Tonight one of my favorite shows of all time, “Parks and Recreation,” will air its series finale. I was a relative latecomer to the show, binge-watching the first few seasons on Netflix to catch up, but I quickly fell in love with the show’s quirky characters, talented cast, and hilarious jokes. But I think my favorite thing about “Parks” is its irrepressible optimism about human nature. In a TV landscape that seems to be getting more and more cynical, this show stands out as a beacon of joy and hope. Even though Leslie and her friends frequently make mistakes, they’re almost always motivated by the best intentions. The show celebrates love, friendship, chasing your dreams, and working together for a common goal — even with people who are your ideological opposite, as Ron is for Leslie. So, to pay tribute to this fantastic show, I’ve decided to list some of my favorite episodes from the series. Here they are, in the order in which they aired:
“The Stakeout” (2×02) — Leslie discovers that someone planted marijuana in a community garden, so she and Tom go on a stakeout to catch the perpetrator. While that scenario leads to some fun moments (including Leslie mistakenly assuming that Tom is from Libya), the real gold of this episode is the B story, in which Ron is immobilized by a hernia. Watching him and April interact as expressionlessly as possible is a hilarious delight.
“Hunting Trip” (2×10) — The parks department goes hunting at a cabin in the woods, where Leslie awkwardly attempts to be “one of the guys,” but events take a mysterious turn when Ron is shot by one of the gang. I love the jump-cut where Leslie is confessing her guilt to the park ranger, all while expressing her disapproval of his sexism: “All I want to do is have babies!” Also, this is the first episode that shows a glimpse of the April/Andy romance, as they are stuck in the office while everyone else is on the trip.
“Telethon” (2×22) — Leslie signs up the entire department for the 2:00-6:00 a.m. shift of a telethon. I love that this episode served the entire cast and provided some wonderful character details, like Jerry’s talented (yet mercilessly mocked) piano playing and Ron’s ability to cane a chair. My favorite line in the episode is this gem delivered by Ron Swanson: “What the f*** are you doing, Perd Hapley?”
“Flu Season” (3×02) — Several characters come down with the flu, including Leslie, who nevertheless refuses to stop working on plans for the Harvest Festival. First of all, Amy Poehler pretending to be high on flu medicine is a gift that keeps on giving. Then there’s Chris Traeger’s spiral into despair, as he tries to avoid catching the flu (“My body is a microchip!”) but ends up telling his reflection in the mirror to “Stop. Pooping!” This was also the real start of the Ben/Leslie romance, of which I am an unapologetic shipper.
“Media Blitz” (3×05) — Leslie, Tom, and Ben use Pawnee’s media channels to promote the Harvest Festival, but everyone is more concerned about Ben’s past as a failed mayor. Everything Adam Scott does in this episode is pure brilliance. The meltdown of Ben Wyatt, Human Disaster, on Crazy Ira and The Douche’s radio show (and then on “Ya’ Heard? with Perd” and “Pawnee Today” with Joan Calamezzo) is one of the funniest performances on this show. Also, Andy and April finally get back together!
“Andy and April’s Fancy Party” (3×09) — Andy and April throw a dinner party and surprise everyone by spontaneously getting married. This is one of the sweetest episodes of the series, but it’s also filled with funny moments, from Leslie’s horrified reaction (“Why are you doing this? Why is this…great thing happening?”) to April’s creepy friend Orin to Jean-Ralphio’s advice about the best man speech. But honestly, every time I watch this episode, especially when Simon and Garfunkel’s “April Come She Will” starts playing, I well up a little bit. April and Andy are polar opposites, but somehow her apathetic cynicism is the perfect complement to his puppy-dog enthusiasm. Putting those crazy kids together was one of the show’s smartest decisions.
“The Fight” (3×13) — Leslie pressures Ann to apply for a job at city hall, which leads to their first fight; Tom tries to promote an alcoholic beverage he’s invented. My favorite thing about this episode is the hilarious jump-cut in which every character talks to the camera while wasted on Snake Juice. Ron Swanson’s 3-second dance wearing April’s hat is just the greatest thing in the universe. I also loved the role-playing between Janet Snakehole and Burt Macklin, FBI. Macklin, you sonuvabitch.
So, who else is sorry to say goodbye to “Parks”? What are your favorite episodes, characters, moments? And if you never watched the show, what are you waiting for? Seasons 1-6 are available on Netflix streaming, so get going! 🙂