Here’s my brief goodbye for a show that deserves a thousand more words:
There isn’t a lot of optimism on television, particularly “prestige” television. There are a lot of muted emotions and angry outbursts. We have our antiheroes, our villains with hearts of gold, and tragic heroes and heroines. This may seem typical for the dramatic categories but even our comedies get tinged with grays. There are shows such as Shameless and Orange is the New Black that dabble in comedy with singular characters meant to be the comedic relief or the creators toss their leads into absurd situation and the humor is derivative from that but the shows are dramatic. Horrible things happen to these characters and they get knocked down so hard it’s often difficult to imagine them ever regaining their strength. Even shows that are strictly comedies have an edge to them. Shows like as Community got much of its humor from an antagonistic vein where shows like Modern Family deliver a punch line through one character making fun of the other.
I love Parks and Recreation and, to an even greater extent, Leslie Knope, because they’re for the most part universally kind-hearted. The writers respect and love their characters and want to see them have happy endings and Leslie is a warm hug of a character. She may be frustrating in her bullheaded means of getting what she wants and they’ve written her to broad every once and a while, but the core of her character is one who loves her town, her friends, her husband and her job. She wants to be happy and tirelessly works to ensure that those around her are too.
We have such a plethora of dark, dreary, and sometimes even hopeless shows that one that is almost giddy in its upbeat nature is one to celebrate and over the course of its series Parks and Recreation have only extended their reach of support. It’s also atypical to see a character who so wholeheartedly loves her job. When a show can’t pull emotional moments or narrative breaks in the path by having their characters in hyper-realistic situations that instead give them the more “mundane” ones; they’re the ones featured in shows such as The Office where every problem and solution came from their workplace that they didn’t particularly love, so they found other outlets of joy. Leslie loves her job and the emotional climaxes always were so thrilling because as we watched her we began to hope for her happiness to and every win she experienced was a win for us as viewers. Moments such as the Harvest Festival, her political campaigns, everything to do with her relationship with Ben were so sweet, so lovely and so deeply felt because of how much we loved Leslie as a character.
Leslie Knope was a feminist; she was an immeasurably hard worker and was a good friend to boot. We were happy watching her live her life and the everyday struggles that came with it. The show had an inherent attachment to sappiness and it was refreshing. Any eloquence I possess is out the window now because I’m sad it’s ending, and I’m sorry to say goodbye to these characters, Leslie and her mighty optimism in particular but the show has done the characters and they’re stories and the people who are playing them such service by staying interested for the entire series. The show made me laugh, it made me cry….a lot, and it gave me a comfort show-no easy feat for this insomnia plagued writer. I’m not stressed out about how they’re going to end things (Breaking Bad) or worried about the shows reputation being tarnished by a lackluster last season (How I Met Your Mother) instead I’m a little bittersweet but mostly happy that I got the chance to live with these characters in my life, even if was only for a little bit.
We have Brooklyn Nine-Nine to fill the void of happy work place comedy, but I don’t see us finding another Leslie Knope, a character who is so unabashedly herself, anytime soon.