I know most people probably think I’m a melodramatic lunatic, carrying on so about the “loss” of my favorite television show this way. I know most people don’t grow so attached to a fictional town and fictional characters that, when that town filled with characters is no longer generating new fiction, they suffer grief. I also know that most people don’t understand my deep love for the people of Pawnee, Indiana, either.
Throughout my life, I’ve felt a deep attachment to a variety of television shows. I have cried ugly tears since I was a child when I’ve watched final episodes of a tv series, even ones to which I wasn’t that deeply attached. But it wasn’t until Seinfeld ended that I could honestly say the finale of a television series truly messed with me, rendering me nearly incapacitated from grief.
I was going through a really difficult time in my life (having just been dumped the day before my wedding) when Seinfeld ended and perhaps some of my devastation could be attributed to being a jilted bride rather than watching four nincompoops go to jail for being just generally bad people (something I honestly couldn’t see, cannot see, and I cringe when my daughter says she hates George Costanza because, for goodness sake, there used to be a framed poster of him in his underwear above my bed… the man is a sex GOD.) In fact, that was such a trying time, losing Chris, and then Jerry, Elaine, George, and Kramer, that I’ve written an essay about it and I read it, in public, this summer. I’d post a link to the podcast but it’s been disabled so maybe that means I need to publish my story. But I digress.
Anyway, nearly two years ago, I had to say goodbye to my second favorite tv show of all time, The Office. Two years before that, I wrote this essay when we bid a farewell to Michael Scott. It was like a bandage that was being slowly pulled off, little by little, for two years. Once the bandage was completely removed, I thought surely the wound would heal eventually and not hurt so much. But as ridiculous as it sounds, that hasn’t been the case. It sucks. It’s continued to hurt like hell. And any time I need a good cry, I seek out the “Goodbye, Michael” episode and sob until my eyes are puffy because it never stops hurting.
Figured it was only fitting that I should try and do the same for Parks and Rec.
I wasn’t a fan from day one. I Tivo’d the first season but felt like a lot of the critics did… that it was a rip off of The Office and I just kinda said, “Meh.” I had just had a baby (yes, Parks is the same age as my youngest child) and I could barely focus my eyes on the screen anyway so, no love lost. I think it was about a year and a half later when I picked it up again. My son was going through a bone marrow transplant and our dear friend, Roy, who understands my taste and sense of humor said for me to do myself a favor and to just give it another try. He was sure that season 2 would win me over and, boy, was he right.
Parks and Recreation has been there for me through some of the toughest years of my life. When my son was ill, when my marriage was dunzo, when I was feeling lower than low, my friends in Pawnee were consistent. Over the years, I have literally watched the seasons over and over again. Nothing else would soothe me. I was so thankful for Netflix; could just pick any random episode, didn’t matter which one as there are no bad episodes, and suddenly I was transferred to a place where waffles were a delicacy, friends fought and made up, and where every single thing I’ve ever thought was funny was somehow incorporated into dialogue or a scene at least once. It was a magical place, Pawnee, Indiana.
Today, the show has become a family affair. We’ve all sat down to watch this season together. We’ve never watched any other show together as a family of five. My youngest has grown up with this series, these characters. Recently he asked me to start season one with him because he’d just realized that Andy (the guy who falls down a lot) is the same guy in Guardians of the Galaxy and he really likes that guy (So do I, son. So do I.). My daughter has used “Leslie Knope” as an answer on school papers and named the character in my play based upon herself Leslie. My oldest got Parks and Rec trading cards (yes, that exists) in his stocking for Christmas one year. And my hubby actually laughs out loud when we are watching together. In fact, watching Parks and Rec has become one of the only things that my husband and I even do together anymore.
One of the most special things about Parks and Recreation, for me, is how much I truly like every single character. I cannot think of another show where this has been the case. Seinfeld? I despised Newman. Several beloved characters from The Office rubbed me all kinds of wrong (Kelly Kapoor? NO thanks). But even the “bad guys” on Parks and Rec crack me up and make me smile. I can honestly say that there has not been a character on the show that didn’t delight me in some shape, form, or fashion. They are just all so darned likable.
My love for the show and these characters has influenced many friends and acquaintances and I’ve converted a number of people to Pawnean citizenship.
I’m sure I’ll eventually find another show that will become my favorite “currently running” series. A frontrunner is The Goldbergs. Totally in love with it and it makes me cry in a similar way that episodes of Parks has made me cry over the years… from sheer joy. But as I already know from past experience, there is no way to fill the hole that the characters on Seinfeld and The Office have left in my life. Undoubtedly, the hole left by my friends in Pawnee will be even wider and deeper simply because there are just damned many of them.
Goodbye, friends. Thank you for the laughter. Thank you for the tears. And thank you for putting your heads down, continuing to do your thing, and never letting the network screw with this beautiful masterpiece. You weren’t creating a ratings machine. You were creating comedy. The best comedy I’ve ever been witness to. You guys crushed it.