Pawnee Mon Amour

by Brandon James Anderson

One of the finest sitcoms of the last decade ends its seven year run tonight. If you know to which show I’m referring, that’s likely because you’re one of Parks and Recreations’s loyal fans.

Parks and Rec has never been a juggernaut in terms of viewership—the show routinely faced cancellation, never getting anywhere near the ratings of more widely watched sitcoms like Modern Family and The Big Bang Theory. Despite often being labeled as a “cult comedy,” the NBC sitcom starring Amy Poehler was never meant for a small, niche’ audience.

Fans of the show have been loyal enough to tune in that Parks has oftentimes been the most watched sitcom on NBC. And yet, this final season was hastily dumped onto viewers by NBC in an effort to air the last 13 episodes as over a brief stretch of six week (new episodes were shown back-to-back at 8:00 and 8:30 p.m. on Tuesdays with tonight’s finale getting bumped to 10 p.m.).

Though the show took place in the fictional (and oftentimes cartoonish) town of Pawnee, Indiana, Parks and Rec has exhibited an appreciated sense of self in terms of acknowledging its Midwest roots.

For instance, the courtyard of Pawnee City Hall, a locale for conversations and run-ins between characters throughout the show’s entirety has featured a Vernors vending machine. Characters are seen multiple times with a can of the Michigan-founded ginger ale in their hand during the course of the show’s 124 episodes.

The state of Indiana’s love for basketball has been repeatedly acknowledged by Parks and Rec with the director of the titular department, Ron Swanson, having an enlarged photo of infamous coach Bob Knight on his office wall in season 1 and Indiana Pacers players of past and present making numerous cameo appearances.

Parks and Rec routinely paid homage to its (fictional) Midwestern locale.

Parks and Rec routinely paid homage to its (fictional) Midwestern locale.

There’s also Ann Perkins. In the atrocious first season of the show (seriously, if you haven’t yet gotten around to watching Parks, just start at season 2) Amy Poehler’s Leslie Knope meets Rashida Jones’s Ann Perkins and the two eventually become best friends. Later in the series Ann makes an off-hand comment about being from Ann Arbor, Michigan which ends up being a plot point during the sixth season.

While the show may be coming to end, it’s likely Parks will remain culturally relevant years from now much in the way that many fans of Arrested Development discovered the show long after it was cancelled. (Between Netflix and cable channels FXX and Esquire routinely airing mini-marathons of the show, it won’t be hard for new fans to get hooked.)

Of course, I haven’t seen tonight’s one-hour finale, but I’m fairly confident that it’ll be great because so much of this show was great and, at times, perfect.

Before we say goodbye to Leslie Knope, Ron Swanson, and the rest of Pawnee, here’s a countdown of my favorite moments from Parks and Rec:

#10: Andy Dwyer Diagnosing an Illness

#9: Patton Oswalt’s Epic Filibusterer (a majority of which never made it to air)

#8: Any and Everything Involving Pawnee Animal Control, Specifically this Scene…

#7: Jean-Ralphio Dunking

#6: Jean-Ralphio Being Homeless

#5: FBI Special Agent Burt Macklin

#4: The Introduction of Mona Lisa Saperstein

#3: Andy Dwyer Performing “5,000 Candles in the Wind”

#2: Ben and Leslie’s Wedding

#1: Ron Swanson Guest Hosting Local Public Access Television

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