By Nivea Serrao
Pawnee, Indiana may be one of America’s fattest cities, but it’s also home to some of the funniest and most loveable government employees in television history. Before we bid the now former “Parks and Recreation” department goodbye, we decided to take a walk down memory lane — sadly, sans scrapbook — and revisit some of the show’s most memorable moments.
- “Pawnee Zoo” (Season 2, Episode 1)
As fans of the show know, the first season of “Parks and Recreation” was rather uneven, a side effect of a show still trying to find its voice. But it’s here in the second season opener that we really see Leslie find some of the confidence — and commitment to celebrating cuteness — that has become such an important part of the character we know and love today. A large part of this sitcom finding its comedic voice is Leslie finding hers (like rapping Will Smith’s perennial classic “Parent’s Just Understand”).
- “Harvest Festival” (Season 3, Episode 7)
Over the course of the series, Leslie Knope has always been full of bright ideas and love for her hometown (she literally wrote the book on it). But after watching her work her hardest to ensure that any of her big plans even happen, from running for city council or building a park, nothing is as satisfying as watching her achieve the first of her many successes. This isn’t just Leslie’s big day, the other members of the Parks department shine as well. April lets down her sardonic exterior to tell Andy she loves him, Donna helps Ann move on from Chris (while revealing more about her own love life), Ron shows why he’s an effective head of the department, Tom’s commercialistic tendencies prove useful, and Jerry/Garry gets lost in a corn maze. Bonus points for introducing the world to Li’l Sebastian, a king among miniature horses.
- “The Practice Date” (Season 2, Episode 4)
Part of what makes “Parks and Recreation” so hilarious is its great ensemble. However, it isn’t until this early Season 2 episode that we really get a sense of who each of the characters were as people. As everyone from Ron to Tom to Donna attempts to dig up dirt on each other — while BFF Ann helps Leslie get over her terrible dating history — we’re given details and backstory on each of the characters’ lives, leading to some of the funniest (and most awesome) revelations ever — namely that of Ron Swanson’s musically-inclined alter ego Duke Silver.
- “Galentine’s Day” (Season 2, Episode 16)
“Parks and Recreation” has never really had episodes that revolve around big holidays, with the exception of Leslie’s made up (but should totally be real) holiday of Galentine’s Day: a celebration of female camaraderie and friendship. Any subsequent episodes that have featured the holiday have also been about Leslie’s relationship with the women in her life — be they her mother, Ann or April, and Donna.
- “The Johnny Karate Super Awesome Musical Explosion Show” (Season 7, Episode 10)
Andy Dwyer has always been the loveable goofball of the “Parks and Recreation” gang. Beneath the fictional personas and love of Dave Matthews Band lies one of the sweetest (and funniest) characters on the show. It was a real treat when the show decided it would dedicate a whole half-hour to one of his alter egos, Johnny Karate, by actually showing us what an episode of his children’s TV show would look like. However, in true “Parks and Rec” form, it turns out that even an episode that revolves around a character is actually a team effort. Andy’s friends and family took time out of their busy schedules to pitch in with the different segments of the show, one of which required someone to be regularly Karate-chopped. What’s more, Johnny Karate’s “Five Karate Moves to Success” (make something, learn something, Karate chop something, try something new, and be nice to someone) is a beautiful message worth following. The icing on this already delightful episode is the Ron Swanson-produced commercial, which is form-fittingly perfect in every way.
- “The Cones of Dunshire” (Season 6, Episode 9)
Ben’s geeky side has been well documented on the show, often in the form of his many creative endeavors. His claymation and Star Trek fan fiction aside, Ben Wyatt’s crowing achievement will always be creating the “Cones of Dunshire,” an exaggerated parody of the popular board game “Settlers of Catan,” of which Ben is a nationally ranked player. Although it has dense rules and is largely unplayable (except within the show), it hasn’t stopped “Parks and Recreation” fans from trying to recreate the game in real life. Talk about a maverick!
- “Pawnee Rangers “(Season 4, Episode 4)
Three words: Treat Yo Self.
- “Andy and April’s Fancy Party” (Season 3, Episode 9)
Andy and April were a romance that came out of left field, so it’s fitting their wedding would turn out to be another surprise (especially to those invited). This episode highlights everything that makes this couple work: Andy Dwyer and April Ludgate may have differing outlooks on life, but they love each other and that’s really the only thing they need.
- “The Fight” (Season 3, Episode 13)
You don’t need a word cloud to see that Ann Perkins is one of the most important people in Leslie’s life. As the BFFs argued and called each other out (while getting progressively drunk), we got to see their otherwise sunshine-and-daisies friendship go through a rough patch, but only because they each want the best for each other. (And we can’t forget the glorious drunk montage that results after the Parks department consumes some Snake Juice.)
- “Two Parties” (Season 5, Episode 10)
One of the things that makes the people working in the Parks Department so special is that even though they’re quite different as people, they can still come together in friendship, without disparaging each other’s interests. This is never more evident as it is in this episode as Ben and Leslie embark on their respective stag nights. While the women end up working towards the common goal of helping Leslie stall Councilman Jamm, the men take turns throwing each other their ideal bachelor parties. But even though not everyone loves what they’re doing — be it looking for buried Native American artifacts or receiving whiskey in lotion form — they still do it for their friends. And that is quite heartening to watch.
- “Halloween Surprise” (Season 5, Episode 5)
This show has never shied away from having its characters face major life changes. As Ron decides to pursue a relationship, Tom decides to start a business and Leslie and Ben contemplate their future together, this episode proved that it isn’t afraid to be both funny and moving. So in true “Parks and Recreation” fashion we were presented with a beautiful proposal… and one of the best fart jokes of all time.
- “Leslie & Ron” (Season 7, Episode 4)
Ron and Leslie’s friendship could be considered the emotional — and oftentimes, philosophical — center of the series. So it was jarring when the seventh season revealed that they were no longer friends. Luckily, it wasn’t long before this episode put an end to their episodes-long feud by highlighting how two people who couldn’t be any more different, can put aside their differences and form a friendship based on tolerance and mutual respect. As Leslie and Ron slowly began to mend their relationship, we were treated to the kind of familiarity and understanding that comes with having worked with someone for years — also one of the best perks of this being a TV show. And sure, they may still have been on opposite sides of the issue at the end of the episode, but having Leslie and Ron be friends again meant everything was right in Pawnee AND the world.
- “Pie-Mary” (Season 7, Episode 9)
One thing that has never changed about Leslie is that she has always identified as a feminist. And by proxy, “Parks and Recreation” has always had not-so subtle feminist undertones. So it isn’t surprising that a sitcom that would tackle the lack of women in politics and perils of data mining would also turn its attention to the way women are treated by the media. It does this by bringing Ben and Leslie’s marriage front and center. As both husband and wife try and negotiate what their roles as a political candidate and his wife ask of them, they highlight the double-edged sword women are often faced with. It isn’t until the couple decides to stick to their ideals — and bake a “dessert calzone” in the process — that we are presented with an alternate example of what a relationship between two independent (yet supportive) individuals could be. Bonus points for lampooning the men’s rights movement and dismissing the often inane questions female celebrities are asked in interviews.
- “Smallest Park and The Trial of Leslie Knope” (Season 4, Episodes 8 and 9)
Up until this point in the series, Leslie had had her share of romantic partners. But it wasn’t until Ben Wyatt rolled into Pawnee that she found her perfect match — only to have to sacrifice their relationship for her career. She realizes that she doesn’t want to give up the government seat she’s always wanted for the man she loves so she decides she can have them both. However in the following episode, it is Ben who eventually makes the choice to give up his career for their relationship, granting Leslie the freedom to pursue her dreams, proving that they really do deserve each other.
- “Flu Season” (Season 3, Episode 2)
Everyone dreads flu season, but as “Parks and Rec” showcased in this hilarious outing, getting sick can be a comedic gold mine. As different members of the Parks department fell prey to the virus, they revealed a new side of themselves. So even though they got crankier (April), became increasingly manic (Leslie), or completely melted down (Chris), the show used these moments to show how the people around them care (something the series does extremely well) while also mining their suffering for laughs. May we all suffer from network connectivity issues.
Nivea Serrao is a staff writer. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org