Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Farewell, "Parks and Recreation"

I'm going to borrow Alan Sepinwall's dayenu idea to talk about the completion of "Parks and Recreation". 
I came to "Parks" late, having resisted the idea of what I thought was just another show like "The Office".  ("The Office" had great moments, but I thought I didn't need another.)  Many people talk about the rocky start to "Parks" but much of the things that made it amazing were there all along. Leslie just got dialed up a bit, or started to lean in a bit, if you will.  Early on Marc says that Leslie has more enthusiasm even after six years of government work than he ever had. 
And this is not to say there aren't ever episodes that don't work for me as well as others, there are so many wonderful things.  And in the most perfect thing, I have loved honestly every second of this final season, so much that I want more and yet know that it is best for all of us that this is it.  Spinning out characters past their natural end point, just leads to cartoony cringey moments.  This was the best ending for everyone.  I will be able to re-watch this show over and over in it's entirety and feel the feels happily. 
1. Weddings.  Weddings on shows are often exciting mostly because you are happy for the characters and not because watching the business of them getting married is interesting, unless their guests cause some sort of disaster.  "Parks" did a lot of weddings. Each one was wonderful in it's perfection for the characters, whether it was Andy and April having a party where they got surprise married, Ben and Leslie getting married on the night of a huge town event they had both planned, Ann and Chris torturing the poor jewelry salesman as they decided that they didn't need the marriage part to love each other and raise their kid together, Ron and Diane getting married at City Hall with Leslie bursting with joy behind them, Donna and Joe having a church wedding while April corrals and controls her various family members, and Tom deciding that Lucy would prefer a simple proposal to the flashy one he originally planned.  Each of these was different in a way that made sense to the characters, which made them wonderful.  Any one of these would have earned a dayenu, but all of them?  So much yes.
2. The Tammy's. Many shows do a crazy episode with an insane guest star.  And then, it's hugely popular and they try to repeat it.  Tammy Two came back several times, but each time in a manner that made sense.  (Diane's eye rolling response to Tammy is, by the way, crazy hilarious.) And the addition of Tammy One, and Tammy the Mom also added layers of funny, while also helping make Ron make more sense as a character.  That is seriously deft handling, and I felt like in many ways, the shortest version of this list would be to say that the drama and the comedy came from the characters which is what made it feel so feely. 
3. The addition of Chris and Ben.  Many season two's introduce a new antagonist character to up the drama factor.  But Chris and Ben, while doing that, again did that in a way that felt realistic. Many towns deal with budget crises, and that is certainly something a non-essential department would grapple with, but Chris and Ben, while shaking up the dynamics, were not just evil meanies, they had legitimate, fully formed approaches to solving these issues, they just happened to conflict with Leslie's desires.
4. Flu Season.  Seriously, "I am Leslie Monster and this is 'Nightline'" is hilarious.  (Folks who haven't seen it yet,  trust me it is.)  And again, the silly of the episode comes from the characters, Leslie can't afford to be sick because she needs to make this presentation.  Chris can't afford to believe he could be sick.  And April doesn't want Andy to know she's sick because he would come visit her.  All the silly is based in the characters. 
5. As much as these characters disagreed and had different viewpoints, they came together when it mattered.   There were many examples of this but two of of my favorites were when Leslie's original campaign team abandoned her, and when Ben and Leslie announced they were having triplets.  The rest of the team stepped in to help in a way that was wonderful, and sweet, and such an excellent example of wonderful friends. 
6. Gift giving. Leslie is a master at this as was demonstrated often.  There were the excellent presents she gave Ron, the year she gave everyone the bestest Christmas presents, and the time Ann and Ben joined forces to get her a gift and so on.  And all of this comes from Leslie's love of making people happy. 
7.  The time jump.  "Parks" was so smart to officially time jump, allowing them to skip over some of the early baby stuff and also futz with the existing relationships a little further than one might expect from a smaller break.  And the decision for Ben to run for office and how this changes things since Leslie is unaccustomed to being a candate's wife rather than a candidate further allowed them to explore the weird things we do to people who want to make our governments run, and also, given Leslie's experience running for and then being recalled from city council, and Ben's prior campaign experience, the idea that either of them would commit themselves to a campaign again is the truest expression of the hope that embodies the series.  In the end "Parks" is about hope and positivity and love and how that plays out through a bunch of bureaucrats. 
8. Many different people. Throughout "Parks was a wonderful sense that people, women shaped people included, of all different shapes, sizes,  beliefs, and ages could work together.  Not without every arguing.  Not without ever going too far sometimes.  But they could do it.  And they could succeed.