Ten Years On, ‘Parks And Recreation’ Is Still The Best Show In The World
It's fart, and it's smunny, and it's a prize.
When my soul is dragged kicking and screaming into the fiery halls of the underworld, and various devils force me to watch a montage of my wasted life, 90 percent of that video will be me watching Parks and Recreation.
It’s Parks and Rec when I’m in the mood to laugh. Parks and Rec when I need comfort. Parks and Rec when I’m anxious and can’t handle anything else. Parks and Rec, above all, when I’m hungover. The flu episode of Parks and Recreation when I’m sick.
The show is a perfect confluence between a laugh-out-loud, gag-centred comedy, and a wholesome sitcom with characters you genuinely care for. It’s this delicate balancing act between the two that keeps Parks and Rec so enjoyably eternal, providing something for almost every mood, a plotline or character that will either mirror or buoy a different facet of yourself.
It’s been ten years since the first episode of Parks and Recreation aired, so it’s worth looking back on why this show is legitimately, in my professional opinion, one of the top five comedies ever on television. I have a list, this is not just a random number I’ve said.
It’s also worth noting that if you HAVEN’T watched it yet, it is not too late. This should convince you.
Ten years ago today, a little show called #ParksAndRec came into our lives. 💕
— Parks and Recreation (@parksandrecnbc) April 9, 2019
“The Only Thing I’ll Be Waving Is Your Decapitated Head On A Stick In Front Of Your Weeping Mother”
Parks and Recreation always has to be blandly described as something like “the mad-cap shenanigans of a small-town Parks department”, because much like its precursor (and inspiration) The Office, the comedy doesn’t come from an outrageous plot, but rather from the suburban and recognisable setting.
However, while The Office drew power and manic energy from people being trapped in the ultra-ordinary and stupendously boring world of the Dunder Mifflin paper company, Parks and Recs is powered by a completely different source: Leslie Knope.
The heart and soul of Parks and Recreation is Leslie Knope, the manic-workhorse-dork-boss of our nightmares and dreams.
happy 10th birthday #ParksAndRec i love u ❤
— Megan Amram (@meganamram) April 9, 2019
Everything about Leslie Knope is ratcheted several levels higher than a normal person — she is defined by passions, buffeted by the intensity of her own devotion to… stuff. She’s not just a civil servant — she’s feverishly devoted to Parks work. She’s not just a friend — she tries to be the best friend ever. She doesn’t just enjoy work — she’s the most organised, devoted, ambitious worker in all the lands.
It’s basically this character study of a frighteningly passionate person in a weird small town that drives the show.
Without her, every other character would be deprived of the necessary glue to keep them together. Without her, the plot would never move forward — you can basically summarise every narrative arc with “Leslie wants something”, and the complication is either that she can’t get it immediately because people are idiots, or because she wants it too much and does something stupid to try and get it.
She’s sometimes a ridiculous character, often a comical one — but even with that, it’s so refreshing to have a female lead of a show who is just unapologetically a boss. Ambition in women is often classically depicted as something weird and unhealthy or even predatory. She’s beloved for this trait.
She’s a pretty aspirational character.
“This Snake Juice Is Basically Rat Poison”
Parks and Recreation is definitely wholesome comedy. I split all comedy into two binaries, wholesome and mean.
I can handle mean comedy only sometimes, because I am delicate and stupid. But Parks and Rec is extremely wholesome, without delving into the sappy or sentimental (although the final season does skirt perilously close sometimes). It’s also just mean enough to give it a little edge (see, almost every early jibe at Jerry), but it’s always worth it for the joke.
The primary vehicle for wholesomeness in the show is the sincere and firm commitment it makes to friendship. Doesn’t sound like much, but when you’ve got several weird and larger than life characters wrangled together by a maniacally cheerful government worker, creating a realistic and enjoyable relationship dynamic is worth celebrating.
These people love and admire each other, and enjoy their lives — and that’s goddamn wholesome. That’s enjoyable watching.
“No, I Didn’t Win, But At Least I Didn’t Make Any New Friendships”
Every character on Parks and Rec is iconic. They are perfect comedic vehicles, bright shining stars.
Like, honestly, the funniest low energy character on television is April Ludgate. Andy Dwyer is a perfect loveable dumb-dumb. The choice of making Ron Swanson — a loveable, grumpy, libertarian — into one of the most complex and rounded characters on TV is pretty amazing.
So much of the comedy is built in to the careful construction of these characters — there’s a reason the show is infinitely quotable.
What does Parks and Rec alum Ben Schwartz have to say about the show on it's ten year anniversary? Let's find out. pic.twitter.com/Sp2PZswO0C
— BuzzFeed (@BuzzFeed) April 9, 2019
Get On Your Feet
All these things are great. They’re all parts of why I love this show so fervently, so endlessly.
But it’s the devotion to some truly silly moments that wins me. Let’s have a look at some of the best moments in Parks and Rec and comedy.
This is perfect physical comedy:
This is just fun:
OK, this isn’t actually the bit of the clip I want — the line where Tom says “Dude, is she going to powder her vagina?” is perfect.
Oh yeah, the bloopers are perfect too?
Where To Start Watching Parks and Recreation?
Famously, Parks and Recreation is not great in season 1.
There’s been a bunch of people who have pointed out some of the good moments and gags in the first season, but it’s still just not good. Leslie Knope is not recognisable. I believe that the show only truly finds its perfect rhythm at the end of season 2 when Ben and Chris arrive in town, but I also believe that the first perfect episode is earlier.
Everything changes with the first episode of Season 2, ‘Pawnee Zoo’. This episode is the turning point for one very specific reason: it shows us the real Leslie Knope. Start there, don’t bother with season 1.
Where Can I Watch Parks And Recreation?
Parks and Recreation seasons 1-7 are available on Stan and Amazon Prime Video.
Patrick Lenton is the Entertainment Editor at Junkee. He tweets @patricklenton.