Comfort QuaranTV: Parks and Recreation

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Who would’ve thought the perfect solution to quarantine-induced boredom would come in the form of a fictional universe, concentrating on the political procedures behind a faltering local government? Self-isolation is certainly not an ideal situation, but it does provide a perfect opportunity to experience perhaps the funniest television America has to offer.

Though the series finale of Parks and Recreation aired almost five years ago, fans of the show continue to watch and re-watch the cult favourite, and for good reason. In an era where TV-comedies are often dominated by dark themes and cynicism, Parks is able to stand out because its default emotion is joy, and its default philosophy is optimism. Those who are patient enough to get past an underdeveloped first season (it gets better, I promise!), will see reward in a perfect balance of wit, satire and goodwill. 

Parks is able to stand out because its default emotion is joy, and its default philosophy is optimism

Parks and Recreation follows heroine Leslie Knope, an excitable, overachieving civil servant and aspiring politician who personifies the word ‘enthusiastic’, in her quest to improve the lives of every single citizen of Pawnee, Indiana, whether they like it or not. The town of Pawnee (town motto; ‘First in Friendship, Fourth in Obesity’), is the perfect setting for such a premise, allowing for outlandish conflict between a devoted government bureaucrat and socially inept citizens, whose extraordinary demands exceed the possible. 

Whilst Leslie is the centre of the show, its the supporting figures that are credited with turning Parks into the masterpiece that it is. The characters making up the main ensemble are all essentially caricatures of their fundamental beliefs and ideas, something which makes every relationship distinct and every plot noteworthy. Parks is able to invent characters like Ron Swanson, a template for a hypermasculine, conservative, gun-wielding libertarian, and somehow manages to make him perhaps the most well-liked character on American television. Other notable members of the ensemble include Andy Dwyer, an aspiring musician with a juvenile streak, Tom Haverford, an eccentric entrepreneur and romantic, and April Ludgate, an impassive government intern whose monotone nature somehow complements the never-ending chaos in City Hall. Instead of finding humour in misanthropic feelings and hostility, Parks creates and celebrates the most unlikely of friendships. Every character is a maverick, able to both adhere to and betray every stereotype we expect – therefore, every relationship is special. 

Every character is a maverick, able to both adhere to and betray every stereotype we expect

To those readers who have never seen the show: I cannot recommend something more. Whether it’s an episode on Ron and Tammy’s wildly hypersexual makeups and breakups or an episode on Tom and Jean Ralphio’s chaotic entrepreneurial trip into Entertainment 720, it will certainly leave you with a smile on your face and an inkling to continue watching, at the very least. It’s no surprise that since its finale, the show has amassed a popular following and has seen critical acclaim. Ultimately, Parks is the pinnacle of feel-good television. 

And this is precisely the reason why fans of the show keep going back to it – it’s simply a pleasant viewing experience, ensuring that the audience is thoroughly entertained throughout. Parks is naturally a show about people who like each other and enjoy working together. Simple in nature, this formula ensures that the show has entrenched its position as perhaps the most refreshing comedy to emerge in the last decade. There’s nothing wrong with a crowd pleaser, especially in times like these where we may be seeking comfort or a remedy to our anxieties. Simply, Parks and Recreation finds its greatness in its goodness. 

Image: Nicole Wilcox via Unsplash

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