Analyzing a TV show as a whole is a difficult task because there are so many things that go into creating, developing and producing a show. The end product is overall made for one reason: the audience. The basis for creating a successful TV show is to not just drawing in an audience, but retaining your audience. Although there is no successful mathematical equation to achieving this task, there is one thing clear. Involving and engaging your audience creates success. There are many ways you can do this. Revolving a show around current events, creating relatable characters and using intertextuality are some ways to engage an audience. Parks and Recreation is a great show because it successfully engages a diverse audience.
Having a studio audience helps shows become relatable because it makes the viewers feel like they are right there with the live audience. Parks and Recreation does a great job interacting with it’s an audience without having a studio audience. Like its sister show “The Office”, Parks and Rec shy’s away from using a laugh track and studio audience unlike many popular sitcoms do. This is because along with being a sitcom, it is also a mockumentary. This means the show is meant to look like a documentary shot in the fictional Pawnee, Indiana.
Studio Audience? Not in Pawnee, Indiana
So how do you engage an audience without having viewers in attendance? One great example is the moral lessons taken from Parks and Rec. Like you and I, no one is perfect. In fact, we are all far from perfect. Parks and Recreation does a great job highlighting each characters imperfection for two reasons. First, because it is hilarious. Second, because it is relatable and there are lessons to be learned from everyone’s imperfections. Many of us are blinded by our imperfections, like lead character Leslie Knope. Leslie is highlighted to be extremely organized, goal-oriented and generous to everyone she interacts with. But there are many times where she can be overruling and disregards everyone’s interests but her own. We see this is season 4 when Leslie is rolling out her campaign against Bobby Newport. Leslies campaign team/best friends want to put out an attack ad against her co-runner, while Leslie would rather use a less-effective method of highlighting her own personal accomplishments. After both ads are put together and reviewed by her committee, everyone but Leslie believes the attack ad is by far the best ad to air on TV. Does Leslie level with her committee and run their ad? Not a chance. After pretending to accept her fate, she tackles her campaign manager seconds before he hands off the ad to the TV station. The end result is having no ad to run and they lost all their money. This is a great example of a moral lesson learned by Leslie and the audience. Beyond the humor of her ridiculous stunt, Leslie learns not only does she need to listen to others better, but she needs to toughen up her campaign. This is just one of many moral lessons learned that further engages the audience.
The “other side” of Leslie Knope
There are many diverse qualities of each character that creates positive identification with a wide audience. Each character is unique and has characteristics that, for better or worse, are relatable and easily identified. Each characters diverse personality balances out when they come together as a whole. One of the most acclaimed characters in the show is Ron Swanson. Ron is a masculine American man. He loves steak, whiskey, building things with his hands and enjoys being alone. He hates, well, just about everything else. He strongly dislikes people who show any signs of flamboyancy, positivity and general friendliness. The thing he hates the most, ironically enough, is the American government. Although he sounds like a negative character, hundreds of thousands of viewers relate to Ron Swanson positively. Parks and Recreation is political satire, meaning it makes fun of politics and the government playfully. But Ron Swanson gives his true to character opinion on how ridiculous and twisted politics can be, an opinion shared by millions and millions of Americans. Another character with positive identification is Chris Traegger. Chris is an extremely hyperactive government employee that is so friendly and positive it seems fake. We find out later that all of it is fake to an extent. Deep down, Chris can get extremely depressed and insecure to the point where he frequently visits a psychiatrist. He uses his positivity to cover up how he really feels. The audience positively relates to this because it is true about many of us. We can act happy as much as possible, but deep down there are emotional issues that bother us a lot. Although Ron and Christ are completely different characters, they balance each other out to the point where everyone can positively relate to them.
Ron isn’t a fan of the emotional Chris
There is a wide representation of diversity including age, gender and race. Ages range from 20 all the way to 70 years old. The gender is split very evenly between men and women. Race on the other hand is not as evenly split. The race of the main characters is predominately white, with one black lady and an Indian man. Race diversity is never an issue in the show, and is never really brought up. There is a character that can be considered as “the other”. Someone who is always made fun and considered an outcast from the main group of people. Ironically enough, this character is as average as it gets. Jerry Gurgich is a 55-year-old white male in the middle class. His personality is plain and simple. He never speaks out; he goes the office and does his job. But Jerry is always put on blast and is the scapegoat for every situation. He is such an outcast that his name changes 3 teams throughout Parks and Rec’s tenure. The fact that “the other” is just as average as any other human makes it funnier and more relatable.
I’ve never been more drawn into a TV show than Parks and Recreation. I have never once questioned why I was so drawn in to this show before I started deeper into this show for Analyzing Television. After research and deep thought it came to me that the characters and everyday situations that are depicted are relatable to not just me, but a variety of people. Parks and Recreation is a great show because it successfully engages a diverse audience.