This past Tuesday, Feb. 24, a loyal audience said its final farewell to the citizens of Pawnee, Indiana — a fictional town portrayed in the beloved seven seasons of “Parks and Recreation.”
The show followed the employees of Pawnee’s Parks and Recreation Department, as well as their colleagues in other parts of the city: Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman), Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott), April Ludgate (Aubrey Plaza), Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari), Andy Dwyer (Chris Pratt), Donna Meagle (Retta, who made an appearance at Wellesley this past week) and not-to-be-forgotten Garry Gergich (Jim O’ Heir). The diverse cast brought a range of comedic talents to the table. Amy Poehler portrayed Leslie Knope, the Department’s altruistic former Deputy Director, as an optimistic employee of an otherwise pessimistic bureaucracy. Aziz Ansari and Retta reminded each viewer to “Treat Yo’ Self!” with their luxurious shopping sprees once every year. Garry Gergich was the comedic scapegoat of the show; for all seven seasons, the employees of the Department refused to call him by his name (Is it Terry? Larry? Jerry?).
Yet behind all of the show’s humor was its most refreshing characteristic: a willingness to grow. When the show originally debuted in 2009, critics were not impressed — this was a shock, considering that the show was originally conceived as a spinoff to the revered mockumentary series, “The Office.” Even Leslie Knope, the show’s adored protagonist, was regarded as ditzy. After the first season, writers altered Leslie’s personality and gave more screentime to her relationships with her colleagues instead of her romantic interests. While many changes occurred in the past seven seasons, perhaps one of the most important shifts was the show’s decision to fast-forward to the year 2017 in its final season.
In its final season, Leslie is the head of the Midwestern Branch of the National Parks Service. Ron owns his own building firm, Very Good Building and Development Company. Ben is now a congressman, and he and Leslie split their time between Washington D.C. and Pawnee. April feels lost in her career while her husband Andy is the host of the children’s television program, “The Johnny Karate Super Awesome Musical Explosion Show.” Tom surpasses expectations as a talented restaurateur. Garry is finally called by his real name. The finale wrapped up with one final growth-spurt: a view into the incredibly distant future.
Instead of leaving viewers wondering about the future of each character, the writers wrapped up Parks and Recreation with the same energy found in every episode. After both Ben and Leslie are tapped to be the next Governor of Indiana, Ben throws his support behind Leslie, who is eventually elected as Governor; Ben continues to serve as a Congressman. April and Andy, after much debate, decide to have their first child, who is appropriately born on Halloween. Garry serves as the Mayor of Pawnee until he dies on his 100th birthday — but the writers kept the running joke alive by misspelling Gergich on his gravestone. The most satisfactory occurrence for loyal viewers of the show was the return of Ann Perkins (Rashida Jones) and Chris Traeger (Rob Lowe). Ann is Leslie’s best friend who moved away in season six and Chris, her significant other and Ben’s best friend, is the former City Manager of Pawnee.
As Ann and Leslie reunite one final time, Leslie notices their children’s bond and hopes that their kids get married. Perhaps this desire provides a premise for a reunion show in the future; if not, fans will always have “Parks and Recreation” to turn to whenever they miss Pawnee and its unforgettable citizens.
Rachel Dodell ‘18 is the Online Editor who is considering double-majoring in Media Arts & Sciences and Political Science. She enjoys politics, public radio, programming, and polka dots. Feel free to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @rdodell.
Photo Courtesy of NBC