TV Retrospective: “Parks and Rec” farewell leaves fans sad, but satisfied

“Parks and Recreation” ended its run on Feb. 24, and with it an era of NBC television came to a close. Though NBC’s Thursday night comedy block—which “Parks and Recreation” started its run on, originally—never commanded the ratings of CBS’ formidable “Big Bang Theory” and “Two and a Half Men” lineup, it had critical acclaim that CBS never matched—something “Parks and Recreation” was in part responsible for.

The show was done in a mockumentary format, following the daily lives of parks and recreation department workers in the small, fictional town of Pawnee, Indiana. Starring Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope—an honest and hardworking woman who always sticks to her ideals—the show was at its best when the plot took a backseat to the characters that audiences grew to love as the show progressed.

“Parks and Recreation” had a rough first season, but it eventually moved out of its awkward early years and into critical acclaim and a cult-following. The show was largely scoffed as a rip-off of “The Office,” and it seemed like the derision was correct.

Thanks to great writing, however, from a team that included the late, brilliant executive producer Harris Wittels, as well as incredible character building from the likes of Poehler, Nick Offerman and Aziz Ansari, the show eventually found its footing and a place in the hearts of many.

Even though the show lasted for seven seasons in six years, it never felt stale or recycled. To me, “Parks and Recreation” was neither cut off too soon—like “Freaks and Geeks”—nor did it drag on for too long—like “The Office.” “Parks and Rec” was one of the rare few shows that met its end at exactly the right time.

The final episode ended on exactly the right note. Alternately heartfelt and hilarious, it reminded viewers of all the parts of “Parks and Rec” that were great, leaving the audience with hopeful visions of the future and positive outcomes for all of the characters.

Though this may not be the most realistic closure, realism is never what “Parks and Rec” was about. The show may have been a mockumentary, but the story it told was always one of hope and success in the face of adversity.

I’m glad “Parks and Recreation” ended when it did. Too many shows try to linger on past their prime—ultimately leaving sour tastes in their fans’ mouths. Still, I can’t help but miss the idea of getting to visit Pawnee every week to check in on Leslie, Tom, Ron and all of the Pawneeans—even the Eagletonians—and to be able to peek into a world where everything can turn out alright, as long as you believe in yourself.