The first season of Parks and Recreation was far from a success. In fact, critics and viewers alike agree that it’s a near miracle that the show made it past the first season.
Parks and Recreation was originally perceived as a spin-off from NBC’s critically acclaimed work-place comedy “The Office”. Parks and Rec shared a lot of similarities with The Office, including the lead characters. Many critics claimed that Parks and Rec lead Leslie Knope shared too many of the same virtues as The Office lead Michael Scott, which was disapproved widely by viewers. The first season of Parks and Rec didn’t do a good job of developing other characters and character relationships. The show seemed under-developed and over-casted. The end result is the loss of 2.5 million viewers between the pilot episode and season finale and a near cancellation. So how did a show that was first perceived negatively end as such a successful show? Parks and Recreation is a successful show because of its target demographic viewership, incredible cast, and audience engagement.
Parks and Recreation never did great with viewership. The only time it made it inside the top 100 shows was during the shows original launch, when it reached #96 in the country. Although it’s Nielsen’s ratings were never great, it constantly outperformed any other show NBC aired. Parks and Recreation continued to loose viewership over the seasons, but they excelled in one category that helped it stay on air for 7 seasons. They did an incredible job of keeping its target audience tuned in. The demographic of their target audience is 18-49 year olds with a median yearly income over $100,000 dollars. This is an extremely attractive demographic to target for NBC. Parks and Recreation boasts the second highest viewership in this demographic, falling just behind the extremely successful sitcom “Modern Family”. In an interview, show creator Michael Schur attributes some of the poor ratings to the general decline of NBC viewership and the overwhelming amount of other channel options available. “The fact that the network has been in rough shape for a while hasn’t helped. Then, you add that anyone who’s hoping for a massive resurgence in television is going to be disappointed, because the problem now in getting and holding onto huge audiences is that there are a million channels. No matter who you are or where you are in the world, whatever your particular taste is, there’s a whole channel for you”. At the end of the day, Parks and Recreation did well enough capturing its target audience to successfully produce7 full seasons. And although ratings do have some impact on the success of a TV show, there are other more important characteristics in the equation that results in a TV show being successful.
Creator Michael Schur, on the Parks and Recreation set
As I have preached so many times in previous blogs, Parks and Recreation boasts an incredible diverse, well-put together ensemble of characters. The show does an incredible job creating these characters and matching them with actors that fit the roles perfectly. The show casts actors from a wide range of backgrounds and experience that blend together extremely well. And blending these characters is what gives Parks and Rec such a unique feel that directly relates to the show’s success. Some of the strongest characters include lead Amy Poheler, who portrays the passionate and driven Leslie Knope, whom the show revolves around. Amy Pohler has been nominated for over 20 awards for her performance on Parks and Recreation, including a Golden Globe for outstanding actress in a comedy television series. Another critically acclaimed role comes from Nick Offerman. Offerman portrays Ron Swanson, the libertarian honest man who likes steak and whiskey more than most people. Offermans character has been an absolute fan hit, being named the top character on television by numerous websites. What impresses me the most about the characters in Parks and Rec is the complex interpersonal relationships each person shares with another. As I stated earlier, the characters in Parks and Rec are very diverse from one another. So when they interact with each other, it makes for pure comedy gold. Some get along great, some don’t. Either way, we can relate to being in workplace situations where you are forced into friendships. And quite frankly, these are where some of the funniest friendships are created. All in all, Parks and Recreation highlights the highs and lows of relationships that we deal with on the daily. Character development, casting and interpersonal relationships all strongly support why Parks and Recreation is a successful show.
Amy Poehler receiving her Golden Globe award
What makes a television show a good show? It’s a question I have asked myself over and over again throughout the semester. There are a lot of different characteristics that make a show good. Filming, lighting, sound, editing, producing, acting, and writing all just scratch the surface. It’s a question you have to think deep about. After a ton of thought, I came to the conclusion that engaging an audience is the key to success. Parks and Recreation has done such an incredible job engaging me that when I watch these shows, I feel like I’m a part of the show. I feel like I was at the end of the world party with Tom Haverford at the E-720 headquarters in the 6th episode of this season. I feel like I was on the campaign trail with Leslie as she worked her way to become the next member of the Pawnee, Indiana city council. And when Leslie won the nomination? I felt proud. I felt like I was a part of the reason she won, even though I was merely watching the show from my couch. Engaging an audience requires a sparking the emotion of the audience. Parks and Recreation does a better job of this than any other show I have ever watched in my life.
“End of the world party”
Parks and Recreation is far from perfect. Their ratings are far from the top and the first season was nearly a blunder. Yet the producers adjusted and moved forward to create what I consider to be one of the greatest television shows of my generation. Parks and Recreation has a way of drawing in their audience like no others and it made millions and millions of people happy. Some may consider success to be drawn from ratings, awards and money. I consider the ultimate success to be happiness, and Parks and Recreation provides that virtue to all its viewers. Parks and Recreation is a successful show because of its target demographic viewership, incredible cast, and audience engagement