I wrote the following for the #EWCommunity, to share some shows that have made me smile even half as much as Parks and Rec did. There aren’t many, but click through for some shows that celebrate optimism, love, and friendship.
Parks and Recreation was lauded for its combination of comedy and earnest sweetness. The people of Pawnee, Indiana, are “first in friendship, fourth in obesity,” and they proved the former to us for seven seasons. The characters love each other, love the work they do (even as underappreciated public servants), and taught us to celebrate Galentine’s Day, waffles, and ourselves (Treat yo’ self!).
Very few shows allow themselves as much happiness as Parks and Recreation did. So many shows are gritty and dark, or concern us with which major character is being killed off this week. Nothing is wrong with that; I love a lot of shows that raise my blood pressure in a very real and probably unhealthy way. But sometimes you need to balance it out with shows that make you smile every single time you watch an episode. Parks and Recreation was one of those shows.
Now that it’s gone, I want to reflect on other shows that celebrated friendship, love, and optimism, and were unafraid to be bright spots in a cynical and dark world. There aren’t many, but here are a few shows that exemplified a few of the qualities that made us love Parks so much:
Welcome Larry Wilmore to the Late Night bunch! I'll definitely be watching his show, The Minority Report--a cliched but perfect title for both what it is and before what's it's replacing.With Larry Wilmore's role as "Senior Black Correspondent" on the Daily Show, we already have an idea of what the show will entail, but it also means (hopefully) more black late night writers and more discussions of black issues that the Daily Show doesn't cover.
Revisiting the classic variety show format, The Maya Rudolph Show will feature guest stars Craig Robinson, Andy Samberg, Kristen Bell, Fred Armisen, Chris Parnell, Sean Hayes, Diallo Riddle, Bashir Salahuddin, and others.
Grammy Award-nominated singer-songwriter Janelle Monae will serve as the musical guest. R&b singer-producer Raphael Saadiq will be the bandleader.
via Maya Rudolph Talks Being Able To Do Whatever She Wants On Her New Show (Video Interview)|Shadow and Act.
This, I am excited for. I didn’t watch Maya too much on SNL (most of my favorite former SNL stars, I never actually watched them while they were on it… weird), but I did watch her on short-lived sitcom Up All Night. On Monday she gets her own variety shows, which might be a primetime mix of SNL type sketches, musical numbers (Maya has sung on SNL and is daughter of singer Minnie Riperton), and musical performances. Having Janelle Monae on her first episode proves to be an awesome move right out the gate, as well as getting Raphael Saadiq to be bandleader. I think this will bring a fun R&B flavor to the show–much like Jimmy Fallon’s decision to have the Roots as his houseband.
Hopefully the show does well, so that we can 1. have more Maya Rudolph 2. Have more lady comedians on TV 3. Have more black female comedians on TV. Tune in Monday at 10pm on NBC. Hopefully the hashtag will be #MayaMondays because it’s pretty perfect.
Before I talk about the new shows coming up, let me mourn the shows going out.
We all know now that Community is gone for good. And while I knew it was probably the case, the other NBC stanchion from the last comedy block era, Parks and Recreation, is headed into it’s last season. Parks is easily one of my top 2 shows right now (along with Castle). I love a show that can make me smile every single time I watch it (a reason I love The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon). Parks knocks it out of the park (oh, oops, totally not on purpose) with comedy, heart, emotion, zaniness, inspiration (who hasn’t been inspired to do something big and crazy after Leslie Knope tried something big and crazy), and a love of waffles and whipped cream. Even the dullest episodes of Parks make me smile in some way that hold me over until the next big episode.
And it’s all of the above that let me know they couldn’t do it forever. Mostly, the idea that they don’t hold characters back to adhere to comedy/storytelling/tv tropes. Ben and Leslie got together and then stayed together. Chris and Ann faltered a bit, but then had a baby and actually moved out of town. April has gotten married, (graduated? left school? they’re a bit fuzzy on that) and moved up in her career several times. Ron has gotten married and had children! Talk about character development! The show’s commitment to allowing their characters to be people, to be funny but real people is why it couldn’t last forever, because we’ve hit moments that are series enders. Leslie having a baby, Leslie finishing Lot 49, Leslie moving up in government are all series enders. We’re moving past the premise (and title) of the show, so it definitely couldn’t last forever. Leslie’s character could never stay cooped up in the Parks department, if she did, we’d love her less, or at least lose respect for her and her huge vision.
So I knew this was coming, but it doesn’t make it any less sad. And mad. Because NBC hasn’t put it on the fall schedule. How dare they make their longest running sitcom thus far wait until a new show is cancelled before putting it in the line up?! Do they not care about Parks fans? Seems not if this is how they’re treating Parks fans, which just by virtue of enjoying the show, are loyal fans. We wouldn’t like the show is loyalty wasn’t important to us, because it’s important to Leslie. I won’t be watching any of their new comedies (there’s only 4 of them. Could that be a record low for recent years?) and if the trend is right, other Parks fans probably won’t either. Mike Shur, Parks Executive Producer, has a show on another network that fits the Parks brand. Even the other FOX comedies feel more in line with Parks than NBC shows do. So NBC lost a lot of points with me by doubling my negative emotions. But once season 7 begins, I’ll forgive them, just for the half hour Parks is on, until the series finale. (This summer they get my Maya Rudolph eyes. And Jimmy Fallon. And sometimes Seth.)
I am excited to see what they do for this last season. Knowing that it’s ending gives the writers an opportunity to take risks they couldn’t before, to push the boundaries of both comedy and storytelling, because it’s their last shot. And they can take the characters to the end goals you know they’re headed towards with more time than a rushed series finale. Hit those home runs, Parks team, I know you will.