Why Parks and Rec Could Be As Successful As The Simpsons

The cast of the first season Parks and Recreat...

This is Leslie Knope, and she wants to recruit you.

Having adorned The Office with a schmaltzy series finale and sending it on its way to TV heaven (or hell, depending on how you felt about the last few seasons.  My vote is for hell), NBC is in dire need of a flagship sitcom that can carry the network through the often risky waters of new programming.  The obvious–and correct–choice is Parks and Recreation.  I’ve often thought that Parks and Recreation and The Office share the same relationship that Kal-el shares with Krypton.  Right when The Office was starting to suck, Greg Daniels jettisoned Parks and Recreation into the vast galaxy of network television.  Enhanced by Earth’s yellow sun, Parks and Recreation became a symbol of truth, justice and mockumentary shenanigans.  Since I’d like the show to stick around for as long as possible, I’m willing to open my brain to those Jack Donaghy-types at NBC and explain why Parks and Recreation has the potential to become as successful and prolific as The Simpsons.

The City of Pawnee

One of the brilliant ideas that has kept The Simpsons pumping for twenty some-odd years is the fact that the city of Springfield is a character.  It’s a weird city that can generate weird characters and events in a way that doesn’t seem forced.  When writers have a huge roster of supporting characters that they can weave in and out of the main characters’ lives, their options for stories expands.  Exponentially.

Parks and Recreation has this going for it.  Pawnee has been established not only as a setting, but as a place that can spawn a certain type of person depending on what the story needs.  They’ve taken advantage of Pawnee, and as a result, we’ve gotten some great recurring characters–most notably the sex-crazed Councilman Dexhart (Kevin Symons) and exhibitionist/journalist Joan Callamezzo (Mo Collins).

Guest Stars With a Purpose

Though The Simpsons has kind of been failing at this lately, I remember when they would create a character that paired perfectly with the guest star.  When John Waters guest starred as the flamboyant owner of “Cockamamie’s,” it was epic.  His presence in that episode could not have been emulated.  

Parks and Recreation has featured some of the best guest stars in recent history.  There’s Paul Rudd as so-likable-he’s-hateable Bobby Newport, Lucy Lawless as a love interest worthy of Ron Swanson, Will Forte’s Twilight-obsessed time capsule enthusiast, Louis C.K. as Leslie’s terminally awkward love interest/law enforcement officer, and let’s not forget Patton Oswalt ad-libbing a filibuster that was so grandiose that it spawned a faux-movie poster.

Excellent Supporting Cast

From the get go, I loved the decision to cast talented actors who–until now of course–have spent a considerable amount of time under the radar.  Aubrey Plaza, Chris Pratt, Aziz Ansari and Nick Offerman (though I do miss Paul Schneider)  make up perhaps one of the greatest supporting casts of any TV show ever.  The showrunners even handled the addition of Ben and Chris (Adam Scott and Rob Lowe) with a surprising amount of grace.  Their integration into the existing cast was seamless, and it opened the gates to some excellent storylines–my personal favorite being when Donna and Tom try to cheer Ben up by talking him into buying a Batman costume.

If you’re like me, then you don’t really care that The Office isn’t on anymore, because you’ve been watching Parks and Recreation anyway.  However, if you’re pining for Jim, Pam, and the rest of the Dunder Mifflin crew, it’s time to get over it.     The first four seasons of Parks and Recreation are streaming on Netflix.


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