Arts & Culture, Featured, Spotlight

Waffles, Friends, Work: Exploring the Cult of “Parks and Recreation”

Parks and Recreation could be thought of as a bit of a dark horse. When it first came out in 2009, I honestly didn’t have the faintest idea of what it was about, and yet, roughly six years later, I’m emotional just thinking about it all coming to an end. I still remember getting into the show a few years ago, having found myself couch-ridden due to a terrible sunburn. Of the course of maybe three days, I devoured the first three seasons, stopping only to eat, sleep, and apply aloe vera. I became addicted, and haven’t looked back since.

rW6nFI’d like to make some dramatic comparison to the run of “Parks” and my life and claim that while I, like Leslie, may not have tested well early on, I’ve since gone on to become a beloved fixture in pop culture. This analogy doesn’t work for a lot of reasons, (mainly because I don’t have nearly as much to show for the last six years) but what I’m trying to articulate is that Parks and Recreation has undergone quite the evolution.

The show came about toward the end of a golden age for NBC’s comedies, competing alongside critical darling 3o Rock, and was initially dubbed as simply a spinoff of the The Office, given its setting in the parks department office and animated boss. It wasn’t a success initially, and it took some tweaking before the show reached its stride.

First, changes were made to Leslie’s character, which comes off a little ditzy in the first season before beginning her fluid transformation into an intelligent and passionate public servant. Characters like Tom and Donna took on more intricate plot lines, and lovably nerdy Ben Wyatt and comically enthusiastic Chris Traeger replace the uninteresting Mark Brendanawicz.

As viewers binged on Netflix, Parks and Recreation quietly gained a cult following and became one of the most popular comedies on television today. It joined a scene of shows where the romances brought viewers to tears and the jokes were integrated into millennial slang 635513445214937145-1053504524_tumblr_ldht7jvszp1qzadjlo1_5001(“legendary,” and “that’s what she said,” anyone?) The peak of this culture shows was around 2012, and with the beginning of 2015, Parks and Recreation is the lone survivor, entering its final season.

Perhaps what’s more disheartening than the series coming to an end, though, is the lack of any evident successor. I probably should’ve gotten into Community, but it’s not on Netflix, and with Donald Glover gone, its best days are probably behind it. Modern Family makes me laugh now and then, but it’s always seemed painfully formulaic, and I’ve yet to meet anyone remotely invested in the show’s relationships. Brooklyn Nine-Nine and The Mindy Project both seem to have potential, at least because of the writing and cast, but neither has managed to capture a large audience or garner much of a response from critics, positive or otherwise.

Parks and Recreation’s final season takes place in 2017, and as much as I adore the show, I can say that I’m accepting of the fact it’s coming to an end at this point in time (I’ll probably disagree when I’m sobbing after the finale, but I’m trying to be rational). Our favorite characters have grown up, and the chapter of their lives that “Parks” was about is coming to an end, as Leslie and Ron have settled in at new jobs, and even Tom and Andy exhibit impressive maturity and success in their careers. For a show that started off riding on the coattails of The Office, Parks and Recreation surprised everyone by surreptitiously becoming television’s most popular comedy.

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