If you weren’t already aware, we’re sorry to be the bearers of bad news: NBC’s “Parks and Recreation” is ending tonight. The show has lodged itself remarkably deeply into viewers’ hearts and minds with its unabashedly optimistic vision of the human spirit. In Pawnee, Indiana (“First in Friendship, Fourth in Obesity”), adventure, kindness, friendship and general wacky antics trump a cynical and frustrating universe every time.
Debuting in 2009 in a culture saturated with brooding antiheroes and dispassionate irony, “Parks and Rec” stood out by never being afraid of coming off as corny or uncomplicated. Much of the show’s rich tone can be credited to it’s co-producer Harris Wittels, who died on Thursday and is receiving a well-deserved tribute at the end of the series finale. The show has a heart of gold and is filled with both emotional intelligence and genuine hilarity. If I’m gushing, it’s because Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) taught me every time she opened her wonderful mouth that it’s cool to be overly enthusiastic . Life can be okay if you care deeply about friends, family and local government. In honor of the series finale, here are 10 lessons from “Parks and Rec” that made us laugh, cry or genuinely mourn the death of a miniature pony:
10) It’s okay (and even good!) to fail as long as you get back up
As Leslie mentioned in last Tuesday’s episode, the events of the show only happened because one Andrew Dwyer drunkenly fell into the pit back in Season 1. “Parks and Rec” shows us that persistence leads to redemption and ultimately happiness. Ben Wyatt’s failure as an 18-year old mayor led him (fingers crossed) to the House of Representatives. Andy’s dream of being a police officer was crushed, but that gave us Johnny Karate. Tom’s first business, Entertainment 720, was ruined, but like a phoenix from the ashes rose Tom’s Bistro. Leslie was recalled as city councilwoman and landed a perfect job in the federal government. I could keep going. Everyone loses, it’s okay to get depressed and make creepy stop motion animation, just keep on keeping on. Things will be okay. They will.
9) Real strength means knowing who you are
Donna Meagle gets what she wants. So does Ron Swanson. The two could not be any more different, but both are relentlessly themselves. She knows it’s okay to like pop culture and have lots of flings if you love yourself and know what you want. Strength comes in different forms’ not all of them are mustachioed and libertarian. And honestly, in a fistfight, I’d put my money on Donna any day. Respect.
8) Some things are just inexplicable, and you have to accept that
Tom and Ann. Garry/Jerry/Terry/Larry and Gayle (Christie Brinkley). The fascination with Li’l Sebastian. It’s okay to be baffled by life as long as you make sure to laugh at it every chance you get.
7) Love your hometown, even for all of its flaws
Leslie cares about Pawnee even when it sucks. Anyone who lives in the cold of the Northeast can relate to this, so when the wind chill becomes unbearable, channel your inner Knope and show your love for Broome County.
6) Treat yo’ self
Sometimes, after a breakup, you just need to buy yourself a thousand dollar replica batman costume. Or some Red Mango. Whatever your equivalent of that is. It’s okay to go a little crazy for the sake of your own happiness.
5) Anything a man can do women can do better
“Parks and Rec” is a feminist show. It knows that female friendships are worth writing about. It uses cartoonish and goofy satire to speak about real social issues and expose institutionalized prejudices, reimagines gender roles without seeming preachy and depicts powerful women in diverse ways. Leslie is an amazing role model. There’s a lot more to be said about this by people who are more knowledgeable than me. I’d encourage you to check out some of the academic literature on feminism and “Parks and Rec,” it’s very interesting and worth your while.
4) Stay away from snake juice
This also applies to unknown drinks you find around The Rat.
3) Don’t be afraid to embrace your emotional side
There is a Duke Silver inside all of us.
2) Saying goodbye is hard, but nothing lasts forever
If Leslie could let Ann leave — the poetic, noble, land-mermaid that she is — we can do the same with “Parks and Rec.” Guys, you’re 5,000 candles in the wind.
1) Crying: acceptable at funerals, the Grand Canyon and tonight at 8/7c.