There was a lot of to-do on the internet about major changes NBC plans to make to their Thursday line-up. While critical favorites like 30 Rock, Community, and Parks and Recreation were picked up for new seasons, each show is signed on for 13 episodes and there is a rumor that these will be abbreviated farewell seasons. If this is true, it’s an attempt to compromise with the shows’ loyal fans by giving the characters time to say good-bye but still getting these lower rated shows out of the way. While Tina Fey seems ready to wrap up 30 Rock, I think Parks and Rec still has a lot of stories to tell.
I was resistant to Parks and Rec at first. I am a big Amy Poehler fan, but I was confused by NBC’s attempt to package it as an Office spin-off and was tired of the fake reality show, talking head format. I tried to catch a few episodes when I was home on a Thursday night, cut I couldn’t get into the characters. I found Poehler’s Leslie Knope a bit tiresome. A female Michael Scott, who didn’t get how embarrassing she was. They started out having her be a little incompetent and gave her a hopeless crush on her co-worker Mark, who regretted the one time they hooked-up. Leslie wasn’t a real person when we first met her, but the show did something that is almost unheard of in sitcoms, they made their lead character less cartoonish with time. Many formerly brilliant shows fall apart over seasons, as the writers play up ridiculous cliched traits, making the familiar characters unrecognizable. Leslie has become a more complete person as the show progressed, and now is a stand out at her job and is part of a healthy relationship based mutual appreciation and respect. Other characters grew on me in time, most noticeably Chris Pratt’s Andy, who started off as a dumb oaf, but has come to show a huge heart and child’s ability to love unconditionally.
At the end of season two, the show added two new cast members, Rob Lowe and Adam Scott, as state auditor who came in to advise on budget cuts. Rob Lowe plays the enthusiastic and health conscious Chris Traeger and this may be the best role of his long career. Lowe has had a lot of embarrassments over his over 30 years in the public eye, but he has kept a terrific sense of humor and will really do anything the writers throw at him, no matter how silly it might make him look. Scott’s Ben Wyatt was an intimidating foe for Leslie at first, as she worried he would make devastating cuts to her department, but over time, they learned they had a shared love for community and local government, and a forbidden flirtation (there was a rule prohibiting co-workers’ dating) developed and they entered a relationship that they knew could cost both their careers. I really think Poehler and Scott have the best chemistry on television right now and I will continue to root for them.
Earlier this year, a blogger I follow accused Leslie of being less of a feminist by letting Ben step in to “solve her problems for her”. She cited the episode where Ben punches a potential voter who insults Leslie. Many argued that Leslie and Ben are the most feminist couple on tv, because when their relationship is found out by their bosses, Ben is the one who sacrifices his career so Leslie could continue her’s. It wasn’t Ben saving Leslie, it was a role reversal that showed his respect for her.
And don’t think I would forget to mention the breakfast loving, government hating Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman). Not only does he deliver every line with perfection, his friendship Leslie is a beautiful thing to watch.
Last week, in the season four finale, Leslie got to realize a lifelong dream by voting for herself in a election. I have to admitted, I teared up with pride. That’s what great television does, gives you people who’s joys and sorrows you can share, just like you do a friend.
Favorite Episode: The Fight