Coming off Amy Poehler’s last year as co-host of the Golden Globes, I keep reminding myself that Parks And Recreation is in its final run, and I need to set my PVR. I have watched the show since the first season, when Leslie Knope was just a female Michael Scott and the entire storyline revolved around the creation of one park.
From shaky beginnings, the show recalibrated and found its tone in season two. The writers deserve a lot of credit for the evolution of Leslie (awkward to enthusiastic) and for letting go of storylines and characters that weren’t working.
But despite a few awards and some love from the critics, the show never quite took off. It’s not “must see TV” (I’m a fan and still haven’t set my PVR). It’s not the kind of show that requires spoiler alert tweets or harried post-mortems with friends. You can’t say “Treat yo self!” to someone and be 100% certain they will get the joke (you can’t even be 50% certain).
Why? It has everything – Amy Poehler! We could stop there but I won’t. The best ensemble cast you will find in any comedy on any network (please show me a better one): Aziz Ansari, Nick Offerman, Chris Pratt, Aubrey Plaza, Retta, Adam Scott – I mean, come on. And the minor characters are so f-cking good – how are Jean-Ralphio and Mona Lisa Saperstein (Jenny Slate!) not household names?
The show got better every year, but it didn’t soar in popularity. Ron Swanson has become kind of a lumbersexual idol and Chris Pratt is now a Marvel guy, but it’s not nearly as popular as Big Bang Theory, revered as Modern Family or as tortured and hip as Community.
Maybe it’s because audiences are so impatient and hungry for easily digestible comedy - a gag, a one-liner, a viral video - that we aren’t that interested in the slow burn.
A female-driven show about municipal politics isn’t the sexiest idea, but it’s been smart and funny and thoughtful without an ounce of pretentiousness. This may sound corny, but it’s a kind show. It’s not mean or cynical or racist or sexist – it’s a comedy about a very ambitious person who dedicates her life to public service. So in that sense, it’s a small miracle it lasted 7 seasons.
And there’s still time to make up for all those times we should have watched and didn’t! Parks is widely available in syndication and the final season is happening right now. Record it, watch it, download it – do it for Amy. She’s given us so much.
Attached - Amy Poehler at her Golden Globes after party.