Knowing that when I wake up in several hours that Parks and Recreation will have aired its last episode is a pretty brutal truth. So much has been made of the show’s ending for two reasons – NBC’s decision to give it a shortened season (and then burning them off in pairs) – and the fact that unlike so many other modern day, long-running half hour comedies, P&R is very much still an adept and confident piece of television sitcom.
The Office had a near-fatal accident when Steve Carrell left, was kept on life support despite various treatments including James Spader and Greg Daniels being injected towards the end. Modern Family is as unessential now as it was essential in its early seasons. How I Met Your Mother gave the 3-camera format a shot in the arm before delivering a viciously unpleasant parting blow. The Big Bang Theory continues with blockbuster ratings, although it can hardly be said that news of it’s renewal was exactly a fevered announcement. Community has become the show it always should have been, in the place it should probably have started.
Parks and Rec put on a stretch of episodes, through seasons two, three and four, that no sitcom of my era can match. Although the wheels have been spinning for a couple of years as the onus on character’s career progressions became weary, the show still remained pretty hilarious. For most it’s the tone, if anything – the relentless positivity of its stories – and the fact that it was a very funny show without ever feeling cynical, or mean. Modern Family continues to show a group of individuals who love fighting. The League is the I-can-best-your-insult homosocial enclave. But P&R never had that in its DNA.
P&R‘s demise means it’s really time for one of the new comedies to step up to the plate. I haven’t been able to check much of the new US sitcoms out – save for Brooklyn Nine Nine, which is a very NBC-comedy on FOX – and it will be interesting to see if shows such as The Mindy Project and New Girl will begin to grow a bigger bubble. I like both but will I miss them as much as I do Parks and Rec?
Some quick personal highlights from the series:
> The season 4 arc featuring Paul Rudd. I honestly think this was one of the most consistently satisfying runs of any sitcom both emotionally and comedically. I can’t think of any several-episode arcs, let alone full seasons, that match it, from the television I’ve seen before. Perhaps Season 3 of the Office ending on Jim asking out Pam, following a riveting 24-odd half-hours.
> Ben Wyatt being unable to comprehend the fascination of Lil’ Sebastian. Gets me every time how he shakes his head at the camera after feigning enthusiasm.
> The Flu episode is on of the finest sitcom episodes of all time. “Stop. Pooping.”
> There’s an outtake where Leslie goes to Dave’s house, drunk, and Poehler pipes up with the line “I’m fart and I’m smunny”, and Louis just corpses.
> Leslie and Anne’s drunk fight is a spot on piece of observational comedy.
> “Leslie and Ron”. Even in it’s last throes the show spits out one of it’s best ever twenty two minutes.
> Ron Swanson throwing a ball with Andy Dwyer, following their meat tornado.
> Amy Poehler’s improvised jump-cut sequence from the hunting episode, which I wrote about extensively in one of my essays in my MA.
> Chris Pratt morphing from Andy Dwyer to Star-Lord.
> Ben’s accountancy puns.
> Ben and Leslie’s Game of Thrones role playing.
> The trip to food n’ stuff.
> Ron Swanson dancing.
Thanks for the good times, Parks!