I didn’t get into “Parks And Recreation” until it was beginning its third season. The reason was I was finishing my final year in college and had moved to southwest Minnesota for a job after graduation during its first two seasons. So at the time, TV was simply not in the cards that much in my life. But with the power of Netflix streaming the first two seasons, I was able to get caught up and then follow the show fairly quickly with the power of Hulu. And I have ever since.
Maybe part of my hesitation going in — initially — was it was at first being pegged as a spin-off of “The Office,” and the format was pretty much the same, technically. Both were shot as a documentary-style office sitcom with very well-written episodes. The same people, in fact, who were making “The Office” also made “Parks.”
But where “Parks” differed from “The Office” is what made the show, in my opinion, better. “The Office” took pains in letting the viewer know it was a documentary. “Parks,” on the other hand, never really acknowledged that. When the characters spoke to the camera (exactly like the folks on “The Office”), it was more of an inner-dialogue than speaking to a film crew. In their world, there was no film crew documenting their lives. And yet this format still somehow worked.
It was also a much more absurd show. The humor was so weird and off-kilter that it, during season two, became its own thing. You have Leslie Knope, a true believer in government there to help, working in local government under Ron Swanson, a devout libertarian who thinks the government would run better if it were completely run like a Chuck E. Cheese. “They have an impeccable business model. I’d rather work for Chuck E. Cheese,” he once said. But that chemistry, which could have easily been seven years of pure adversarial rivalry, worked great because the two respected and cared for each other. They butted heads, but sans a few episodes, it was never enemies. They worked a lot better when they worked together.
This final season was perhaps one of the best seasons of the show. Last season, the show began feeling stale. The stories fell flat and it felt like it was almost a parody of “Parks.” It began to fall in quality much like those final seasons of “The Office.” More misses than hits.
But this final season they went out on a high note. Jumping three years into the future allowed them to move the story along into new areas and not be bogged down with what was going on in the the sixth season. It allowed for Leslie and Ron to have a years long feud, and the greatness of seeing them get passed it. It allowed Tom Haverford to be successful without us seeing him build his success, after so many failure due to his own hubris. April and Andy have built their life, despite April’s disgust at the idea of growing up. And Jerry/Terry/Larry/Gary/Garry is still doing his thing. Because, that’s who Garry is. That poor bastard.
It was also great to see Donna have a bigger role in the show this season. The wedding episode was fantastic.
The finale (SPOILERS) itself was the best way it could have gone out. We got to see how this ragtag crew are years after the finale. Leslie and Ben are still in politics, April and Andy have a child (“His name is Jack,” April tells Leslie. “Whew, that’s good,” Leslie replies), Tom finally succeeds by writing a memoir on all his failures, Donna is happily married, Garry is mayor for life (just like his predecessor) and Ron is working for the federal government by keeping his park clean. They are where they were destined to be. And it was great.
And it was nice they paid tribute to executive producer/writer Harris Wittels, who unfortunately passed away just a few days before the finale. He was a hilarious guy. May Harris forever be humblebragging as a tour guide through the cosmos.
* Jon Hamm had the best line this season: “If anyone wants to hang, I’ll be at Subway!”
* We finally find out Kyle (the poor guy who just wants his shoes shined when Andy was operating that business) works on the fourth floor.
* Donna finally getting people to call Gary by his real name, yet proceeds to misspell it as “Garry.” Even on his tombstone.
* Ron’s brothers never knew he worked for the government. It was none of their business.
* April and Andy’s child’s full name is Burt Snakehole Ludgate Karate Dracula Macklin Demon Jack-o-Lantern Dwyer, but they call him Jack for short.
* Mark Brendanawicz is still MIA.
* Donna has April in her phone-thing as “Satan’s Niece.”
* In an ironic twist, Indiana University names a library in Leslie’s honor, much to her chagrin. “The library is the worst group of people ever assembled in history. They’re mean, conniving, rude, and extremely well read, which makes them very dangerous,” she once said.