Thursday, February 26, 2015

Parting With Pawnee

Early yesterday morning on the way to work, I had the car radio turned down low. I was very drowsy, but my brain instantly perked up when I started to quietly hear a familiar sound of a drum beating, then strings, and on top of that, some sort of woodwind instrument. After turning up the volume, my happy instincts were correct - the music playing was the perky theme that welcomed viewers to the world of Pawnee, Indiana for the last six years.

The station had used the music as an introduction to their own story about the Parks and Recreation finale, but I wasn't paying attention to what those jockeys had to say. Hearing that music (playing on the radio of all places, instead of the familiar flickering tube) triggered a reaction in my brain. The thoughts I should have had the night the episode aired, but didn't, because NBC placed it in a 10 PM time slot (whaaa?) and I had to race right to sleep the instant the credits rolled, instead of sitting and digesting the finale to one of the funniest and most genuine shows to hit the airwaves. Some of us have to wake up early, what can I say.

It may have taken until the following morning to finally have a moment, but after hearing that little familiar ditty, it all really sunk in - Parks and Recreation is over. Gone are the days of getting excited to tune in to a new episode just anticipating the fun antics that the writers have cooked up for those kooky, lovely characters we have grown to love.

It is rather terrific that on a show with an extensive main cast, plus all of the can't believe they got them guest stars and other randomly delightful oddities floating around (Pawnee was full of 'em), that every different character had numerous admirable traits/repetitive bits that made them hilarious and integral to the show.

There was Ben bringing endless joy to the people at an accounting firm that, no matter what, thought he was the shit, confusion over Jerry/Terry/Larry/Barry/Garry (and he just went with the flow), Burt Macklin, Janet Snakehole, Tommy Fresh with his DJ Roomba and glamping,  Jean Ralphio's masterful singing, Donna's Treat-Yo-Self,  Ron's (out of character) pure love of Li'l Sebastain, and finally, Leslie's perfect gift giving and wise words that filled endless binders with kindness/plans/and a tad bit of crazed enthusiasm, but she always had her priorities straight.

That's just a small glimpse at all of the hilarious idiosyncrasies that made the world of Pawnee unique and endlessly fun. Even when the final season jumped forward a few years to 2017 and all the characters lives were jumbled around, the writers did an excellent job of making sure everyone still had their same spirit. The time change only advanced their lives - just like in the real world, where we get older and want different things.

[Scene from season three's, "The Fight" - a hall of fame level episode for all of television.]

Progressing the show into the future was probably the smartest idea anyone could have dreamed up. We always knew that these people were going to move on to bigger things that meant spending some time outside of their treasured little city, Pawnee. The time shift allowed us all to actually see it happen instead of just imagine what could have been or hope would show up as storylines in the eventual reunion movie 20 years from now.

Had it aired for 10 seasons, we might have been able to see that progression a little slower or even been given more details (like, for example, what exactly does Andy do in D.C.?). Really though, we've all seen the slow demise of shows that go on for endless seasons. I just freaked out after noticing that Grey's Anatomy is on season 11! It's not worth it.

A little mystery also never hurt anybody. The final episode included a few enigma's, one which eluded to a character having a job far in the future that required The Secret Service, if you catch my drift. It could have just been really well dressed limo drivers though.

Even with a few well placed puzzles that left fans filled with questions, it is very apparent that the writers worked extra hard to give every character their moment to shine in the final episodes. [It's a shame that this week also meant a sad goodbye for one such talented writer.]  Parks and Recreation will fall into the same category of numerous shows that have ended in the last couple years which have proven that it is much better to give it all you got for a shorter amount of time, even if it means leaving fans upset and wanting more.

Knowing the show was going to end only seemed to really make it shine. The time shift even gave the story a fresh start to jump off from. The funny thing is, Parks didn't even need a gimmick or reinvention, because it was still good, but it just was a really genius idea to move it all along.

Imagined life in 2017 may have been filled with 3D projecting phones and Grizzle sponsored drones dropping off packages at our doorsteps (those technological predictions alone is an example of what makes this show eternally enjoyable), but the last minutes of the finale entirely wrapped up the overall feeling that we should all take away from the show. Not even an advancing world of technology could change Leslie Knope. 

The patron saint of ladies with ambition, Ms. Knope is simply the ultimate ambassador for respect, love, and hope. She made it seem possible to just be happy helping people fix something as simple as a swing or turning a giant pit into a park. With her leading the charge, it also let us all imagine that the government could include people who actually want to get things done in a positive way. That our country could be run with honest ideals and be successful. Putting characters like Leslie - smart, independent, forward thinking women - on television empowers us all to feel like we can do better.

Now, I know there are real life Leslie Knope's already out there - I applaud you. For those still looking to be inspired to do more, even though the show is over, there is still a lot of good that can come just by channeling Leslie Knope in your every day life, and I hope people continue to do so. Be prepared - there are a lot of waffles involved.

Not to end on such a serious note, since this is also the show that brought you a children's television host named "Johnny Karate" and phrases like, "chicky-chicky-parm-parm."

All that heart exuded by Ms. Knope and many of the other characters as well, just makes the show that much more memorable. We've got a classic on our hands.

Until next time.

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