Tuesday, March 17, 2015

One Last Walk in the Park





Tank: Bisou Bisou, J. C. Penney's
Blouse: J. C. Penney's
Jeans: J. C. Penney's
Shoes: Alloy
Bag: Candie's, Kohl's
Sunglasses: Cloud Nine, Ocean City Boardwalk

The series finale of NBC's "Parks and Recreation" aired three weeks ago, so I've been sitting on this post for awhile.  Yet no time seemed more opportune to unleash it than St. Patrick's Day.  Parks are green, shamrocks are green, and both set the stage for this Erin Earns an Emerald Necklace.  I never used to like the name Erin, probably because it sounds too much like "errand."  But I was willing to put that aside for the sake of catchiness -- and, in the process, perhaps redeem myself to the legions of perfectly nice Erins who are doubtless reading this.  None of them, incidentally, work for everyone's favorite fictional parks department.  That distinction goes to Parks' precursor, "The Office," which introduced Erin (Kelly Erin, really, but who's counting?) Hannon as the replacement receptionist when Pam moved on to the high stakes but ultimately soul-crushing world of sales.  Indeed, Parks began as a sleeper of a sitcom that sneaked its way into NBC's Thursday night lineup (and our hearts!) seven seasons ago as local government's answer to "The Office."  Told documentary-style like its corporate counterpart, "Parks and Recreation" explores the minutiae of small town politics as seen through the rose-colored yet razor-sharp eyes of exuberant deputy parks director Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler).  Leslie is every bit as wacky as Dunder Mifflin's Michael Scott (Steve Carell) but about a million times better at her job.  Although both are all heart, often crossing professional boundaries to make their employees' lives better, it's Knope who gets the gold star for do-gooding, managing to craft elaborate scrapbooks and produce tailor-made gifts for every obscure occasion on top of beautifying bus stops and fighting the good fight on town council.  She does it all in the name of devotion to her fictional hometown of Pawnee, Indiana, a place that is both a satire of and a love letter to Middle America, so populated by fast food-scarfing locals raising heck Greek chorus style at town council meetings one night and taking selfies with adorable town mascot Lil' Sebastian the next.

The rest of the parks department is fueled by similarly boundless energy, from the shenanigans of former pit-dwelling, shoe shiner-turned-children's-singing-star Andy Dwyer (Chris Pratt) to the endlessly optimistic business ventures of the ever-hip, always suited up Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari) to the incurably can-do attitude of health nut, literally-can't-stop-smiling Chris Traegar (Rob Lowe) to the wise cracks of fashionista and Treat Yourself! devotee Donna Meagle (Retta) to the roller coaster love life of "most beautiful nurse in the world" Ann Perkins (Rashida Jones) to the sweet, simple-minded but (for some reason) much-maligned candor of Jerry-slash-Terry-slash-Larry-slash-Garry Gergich (Jim O'Heir).  (Whew -- are you as out of breath as I am?)  Still, every party has a pooper, that's why we invited you . . . Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) and April Ludgate (Aubrey Plaza) and (sometimes) Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott).  Reluctant Parks Director Ron is a man of the land whose hatred of government is surpassed by only his love of red meat.  Preferring his own company to water cooler chitchat, he raises aloofness to an art form.  Yet still waters run deep -- as deep as the lake where Ron ultimately paddles his handmade canoe -- and in the end, his ties to the Parks posse prove to be among the strongest.  Nevertheless, April Ludgate (Aubrey Plaza) gives him a run for his (carefully hidden) money.  The dark ying to husband Andy's blinding white yang, this jaded, eye-rolling hipster (but don't call her that!) comes off like she couldn't care less.  But underneath it all, she cares too much, eventually embarking on a "what do I want to do with my life?" mission, revealing that sometimes slackers are just people with standards.  Then there's Ben, the veritable voice of reason in a sea of sitcom insanity (hey, he's not an accountant for nothing) as well as one-time Ice Town mayor and Leslie's one true love.  This wry, nerdy nice guy is the ideal man behind the woman, gallantly stepping aside to let Leslie fulfill her childhood dream of becoming governor of Indiana.  And good thing too, as this gives him plenty of time to mass produce his totally awesome Cones of Dunshire game!

No doubt about it, this is one workplace ensemble in which every character is wonderfully weird and witty.  The finale does not disappoint, flashing forward to reveal what happens to each one of them.  It's a surprisingly satisfying send-off for a show whose last hurrah was burned off in post-holiday, back-to-back episodes in the programming no-man's land of Tuesday night.  Striking the hard-won balance between smart and sweet, Parks captures the absurdities of small town life while offering up a hopeful view of American politics.  It's a testament to the triumph of kindness over ambition, a hilarious heartland with heart.  And I will miss it.

Forget shamrocks.  With vibes this good, I'm holding out for a four-leaf clover.  (Yep, it's still St. Paddy's Day.  I was bound to tie it back in somehow.)

1 comment:

Michelle said...

I never was able to get into that show, but you review it with such passion!! I love the peep toe shoe and in yellow, those do SPring right into Summer just nicely!