Critical Orientation: Parks and Recreation

Parks and Recreation is a mockumentary styled sitcom revolved around the lives of 10 government employees working in the Parks and Recreation department based in the fictional town of Pawnee, Illinois. Originally conceived as a spin off based on the popular NBC comedy “The Office”, Parks and Rec shows the in’s and out’s of the ridiculous lives lead by these town employees and their friends ( Parks and Recreation highlights the out of office lives of the main characters just as much as the opposite, and twists the highs and lows of being a government employee that has previously been unseen in other work-based sitcoms. Every season has an underlining plot that is worked towards as a community effort within the main characters, clearing through every challenge faced towards the road to success. Many of the challenges faced are bizarre and require creative ways to be defeated.   Season 4 sees our main character Leslie Knope, betrayed by award winning actress Amy Poheler, running a campaign to become the first woman on the city counsel. Parks and Recreation is a show worth studying because of its incredibly diverse and defined characters.

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There were a few things that first attracted me to the show. I remember four years ago I was scrolling through Netflix searching for a new show to watch. The name of the show and the actors present made me begin watching. Honestly, I wasn’t a fan of the first season. The characters were not very intriguing and they seemed to blend into one another. I talked to a friend who explained that the first season is not very good, so I skipped to the next season. After watching the first few episodes of season 2, I nearly fell in love. The main reason I kept watching was for the characters.



The characters in Parks and Rec are all very outlined and specific, and are all very different from each other. That’s why it’s hard to determine one specific character Identify as a whole. I identify with a few charters tics of several different characters. For instance, I lightly identify with Andy Dwyer. Andy is the fun-loving, clumsy and immature husband of April Ludgate. He is always in a good mood and willing to help anyone, no matter the situation. I also identify myself a tad with Chris Traeger. Portrayed by Rob Lowe, Chris is an optimistic and caring health nut. I identify with Chris because he is always quick to up the spirits of his co-workers he is surrounded by. Although Chris seems to have himself all together at the surface, we are constantly reminded that he has underlining self-confidence issues that he seeks therapy for. This just scratches the surface on the numerous hilarious but surprisingly relatable characters that star in Parks and Rec.

As expected, amidst the several key roles played there are several relationships worth paying attention to. Some relationships you could see coming a mile away, like the nerdy and work-focused compatible couple of lead Leslie Knope and Ben Wyatt. But most relationships in the show come as shocking and extremely amusing. For example, take Jerry Gurgich. Jerry is an older gentleman who is often making mistakes, and gets teased and picked on even more often. His character portrays a loser, or as close as you can get to a loser. But his relationship with his wife and family speaks the exact opposite. This is because his wife is a stunning blonde who is as genuine and nice as Jerry. His three daughters closely resemble his wife Gayle to a T. On the other end of interesting relationships, we have quite possibly an even more intriguing relationship with Ron Swanson and both of his ex-wives. Ron Swanson is what most would consider “a mans man”. He is a fan of eating steak, fixing things himself and living by himself in a log cabin. On the opposite spectrum, he dislikes vegetarians, the U.S government (ironically enough) and well…people in general. Ron boasts himself as a strong, independent American citizen. But his relationship with his two ex wives bring out the opposite side of Ron. He despises both Tammy 1 and Tammy 2 more than anything. It shows in the first scene on the first episode of season 4. He senses that Tammy 2 is near. We then see him locate his hidden survival pack and run out the door towards his hide out. Later on, the powerful and overwhelming character Tammy 2 tracks down Ron and they spend a night together working on Ron’s “audit”. The next day at work Ron comes to work as the complete opposite. He is polite, friendly in every way that normal Ron is not. It takes just one night with his ex-wife to turn Ron into a different person. This is the last thing you would expect to happen to Ron Swanson. This only scratches the surface of entertaining relationships in Parks and Rec, but these two have always stood out the most to me.


Although the characters are what I find the most interesting with Parks and Rec, there are other reasons why I am so entertained with the show. I like how the show portrays a government job, but more specifically a low-level government job with an even lower amount of glory bound to it. We have all seen countless shows tied with the government and government jobs. But this show is revolved around a department that takes care of minimal community tasks, in the middle-of-nowhere Indiana. It adds a lot to the mockumentary background this program prides itself in. Although the show is funny, it sometimes briefs on bigger issues dealt with on a daily basis for many Americans. Leslie gets a lot of grief while running for office, with most of it coming back to her being a female. Even though most of it is meant to be funny, it reminds us that even in our current day and age that sexism is still ever so present.

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Parks and Recreation is a truly incredible show. It is an easy and funny show to watch, but it also reflects on deeper issues that find you emotionally wrapped up. This specific season finds the main character in the middle of a heated campaign, which is ever more relatable with the current presidential candidate race. Among the campaign, it will be interesting studying the charters and how they will help their trusted leader Leslie Knope. It is a mystery if they will continue to support as a team, or if some will change roles throughout the season. This is another reason why Parks and Recreation is a show worth studying because of its incredibly diverse and defined characters.





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