This morning, a friend of mine tweeted “Everyone on the way to work seemed totally chill about the fact we live in a post Parks And Rec world????” I agree, and it’s shocking. They’re going on like nothing has changed, like it’s all okay, like one of the best comedies in television history didn’t just burn through its final season and disappear forever.
I care. I care deeply, because Leslie Knope taught me to care and to get heated about things and to show how mad and sad you are about things ending, even if that’s what they’re meant to do. The entire Parks finale was a meta and meditative study on this exact phenomenon: Things change, things end. What’s important is the people who are with you through it, and how you deal with the changes and use them to learn and grow.
Losing this show hurts . I feel it in my heart and my stomach. Every time I remember that it ended, it’s another twist of the knife. I know that’s not what any of the characters or the cast and crew would’ve wanted: what they wanted–what they successfully did –was create a legacy of joy and humor that set a glorious new bar for TV, for comedy, for fiction. I will cherish the hours I spent in Pawnee, from my initial Netflix binge to getting my mother addicted to the show to watching (and reciting) “The Fight” while consuming drunk tacos with my college roommate.
The end of Parks and Recreation doesn’t feel like a TV finale so much as it feels like my best friend is moving to Mars and never coming back.
I keep trying to put my finger on what makes this different from other TV shows ending, especially comedies. It doesn’t feel like The Office , which for me ended with “Garage Sale” and then slowly burned for another year and a half. It’s not like 30 Rock , which was hilarious and absurd, but populated largely by narcissistic oddballs. When Lost ended, I cried a river of tears for the conclusion of a powerful emotional journey, but not so much for the characters. Perhaps this is how I would’ve felt if I’d been old enough to watch Boy Meets World chronologically and on-air, until its culmination in 2000.
The difference with Parks is that I won’t just miss a funny show. I’ll miss the people–all of them. I genuinely cared about every single character in this fictitious world, and more than anything, I will miss their company. I was two seasons into the show when I first realized this. I didn’t care whether an episode focused on Leslie, Donna, Andy, Chris, Jean-Ralphio, or Perd Hapley–I was equally invested in every weirdo in Pawnee. They felt like friends, like family–they felt like coming home.
As if that weren’t enough of a magnificent feat, Parks took it further; not only are all the characters likable, but they get along in any combination. Remember when Chris and Tom helped Andy train for the police academy? When Ben joined Donna and Tom to treat himself? And honestly, in what world do two people like Leslie Knope and Ron Swanson become lifelong friends? In this one . In Pawnee, the bizarre little bubble that our own world should aspire to.
This show gave me so much. It taught me about love, friendship, feminism, teamwork, and the crucial, uncompromisable importance of always being and loving yourself. I firmly believe that this show can end wars and cure diseases. It has made me and millions of other fans better, smarter, funnier people–and it disguised this character enrichment as entertainment, which it never failed to deliver. It was true television escapism, and it was a privilege.
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