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:
Who are the people who vote for Emmy awards? Because who in their right mind sees Tatiana Maslany pull of five different roles and not give her an award for it? Seems to me the Emmy voter committee might need a diversity upgrade, like every other prestigious institution.
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.
Let’s start network-wide. Fox and NBC swapped for me in the past year, NBC going from a favorite, most watched network, to me having one show next season (the mid-season, finale season Parks debacle…). While FOX went from me abandoning several of it’s shows due to reordering episodes and demanding stasis in characters that achieved character development to the network I have the most shows I am interested in this fall. And FOX pulled me in with the commitment and success in diversity. So let’s talk about what they’re doing this fall.
NBC– honey, what are you doing? They’ve cancelled most of their comedies, leaving Parks and Recreation, their current longest running sitcom as a mid-season replacement in it’s finale season. According to the schedule listed in the link on Vulture, there are only 4 comedies on the schedule, split between Tuesday and Thursday 9-10 comedy hours. What? Has NBC given up on reclaiming it’s must-see-tv fame? I suppose it wasn’t working, but it kills me that not one of the four comedies is Parks. What a way to alienate your little comedy fanbase. Why not use Parks and the final season momentum to pull your existing fans over to new shows? You now have to do the work to get non-NBC comedy watchers (those who didn’t watch 30 Rock and Community and Parks in the hey-day of low-rated but cult favorite comedies). I suppose they no longer want those fans. They want new ones entirely. Or they’re trying to sustain the network on the Voice, Dick Wolf, and the Blacklist until they figure out something that works. But, to me, it doesn’t seem like they’ve found the formula yet. I’ll see you mid-season, NBC, when you put Parks and Recreation back on the schedule. (Let’s face it, it’s a cancelled-new-show replacement. As soon as one of the new comedies fail, they’ll stick Parks in the 9pm comedy spot until the rest of the season is done. More on Parks later.
FOX, homie, you’re doing a lot of things right, but one thing feels very wrong. I will be watching seven FOX shows this fall. That’s more than any other network and more than I’ve ever watched FOX. They’ve been getting some good, diversely cast comedies in these past couple of seasons. New Girl confirmed Damon Wayans Jr as the 6th member of the cast, rounding them out to Friends proportions, The Mindy Project had a strong finale with lots of possibility, and Brooklyn 99 came out of the gate with comedy, diversity, and heart. So why are they sending Brooklyn 99 to the Sunday animation slot?! It seems ridiculous to me. Vulture says,
There’s logic behind this year’s changes: Family Guy is pretty much a multi-camera sitcom that happens to be animated, and Mulaney is multi-cam; Brooklyn is sophisticated single-cam that could mesh with the sensibility of The Simpsons. And once Fox picked up both Brooklynand The Mindy Project, it was obvious one would either move or wait until midseason: Fox simply doesn’t have the comedy strength to support a two-hour sitcom block on Tuesdays.
But that seems absurd. I definitely think they could sustain it. But even if it can’t, splitting the comedies into the animation block disturbs something that’s been working on FOX for years now. Animation fans won’t necessarily hold up these fresh comedies and when was the last time comedies aired on a Sunday night?! This makes me nervous for both BK99 and Mulaney (which I may watch), because they’re basically hiding it in the schedule. No one looks for comedies on Sunday nights. That’s typically a Feature film, Sports, Drama night. FOX made success with animation as alternative programming to this trend, but this upcoming change might break both the animation block and the comedies they want to succeed. Sigh. There are few shows I want to succeed more than Brooklyn 99. I hope they just suck it up and block the comedies together.
Schedules change, often by November sweeps when networks figure out what’s working and what’s getting cancelled. So we’ll see if this remains the schedule for the fall. But both networks are boggling my mind.
It’s that time of the year, Upfronts (also here for another way to look at what Upfronts actually are), when networks present their pilot season shows and lineups to advertisers and the general public. I’ve been a bit busy or lethargic the last month or so, so I haven’t been posting (though I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the views I’ve still managed to get) but get ready for a deluge as I look at shows coming this summer, fall, and beyond, and discuss current shows’ trajectories (I’m a bit mad about NBC’s treatment of Parks and Recreation. We’ll get there).
I’ll write a bunch and try to spread them out over the week as to not spam. Also, I’ll post my current fall tv chart–it’s looking as busy as usual as I find out about all these new shows!
Let the Upfront madness begin!
12 Television Writers of Color You Should Know – Flavorwire
Hopefully this list grows more and more as the 2014 pilot season arises.
Some of my favorites from this list:
Obviously Shonda Rhimes, creator of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal. I am currently taking an TV writing class and decided to write a Scandal spec script. We’ll see how it goes.
Mindy Kaling – of the Mindy Project, obviously. I didn’t watch The Office, but I watch The Mindy Project and enjoy it’s rom-com style (when it sticks to it) Aisha Muharrar writes for Parks and Recreation. She wrote the following episodes: “Kaboom” (2.06) “Park Safety” (2.19) “Camping” (3.08) “Born & Raised” (4.03) “Operation Ann” (4.14) “Bus Tour” (4.21)”Ms. Knope Goes to Washington” (5.01) “Ron and Diane” (5.09) and this seasons Recall Vote. Yvette Lee Bowser wrote for A Different World and created Living Single. Two of my favorite black sitcoms. I need to check up on her other show Half and Half.
Check out the list for more, some of your favorite shows have writers of color you might not have known about. These writers are from Modern Family, The Killing, Hannibal, House, and Orange is the New Black!
“Your heart’s in the right place. Your heart and your butt.”
I’ve honestly forgotten why Leslie was being recalled in the first place. I know it’s Jamm’s fault but what was the “reason”? I know it doesn’t really matter, but I definitely forget what the exact catalyst was for his hate.
TATIANA MASLANY! Tom in her face was a GREAT moment. WHY did he switch into a British accent (besides the BBC America reference, I suppose). I can’t wait for more Nadia/Tom, because she thinks he’s really weird but then she says things like “Jet Blue Ivy” and we all (Tom included) discover there is something there that could draw them together. Hope she gets to stay for a while.
This was a great Ron story. It was nice seeing Ron and Ben interact; we know Ron loves Leslie, but it’s nice to see him extend that sentiment to Ben in his own way. Making Ben and Leslie the godparents to the kids is so wonderful (I wish I’d been able to see Leslie’s reaction to it), because you know they’d do their best to raise them the way Ron would have wanted. But Ron will only die by the man who understands the symbols on his first will. So he’s safe.
I’m happy we got a Donna-centric episode. I can’t remember every getting one, and if we did, it’s been a long, long time ago. This was the perfect plot for her. Retta played sheepish Donna really well (it was kind of adorable). I hope we get more Donna-centric episodes, because she’s the Parks Department member that gets the least amount of screen and story-time. Even Jerry gets more screen time than she does.
I need a Leslie Knope so someone can get me presents at every turn.
As usual, Parks episode posts are mostly quotes, because this show is just so funny.
“That folder in my hand is deadlier than his bow in yours.” “Oh thats… probably true.”
“What are these weird symbols?” “The man who kills me will know.” “We’ll be all set, like two biscuits inside a tin.”
“Obviously accountants are a little more bad-boy.”
“I’m going to say this one last time Wyatt–check that accounting crap at the door.”
“Are you a doctor? Somehow?”
“I’m going to keep her here using the most powerful weapon I have–beaurocratic incompetence!” “Another word for jokes is lies. I do not lie.”
“isn’t language fun? it’s like racquetball for your mouth!”
“Jet Blue Ivy” “We need to talk.” “That has never been true.”
I don’t have a lot to say except to quote some of tonight’s fabulous lines. But it was fun seeing Ben and Chris be good cop/bad cop. I’m sad for Leslie, but her acting out was great. Again, it’s interesting that the plot is being introduced so early, as I believe they’re leaving in episode 13 and we’re just in 4(?). But ample time for all the characters to say their goodbyes, which is nice and well deserved for Chris and Ann.
I loved the distraction waffles and distraction Joe Biden.
Donna is fabulous and I love that she got to mention Scandal referencing her real life love for the show (it’s even better that Scandal airs on Thursdays as well.)(aside: I can’t wait for Retta to watch the premiere! Her livetweets will be EPIC!)
April was brilliant and hilarious as Tynnyfer’s counterpart. It was merely funny at first until you realized that April was a genius in bonding with the girl to get her to leave her position.
One thing I would’ve like to have seen was the Eagleton Parks Department interact with each other. I was going to say that I wanted to see them act like our Parks Department, but then I realized that of course they wouldn’t act like our department–our department is a family; the Eagletonians aren’t. But it still would have been nice to see if Craig went to alt!Ron for advice and what the answer might be. I also might have liked to see what an Eagleton Jerry might have looked like. I imagine they would have just been like a Pawneean (poor, unworthy, lol) and everyone thinks he’s awful because of it. Leslie would be a Jerry in Pawnee.
I had more to say than I thought, but quotes below!
Ron is basically a better version of George Washington.
OH MY GOODNESS IS THAT JOE BIDEN ON A HORSE SHIRTLESS??
Sorry for the delay ladies, I was busy being ambushed by treachery.
You’re developing an accent from that town you might move to!
You’re like skinny Mother Teresa.
Giving into hate is like drinking salt water. The thirst only gets worst.
“The meth-like high of solving accounting puzzles”