After watching The Office last year, I came across another interesting series from the makers of the popular sitcom. Even in a mockumentary format, it’s quite different from all the movies and series I’ve watched – a political satire. As an apolitical person myself, I had reservations about whether I’d enjoy the show. However, after watching the first few episodes, I got hooked and binged-watched the entire show by myself. In this series review, I’ll discuss each season and my favorite characters or character aspects.
Parks and Recreation – Season 1
The story begins with Leslie Knope, a pro-government and optimistic government employee in Pawnee, Indiana. Serving her country has always been her dream job. However, working as the deputy director of the Parks and Recreation Department is no easy feat. Her boss Ron Swanson is an anti-government libertarian who isn’t interested in helping people or getting things done.
“Normally, if given the choice between doing something and nothing, I’d choose to do nothing. But I will do something if it helps someone else do nothing. I’d work all night, if it meant nothing got done.”Ron
Leslie had an uninterested assistant, Tom Haverford, and a useless summer intern, April Ludgate. City planner Mark Brendanawicz was Leslie’s love interest after a one-night stand. Jerry and Donna were also in the Parks department but not seen much in season 1. Leslie met Ann Perkins at a public forum where she complained about an abandoned construction pit next to her house that caused her boyfriend Andy Dwyer to break both legs. Despite resistance from Ron and other authorities, Leslie formed a team to fill up the pit and build a park there. She became friends with Ann as they worked on the project together. Ann ended her dysfunctional relationship with man-child Andy who was also briefly dated by Mark.
Parks and Recreation – Season 2
After Ann broke up with Andy, he moved into the pit hoping to reconcile soon. Leslie encountered obstacles but decided to fill the pit without permission. While filling it, they found an injured Andy living there. He threatened to sue Leslie for a large amount of money since he was technically homeless and broke up with Ann for that reason. After negotiating, Leslie agreed to fill the pit instead of paying him and avoided being sued. Mark left City Hall for a private job but had a soft spot for Leslie and left her a rough plan for her dream park.
Due to budget deficit, state auditors Chris Trager and Ben Wyatt came to visit Pawnee and the Pawnee govt. shut down temporarily.
Ben: We need to cut expenditures by 32 percent.
Ron: Let’s make it an even 40.
Parks and Recreation – Season 3
The Pawnee government reopened and auditors searched for ways to save money. Chris was charming and optimistic, while his companion was blunt and practical. Leslie and Ben didn’t initially get along due to their work positions, but later became friends after realizing their passion for doing well at their jobs. To save her department from dissolving, Leslie proposed bringing back the harvest festival as a last chance effort. If the festival failed, she wouldn’t protest against eliminating the department. Meanwhile, Ron proposed many budget cuts such as demolishing City Hall or privatizing government-owned properties.
The harvest festival was a huge success thanks to Leslie’s commendable effort and presence of mind. Chris became Pawnee’s city manager, and Ben took a job where he became Leslie’s boss. Chris dated Ann for a few months before breaking up with her, but because he was overly polite, she didn’t realize it right away and continued to hang out with him for a few more days. Meanwhile, Leslie and Ben developed feelings for each other but tried to suppress them due to the strict rules against office romance. Eventually, they gave in to their hearts’ desires and started seeing each other secretly.
April, who was unimpressed with everything good and pure in the world, fell for Andy. Andy worked as a shoe-shiner at City Hall. They had some initial problems because of Andy’s past with Ann, but they got together in a spontaneous wedding ceremony. Leslie’s lazy and demotivated assistant Tom quit his job to start his entertainment company named Entertainment 720 with scumbag Jean-Ralphio. Due to poor money management, the business venture failed. Tom kept struggling at different low-paying jobs after being too embarrassed to return to his old job until Ron forced him back into working at City Hall. Ron showed his caring side this season by looking out for April, Tom and Leslie even though he wasn’t directly involved in their lives…
“Dear frozen yogurt, you are the celery of desserts. Be ice cream or be nothing. Zero stars.”Ron
Parks and Recreation – Season 4
It was a big step in Leslie’s career when she decided to run for city council. To prevent any scandal and potential job loss, Ben quit his own job and became Leslie’s campaign manager. The Park department also volunteered to help with the campaign.
Ben had been haunted by his past failure: he became mayor of his hometown at 18 years old but lacked the experience and maturity needed for the job, resulting in a terrible performance. He had been trying to redeem himself ever since.
Leslie’s opponent was Bobby Newport, son of a wealthy businessman. Bobby’s seasoned campaign manager Jennifer gave Leslie and her team a good challenge.
After breaking up with Chris, Ann realized she had toxic traits that needed addressing. She dated several random men out of desperation or loneliness during the first few weeks after their breakup. However, she recognized how much her life and personality were influenced by her romantic interests; thus, she took a step back from dating to focus on personal growth and happiness instead.
“Capitalism: God’s way of determining who is smart and who is poor.”Ron
Parks and Recreation – Season 5
In season 5, Leslie faced resistance as a city councilor. Ben moved to Washington D.C. for a congressional campaign and took April with him. Their new responsibilities made it difficult for them to relate to each other’s work situation. Meanwhile, April and Andy struggled with long-distance too.
As work pressure pulled Ben and Leslie apart, he surprised her by returning to Pawnee and proposing marriage. At a fundraiser for the park, they decided on an impromptu wedding at City Hall in front of their closest friends and colleagues.
Ron met the perfect woman while fixing a pothole on a street. Diane, divorced with two beautiful daughters, was confident and assertive. Rather than waiting for Ron to show interest, she took matters into her own hands by asking him out to lunch at City Hall. Soon after, Diane entrusted Ron with caring for her daughters during urgent work commitments. Though babysitting wasn’t his forte, it demonstrated how much he cared for Diane and their relationship.
Tom, on the other hand, started a business renting high-end fashion to teenagers with the help of his colleagues and friends in the parks department. The business was a big hit in the market. Leslie was recalled from her office due to local petitions against her actions, forcing her back into her old job. This shows that Leslie’s journey wasn’t always moving upward.
“Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Don’t teach a man to fish…and feed yourself. He’s a grown man. And fishing’s not that hard.”Ron
Parks and Recreation – Season 6
This season focuses on Eagleton, Pawnee’s neighboring town, and its people. After declaring bankruptcy, Eagleton merged with Pawnee. It was once a part of Pawnee but became a separate town and home to many wealthy individuals who looked down upon the origin town. Leslie always resented this perfect-looking town and its inhabitants’ attitude toward Pawnee. She proudly claimed to be born and raised in Pawnee, ready to serve its people. However, she felt betrayed when she discovered that she was actually born in Eagleton—the very town she despised! Now back in her old position at the parks department, Leslie no longer has to hide her feelings for Ben as he is now the city manager.
Tom sold his successful business venture Rent-a-Swag to Dr. Saperstein, Jean-Ralphio’s father and opened a restaurant named Tom’s Bistro.
Ann and Chris got together and Ann got pregnant. The couple moved to Michigan to start a new life there.
Leslie found out that she was pregnant with triplets. She also took the job of a Regional Director for the National Park Service in Chicago.
“The less I know about other people’s affairs, the happier I am. I’m not interested in caring about people. I once worked with a guy for three years and never learned his name. Best friend I ever had. We still never talk sometimes.”Ron
Parks and Recreation – Season 7
After a few years passed, Ron and Leslie’s friendship waned due to time, work, and personal interests. Ron left his government job to start “Very Good Building and Development Company.” The enmity between Ron and Leslie grew when Ron’s company demolished Ann’s old house to build an apartment building. Although it didn’t affect Ann, the house had sentimental value for Leslie.
To end their feud, Ben tricked the two friends into spending some alone time in their old office building. Even though she no longer worked in the parks department, Leslie was still working from City Hall with most of her former colleagues while others left to work with Tom. Meanwhile, Ron realized he had lost touch with everyone he knew in the parks department and felt lonely.
Ron went to meet Leslie to ask for a job in her department but got no response due to her other commitments. They drifted apart silently until they were forced by Ben and others to spend some time together at their old workplace where they used to work.
After being persuaded by Ben that it was worth trying again after all these years, Ron finally spoke his heart out and apologized for everything that happened between them. In turn, Leslie forgave him which led them back on track towards rekindling their long-lost friendship once more.
Leslie found the perfect job for Ron: looking after a national park where he could roam freely without much human interaction. Despite being different from her other colleagues, Leslie understood Ron’s needs well. On his birthdays, she gifted him things like a remote-controlled door closing system and his favorite meal to enjoy while watching his favorite movie alone. Ben convinced tech company Gryzzl to provide free wifi in Pawnee, but later discovered they were illegally collecting private data for their own benefit. With Ron’s support, they successfully kicked Gryzzl out of Pawnee.
Donna got married to her ex-boyfriend, whom she met after long time. Tom found love as well, a girl he met long back in a bar and became friends with almost instantly.
Andy became a superstar in a kids show and gained a lot of popularity by simply being himself…
“Fishing relaxes me. It’s like yoga, except I still get to kill something.”Ron
My Final Thoughts
Parks and Recreation is a beautiful show that showcases different personalities. Ron, a hard-core liberal in government, appears tough and apathetic towards everyone but is actually an honorable man with a soft heart who looks out for his friends. Leslie is an annoyingly optimistic and assertive woman trying to make the world better by paving the way for more women in politics. She aggressively loves her work and friends while pushing through patriarchal society. Tom starts off as a clueless irresponsible intern but finds himself through making and breaking new business ideas, learning to appreciate his supportive friends. Donna says iconic things unapologetically despite having barely any lines in the first few seasons; her character was such an interesting element of the series that I wish writers had made more space for it to grow. April initially seems like an apathetic teenage girl whose summer internship becomes an actual job, ultimately finding her true passion as a career advisor by the end of the series. Andy’s pure soul makes him lovable to all viewers while Garry/Larry/Jerry is loving and welcoming despite being butt of every joke. Ann begins as a nurse in a dysfunctional relationship with Andy but learns to become her best self while showing unparalleled love and support for Leslie and April throughout the series.
Chris and Ben’s characters add different flavors to the story. Chris is an optimistic and charismatic boss who struggles with delivering bad news, while Ben is a nerdy character who tries to make up for past mistakes he made as a young mayor. Despite this, he remains composed and supportive of Leslie, even if it means sacrificing his own job or career aspirations. Having such supportive partners can empower women to achieve great things.
The friendship dynamics are amazing. Each friendship is unique. Leslie and Ann became best friends instantly, while it took years for April to show her love for Ann. Ron and Leslie were also best buds. Ron looked out for April, Andy, and Tom like a concerned guardian. Tom and Donna bonded over “treat yo self” and boujee rereats. Chris and Ben were good friends too, which was evident when Ben went through a depressive phase.
If you haven’t already guessed, my favorite character is definitely Ron Swanson. He surprises with his ridiculous ideas presented in a serious manner. His encounters with both of his ex-wives (both named Tammy) and his double-agent life as Duke Silver are noteworthy.
“On my deathbed, my final wish is to have my ex-wives rush to my side so I can use my dying breath to tell them both to go to hell one last time.”Ron
I would rate this show a solid 4 out 5 stars.😊
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