I briefly told this story last night on Tumblr but when Parks and Recreation began its run in April 2009, I couldn’t have been less interested. I absolutely worshiped Amy Poehler from her Upright Citizen’s Brigade and Saturday Night Live days but I knew the show was specifically designed to be a companion piece for The Office, one of the few shows that I’ve ever actually just flat out given up on watching. (I loved it intensely for about three years and as the quality waned, so did my interest and eventually I just had to abandon ship. To protect my fond memories. The show produced OVER 100 MORE EPISODES after I stopped watching.) The pilot of Parks was made available on iTunes before it aired and I decided to give it a shot. It was exactly what I thought it was going to be (just like The Office but not The Office that I fell for. The current, cartoony Office). I felt like I gave it a fair chance but it wasn’t for me and I moved on.
When the show returned that fall, I was surprised to hear friends and critics say that there had been a clear uptick in quality. I saw the fourth episode of the second season, “Practice Date,” literally by accident: Community was set to record but somehow the recording ran long and also picked up Parks. As soon as Community ended, the cold open of Parks started (Councilman Dexhart’s birthday cave sex press conference) and my brother and I couldn’t help but giggle. We didn’t know the entire episode had recorded so we kept watching and giggling and before we knew it, the entire half hour had passed! I caught a few more episodes here and there that season and ended up Netflix-binging both seasons later that year.
And here we are roughly 5 years later. I would’ve loved to have had the time (not to mention emotional tenacity) to do a proper series retrospective (in the vein of my OC send-off that I bring up way too often) but perhaps someday. (I owe 30 Rock and Parenthood tribute posts as well.) For now, I’ve made a list of my 10 favorite episodes. And I’ll just say this: there were definitely peaks and valleys but from the moment I got onboard, Parks and Recreation never failed to make me smile. I’m a TV fanatic, I couldn’t begin to estimate how many shows I’ve seen through to the end, and yet Parks always felt special. For some reason, it feels rare to see a TV show where everyone gets along, everyone likes each other, everyone just wants everyone to have everything they want and that’s the driving force of the show. Parks and Rec was like a ray of sunshine in a dark TV world and that positivity is what I’m going to miss; that positivity is what made Pawnee feel like home.