By Kate Joseph
It’s not often that a television show can simultaneously bring audiences to tears of both laughter and heartache. But then again, “Parks and Recreation” was not your typical sitcom.
The comedy debuted on NBC in 2009 to critical acclaim and quickly amassed a loyal following, despite struggling with ratings for its entire seven-season run leading up to the series finale last Tuesday night.
The show, centered around a Parks and Recreation department in the fictional town of Pawnee, IN., stars Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope, the determined and passionate director of the department.
Although Poehler’s Knope was undeniably the main character of the show, side characters never felt secondary.
Other familiar faces around city hall included Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott) as a state auditor-turned-love-interest for Knope; Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman), Knope’s burly and pessimistic superior; and Ann Perkins (Rashida Jones), a nurse who gets involved at the Parks department and becomes Knope’s best friend.
Nearly every cast member of the Thursday night comedy grew to be too big for the program. Chris Pratt, who portrayed the goofy Andy Dwyer, starred in last summer’s Marvel blockbuster “Guardians of the Galaxy,” and is taking on a starring role in Jurassic World this summer. Aziz Ansari, whose character, Tom Haverford, was always searching for success, routinely sells out stand-up venues, including Madison Square Garden in New York City. And, of course, Poehler, who got her start on SNL, became a movie star and author of “Yes Please” (which is available in the Simmons College bookstore).
Despite bursting with success, in its final episode, Parks wasn’t attempting to separate itself from what audiences came to love. Unlike the unnecessarily tragic series finale of “How I Met Your Mother” last spring, the sitcom filled its last hour with love, happy endings, and of course, plenty of laughs.
The finale outlined the future of each character without spoiling specific details, each one included career success, children, and genuine happiness.
Even when the finale plays through a sad or heartfelt moment, it’s sandwiched between something ridiculous, forcing you to laugh before you even get the chance to cry.
The episode also saw the return of several popular guests stars such as Joe Mande, Christie Brinkley, Henry Winkler, Jenny Slate, Ben Schwartz and Vice President Joe Biden.
Following the final episode, co-creator Michael Schur and the whole cast appeared on “Late Night” with Seth Meyers. After discussing the finale and answering questions, the guests bid a final farewell with a sing-along to “Bye, Bye, Li’l Sebastian,” from the show’s third season finale.
Never wishing to leave the audience solemn, Aubrey Plaza and Jim O’Heir, also known as April Ludgate and Jerry Gergich, committed to a kissing bit. The duo made out for half of the song while the rest of the cast waved lighters in the air and tried to hold in hysterical laughter.
Though the purpose of a comedy is to make the audience laugh – which Parks has done consistently over the last seven years – this show wasn’t just a comedy. “Parks and Recreation,” much like Leslie Knope herself, latched itself to the hearts of many and gave everything for its entire run. We’ll miss you, Pawnee.
The finale concluded with a black screen reading “We love you, Harris,” cast in solemn letters. Harris Wittels, a writer and co-executive producer on the sitcom, passed away just days before the final episode due to a drug overdose, was only 30 years old. The comedian had talked openly about his addiction and completed multiple stays in rehabilitation centers.