To those who haven’t had the privilege of watching Parks and Recreation before: immediately stop what you’re doing, load Netflix on your television or computer, and turn on NBC’s late comedy.
Parks and Recreation, which ran from 2009-2015 on NBC, stars an amazingly talented cast led by Amy Poehler, who you may recognize from her time on Saturday Night Live or her recent thrilling film co-starring Tina Fey: Sisters (2015). The series tells the story of a small, fictional town in Indiana, Pawnee, and the passionate and large, albeit crazy, reckless, and dysfunctional town residents. And, honestly, Parks and Recreation should henceforth be heralded as one of the most beautiful and funny comedies ever created, which is why everyone should be watching this show.
Through her role as Deputy Director of the Parks Department of Pawnee, Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) uses her passion for helping people, motivation for creating and upholding a strong government, and creative ideas to push the town and residents of Pawnee to be the best. She truly believes her city is the greatest in the world, and she’s inspired and motivated to do everything she can to make sure everyone else feels the same way as she does. Leslie is someone who believes the best in everyone (except her co-worker, Jerry Gergich, most of the time), and she wants everyone to succeed and follow their dreams. As the main character, she embodies the entirety of what the show stands for: following your dreams, always expecting the best from people, waffles, family, and fun.
Every day in Leslie’s life is fun for her, which is evident by a quote from one of the earlier episodes of the series: “What I hear when I’m being yelled at is people caring loudly at me.” Amy Poehler’s charismatic performance continues to stun throughout the series’ seven seasons, and each season she comes to a better understanding of who her character is and how to play the quirky, extroverted, dreamy, and optimistic character, and the writing improves with every season.
The other main characters each have their individual stories revolving around Leslie’s life and career, and Parks and Recreation actually boasts an interesting and diverse cast (for the time it began). Out of the eight main characters, four are not white, and one (eventually) is gay. The series prides itself on telling the real stories of average people, with obvious satirical embellishments, and it actually (in some cases) manages to include more than just straight and white characters.
However, the town of Pawnee is home to anyone who watches the crazy antics of the town’s residents. Through their rivalry with Eagleton, their unique community discussions, and the outrage they feel over the simplest things, these strongly satirical citizens are passionate about the most ridiculous, unusual, and small things, and I think we all have certain little things in our lives that we would react unusually toward. Their actions, beliefs (or lack thereof), and the way they all band together creates a second home or family for anyone watching because Pawnee truly is a bonded town.
I’m going to tell you the key for beginning a successful binge-watch of the series: skip Season 1. The writing of the show definitely progresses and becomes much better as the series goes on, which is a feat in and of itself as many shows crumble and burn after five seasons, but season one is just a disaster. Consisting of only six episodes, the series harshly struggled to find its direction, but there’s such an astounding transformation between the first and second seasons that it’s hard to believe it’s the same show. Instead of being an absentminded woman in government, like she’s portrayed in season one, Leslie, in particular, becomes a driving force in government and is portrayed as an intelligent, thoughtful, and determined government employee. The characters aren’t even written the same way after season one, so you can treat the first season as if it were another show entirely and dismiss it. Just start with season two and you’ll be thanking me if you ever were to go back and watch.
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