And why it matters for the future of television and even to “my” generation babyyyy.
Today is a special day for those of us who believe in the Pawnee way of life–Paunch Burger, extraordinarily uncivil government forums, Little Sebastian, J.J.’s Diner waffles, and hating Eagleton with every ounce of your being; I don’t care if the towns merged in season six–Eagleton is to Pawnee as Shelbyville is to Springfield.
The NBC mockumentary television series was built on the model of its former Thursday night colleague, The Office, premiering in 2009 with a quick six episode first season. Unlike another network mockumentary that premiered in 2009, ABC’s Modern Family, Parks & Recreation has failed to receive stellar ratings or win single major Emmy or Golden Globe award; however since its re-working beginning in season 2, it has been the most consistently high-quality comedy, perhaps even best television show broadly, for its last 93 episodes.
While the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and Hollywood Foreign Press Association (who choose your Emmy and Golden Globe winners respectively) may not have recognized the achievements of Parks & Rec, the Internet SureAsHellHas.
From Buzzfeed to Grantland and everywhere in between, it seems that pop culture critics, along with the “philes” of Tumblr, .gifs, and Twitter, adore the clever, dry humor of the show, along with its eclectic cast and characters.
The cast features pre-Parks household names such as Amy Poehler, Rashida Jones, and later on in its run, Rob Lowe, the show has also spurred the careers of several previously little-known actors, who established themselves in the comedy community in an-almost Freaks and Geeks-like fashion, but featuring actors of diverse ages and backgrounds.
Aubrey Plaza, Nick Offerman, Aziz Ansari, and Chris Pratt in particular stand out as castmembers who’ve made a name for themselves through Parks & Rec, allowing each to branch into the netherworld outside television–film.
Yet a more impressive feat achieved by the Parks & Rec crew than its career impetus is the virulent fandoms it has spawned with its larger-than-life characters.
I’m sidetracking a bit, but as a child of the 90s, The Simpsons has, and always will be, my rock, my foundation, my bread of life, the butter on my biscuit–its impact on my life, upbringing, and who I, Brennan, am today cannot be understated. My parents can attest that I do not jest (hi-ooooooo;) the citizens of Springfield and I have an unbreakable bond.
Back to Parks, since The Simpsons of the 90s and early 2000s, I have never clung to a television program and its characters like I have to those of Parks & Rec, and the weirdos of the Internet, who one can guarantee were also raised by America’s favorite yellow family, agree.
There’s the loveable buffoon, Andy Dwyer, the overly-enthusiastic government employee, Leslie Knope, the young and cynical evil hag, April Ludgate, the Meg Griffin, Jerry Gergich, and the two who “always be treating themselves”–Donna Meagle and Tom Haverford.
Yet the character that has captivated a generation of millenials who’ve grown up in the digital age has to be Ron ****ing Swanson. The steak-eating, scotch-swilling, self-reliant and paranoid libertarian has become an reaching icon, and not only for the fratboy Republicans in your life, but the Ron Paul-loving, backpacker hipster as well.
His mustachioed likeness may one day be found in the Oval Office–that’s how important Ron Swanson is to an underemployed mass of college graduate, 20-somethings that many of our “elders” feel has a bit of an identity crisis.
Am I exaggerating the importance of Ron Swanson in a medium that both mirrors and inversely influences “us” in important ways such as in family and race-relations, politics and religion (e.g. Star Trek, Glee, The Simpsons, Duck Dynasty)?
I think not. For those who place more trust in a Stephen Colbert report than in the “real” news airing 24/7 on cable television, a little show that could has created a cult of personality the likes of which are scarce in any fictional forum.
I would argue the Swanson Pyramid of Greatness has an influence, and will continue to do so, upon young people. The global generation is unlike any other– we hold a Tea Party skepticism of a government that spies on them, want to be a bridesmaid in their best gay friend’s wedding, and loathe the party politics of the baby boomers; many outlets speak of a “great divide” in America, but it seems my demographic may find a middle ground somewhere between MSNBC and Fox News.
So while your parents may think you’re self-centered, entitled, have no work-ethic, and no marketable skills because you spent their hard-earned dollar to be a damned Art History-Anthropology double major and have seen Bassnectar 12 times, your favorite television character is Ron Swanson!
Maybe there’s hope for the year following the year of the selfie yet.
While it seems that everyone in my inner circle (which consists of approximately 10 people….) loves Parks & Rec, yet the show has had several brushes with the network axe and was put on hiatus this fall, instead replaced by two episodes of The Voice and a Halloween SNL special… The. Freaking. Voice.
Yet the show returns to we, its merry band of faithful fans, tonight at 8:30 ET on NBC for a 100th episode that some network drones would have gleefully pulled the plug on perhaps, if not for the doubtless uprising by an Internet-savvy cult of 20-somethings.
NBC can’t have blood on their money-grubbing hands–it’s bad for business!
To celebrate a moral victory for those who still naively believe in scripted television, even network scripted television, the cast of Parks & Recreation released a special 100th episode video sharing their favorite moments from its 99-episode run.
WordPress is a piece of expletive** expletive** and won’t let me embed the video, but you may view it via the hyperlink below on NBC.com. It features interviews of the weirdest cast in network television (aka Aubrey Plaza letting that evil hag flag fly) with gif-able moments like the one below.
Congratulations to the best comedy on television for making it to this milestone. When “reality” shows, can have the highest-rated premieres in cable history, it’s easy to lose one’s last shred of hope in humanity and our potential for thoughtfulness in the widest-reaching forum of television, but we did something right millenials, America, world.
Parks & Recreation is more reflective of reality than Real Housewives of ____________ will ever be.
Kudos to television consumers–this show still lives. Reward your strong American work-ethic with some bacon-wrapped shrimp.