We've got another year of Pawnee on our hands people! NBC has just officially announced a seventh season of Parks and Recreation. NBC Chairman Bob Greenblat gave a preliminary announcement at the TCAs a few weeks ago, but the network announced the renewal officially last night. Thanks to NBC's recent dire straits, in just a few years Parks and Recreation has gone from teetering on the edge of the cancellation abyss, to improbably becoming NBC's guaranteed renewal. And while Parks and Rec obsessives might be excited for the prospect for more episodes, we can't help but worry about our one-time favorite comedy.
Sadly, Parks and Rec feels like a pale vestige of its prime seasons. What once was a triumphant workplace comedy now feels like a show that's just going through the motions. Ever since the show hit its high watermark in Season 3, each subsequent season has brought diminishing returns, and each return to Pawnee is less joyous and gleefully hilarious than the last. Now we find the show deep into its sixth season, but seemingly scared to commit to making any drastic changes. After the inspiring city council race, Leslie is back at the Parks Department, Tom has another failed business venture under his belt, and has dreamed up yet another, while April and Andy are doing... something. Every time a character takes a chance and makes a reach for something greater, the show spring 'em back to the status quo like a rubber band. If the next season of Parks and Recreation is its last, like it should be, then we want to see several things happen before we say goodbye for good.
The show should end with Leslie and Ben leaving PawneeEven Leslie Knope herself is realizing that she needs to leave Pawnee for good sooner rather than later. Leslie has abilities and aspirations that reach far beyond the confines of small-town government, and it's made worse by the fact that only a few people even recognize all the good that she's done. Leslie needs to pack things up and move on to bigger and brighter pastures. After seven seasons of dealing with the people of Pawnee and Eagleton, she deserves it.
And Pawnee needs to recognize Leslie's accomplishmentsIt's a long running joke of how dimwitted and unappreciative the citizens of Pawnee are. Despite the jeers from residents, Leslie has always given them what they didn't know they wanted or needed. Unfortunately, funny has turned to aggravating, especially after the city council storyline. Not that Parks needs to get all shmaltzy and cloying, but the town should be sad to see Leslie move on. She deserves something after all of the crap she's put up with over the years.
Tom finally needs to find a stable business ventureTom's multiple failed startups are one of the biggest indicators that the show is just spinning its wheels. Entertainment 720 was doomed, and for good reason since it showed an inexperienced Tom creating a business with all flash and no substance. It was a learning experience for him, and one that he needed. Next was Rent-a-Swag, which was actually a great idea, and actually showed Tom using good business sense, but the show saw fit to rip the business right from under him via Henry Winkler. Parks is setting up Tom with these new projects and knocking them down again just so Tom has something new to do each season. It's all starting to feel too repetitive. The writers should actually give Tom the business he deserves and let him keep it for at least a while.
Andy and April should find a causeOne of the problems with Parks and Recreation's characters is that few characters besides Leslie seem to have any specific goals that stay relevant after more than a handful of episodes. Tom leapfrogs from one new dream project to another, while April similarly feels like she's just going through the motions of progressing though city government. We hope that April finds a personal and fulfilling goal to work towards, and that Andy might do something else. Actually we wouldn't mind if Andy just played Mouserat gigs forever.
Forgive me, but I'm about to make reference to Zach Braff's movie Garden State. There is a scene early on in the movie that shows Braff, having recently returned home to New Jersey for the first time in 10 years, bumping into an old friend of his who has, ostensibly, become a police officer. The following exchange takes place:
ZACH BRAFF: "You're a cop, Kenny? ... Why?"KENNY, THE COP: "I don't know, man. Had nothing better to do."
And that, in a nutshell, is how mainstream comedy views law enforcement. Nothing better to do with a character? Make him a cop. That's what they did with Andy Dwyer on Parks & Recreation, sparking the new calling in the Season 4 finale after realizing that they had nothing else to do with the character in the year to come... before they got tired of that storyline, failed him out of the police academy, and whisked him off to Europe. It appears to be what they're doing with Annie Edison on Community, having her shirk her sensible and fitting career in hospital administration for an out-of-the-blue passion for forensic analysis. And it's what New Girl is doing with Winston now.
While Jess and Nick and Coach are off doing something regarding basketball or sex in this week's episode of New Girl, Winston decides to shadow Schmidt at his marketing firm in order to figure out if it might be a field conducive to his unusual skill set. In the process, Winston inadvertently (and with help from Cece) identifies a far more preferable course of action: becoming a police officer. Why? Because he enjoyed cracking the puzzling veneer of Schmidt's elderly work rival Ed (Bob Gunton, slingin' some terrific comedy, that ol' so-and-so) and likes "roaming around" ... or something.
If we're desperate to successfully adhere this to any established functions of Winston's character, I guess we can allocate his love for puzzles and his Season 2 Halloween costume. But all in all, this is New Girl shoe-horning its least figured out character into what television comedy seems to think is an all-purpose career. One that anybody can pursue at any time, without it being too severe a narrative transgression.
But would Winston really work as a cop? Would Andy Dwyer have? Will Annie Edison? What about Ashton Kutcher on That '70s Show, or Roseanne's sister? Why do so many shows think they can slap aimless do-nothings (and Annie) with a badge and watch them thrive? Shouldn't being a cop get the same kind of character-based weight as being a teacher, a marketing agent, a lawyer, a bartender, a model, or a coach? Maybe New Girl will prove that Winston is, in fact, perfectly constructed for a life on the force, but we're not going to hold our breath for any revelations of inspiration with this character.
Hey, at least we have Brooklyn Nine-Nine ... or should we say, Golden Globe-winner Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
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