.
It's the end of an epoch in comedy history, for the last of the Great NBC Sitcoms has ended. Beginning in 1982 with the premiere of the great workplace ensemble comedy "Cheers," and perpetuating into the new millenium with the great workplace ensemble comedy "The Office" and the greater workplace ensemble comedy "30 Rock," the National Broadcasting Corporation was the go-to destination for situation comedy.
Despite having only wrapped up yesterday, "Parks and Rec" is already canonized as one of the great sitcoms, written about at length by both comedy nerds and the intelligentsia (the comegentsia?) all throughout its run. It's a special show in the canon because it brought the workplace comedy into a more positive, upbeat tone, without condescending to the audience. It bridged the clever, sarcastic cynicism of "The Office" with a sunnier sensibility in order to set it apart.
Larry David's philosophy in being the showrunner of "Seinfeld" was famously, "No hugging, no learning." David was not interested in using comedy to moralize or comfort the audience through stories of redemption. "No hugging, no learning" means that the characters didn't grow, that they didn't engage in life cycle events like marriage and birth.
"Parks and Rec" was almost "ALL hugging, ALL learning." We saw the characters grow over the past 7 years, and as encapsulated in last night's flash forwards, we see them grow into the future. With a few bumps in the road (go to the Ethel Beavers on the fourth floor of Pawnee City Hall to get those potholes paved over), each character ultimately lives the very life that they wanted. Hell, it is even implied that LESLIE BECOMES PRESIDENT OF THESE VERY UNITED STATES. How can this wonderful dreamscape resonate in this day and age? How can our generation of cynical assholes indulge these fantasies without feeling like their intelligence is being insulted? Therein lied the magic.
As current liberal arts students, we are inclined to believe that to be smart is to be cynical. The standout student in your seminar is the one who challenges the text and the TA. We filter our engagement with the world through "The Daily Show" and The Onion, which reminds us that shit is shitty and makes us laugh in order to make the facts digestible.
All the while, over the past seven years, "Parks" was a show about hope and change, on a personal and a political level. They gave us the deadpan faces of Ron and April to distract us from the fact that we are being uplifted and inspired. It was the sitcom "West Wing," an aspirational world in which dedicated public servants make things happen. In which friends (or to Ron, "workplace proximity acquaintances") support each other no matter what, Gryzzl can be outwitted, and true love can overcome tyrannical HR rules and ambivalence about having kids.
"Parks" was a truly special show, with which we laughed, hugged, and learned. It leaves a void in the current comedy landscape, but luckily the face of Chris Pratt will be in every possible franchise to remind us of the good times.
Thank you, Pawnee. You're forever first in friendship.