Pawnee In The Rear View Mirror.

It’s easy to get caught up in the moment when evaluating a work of art. Especially when you are naturally passionate about art or the work itself. So you will […]

It’s easy to get caught up in the moment when evaluating a work of art. Especially when you are naturally passionate about art or the work itself. So you will have to forgive the superlatives that will come out of my fingertips and which I will regret later in life as I re-evaluate everything I have ever written. But Parks and Recreation might just be the best comedy of the last 15 years so far. And its ending might just be one of the most powerful hours of Television crafted in the history of the medium.

It’s easy to talk about Parks and Recreation as a disgraced show. One that lost its way around season 4-5-6, depending on who you ask. I would vouch for season 4 and 5 extensively, now that they’re on Netflix and thus, the week-to-week slow-burn doesn’t hamper the low impact storytelling that defines that show’s period. Season 6 has interesting character arcs but it doesn’t quite know how to execute them, sadly. Either way, at its weakest moments, Parks and Recreation was still a very unique voice in Television. A show that was brazenly political without being specifically so and constantly celebrated the value of public service, as well as a show that wasn’t afraid to be whimsical. It was the weird child of some bizarre threesome between The Office, The Simpsons and The Daily Show. The first season is incredibly uneven and it’s because of the constant wrestling between those influences. But the show grew up and the show became something more than its influences.

Perhaps most important of all, Parks and Recreation gave us Amy Poehler’s defining role. As an actress, Poehler is quite good at finding the humor of her characters. Not just who they are but the ways they can be turned into something funny through their own natural behavior. But her work before Parks and Recreation was decidedly undramatic (for the most part). Yet Poehler constantly proved to be ridiculously adept at playing/writing the dramatic beats that have defined Parks and Recreation as much more than just a really funny and goofy half-hour. Episodes like Win, Draw Or Lose lean hard on her character (the unstoppable Leslie Knope) not just being an hyper-energetic goofball, but someone who has tapped a deep well of truth and empathy. At its best, this duality defined Parks and Recreation.

Admittedly, I was never a big fan of the idea of Parks and Recreation being a “nice show”. While I do believe its view of its core ensemble was endearing because it never derided them for their dreams and personality, most of the people outside of that circle were constantly mocked and were created specifically as cynical embodiment of politics’ (and life’s) worst features. While Bobby Newport was not a malicious person, the intent behind him was certainly scathing. And any show with a character like Jerry Gergich simply can’t be called “nice”.

In many ways, it is perhaps fitting that Parks and Recreation left us in the same month that the Daily Show’s Jon Stewart announced his departure. Both shows were the marriage of cynicism and idealism, coming from bruised folks who have seen that the world demands much more than such simplistic worldviews as pessimism and optimism. At the core of both shows there’s an understanding that humans are flawed and thus their systems are flawed. But that we can rise above those flaws by working together and covering over those flaws. The Daily Show highlighted this by commenting and mocking on politics at their worst, while Stewart implied that we can and have to be better. Parks and Recreation did this by having its cast improve in front of our very eyes through the joy of public service or at the very least the knowledge that their learned skills and their time invested in those offices would prove immeasurable.

While Parks and Recreation was textually about the joys and tribulations of working in the service of others’ life, the note it hit for me personally was the value of good and hard work on yourself. Most of the disgruntled people in Parks and Rec had to overcome the very natural situation of having to work on something they were not interested in in order to get by. But by the end of the show, each and every one of them has found their calling by doing nothing more than being dedicated to becoming better selves. Tom’s Bistro  is a product of a thousand failures and Tom’s landmark decision of not repeating himself. Ron’s Very Good Building Company (and his final place on the show as a Ranger) are both products of his dedication to his craft and him finally overcoming his inability to opening up to people, finally trusting Leslie with his destiny and we could go on and on. But that note is one that stuck with me, hours after I finished.

One Last Ride quotes Teddy Roosevelt’s “Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing”. This note applies not just to one of the most beloved group of characters in the history of American comedy, who dedicated themselves constantly the most important work there is (self-improvement) but to the cast and crew of this magnificent work of art. During seven years, these people dedicated themselves to nothing but creating a funny and charming little show that coherently displayed the bigger truths of living in this world and in this society. To many, they failed as much as they succeeded. But their failures fed their successes and made them stronger for it. I can personally say without a doubt that I will miss seeing all of these people grow, but I am comforted by the fact that they did grow in front of my eyes and got the ride into the sunset they deserved.