Parks and Rec final season premiere review


There’s a lot that is new about the final season of “Parks and Recreation.” Even before diving into the plot, NBC’s decision to air not only a shortened season, but one that shows two episodes per week is an interesting, if not questionable, divergence from standard television procedure. But even though the time jump that brings Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) and Co. into 2017 displays just how much life has changed for these characters in the last three years, “Parks and Rec” is as familiar as ever.

Like we saw in the season 6 finale, Leslie is still the Regional Parks Director and Ben (Adam Scott) is still the City Manager. Tom’s Bistro has taken off, and Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari) now owns several successful restaurants. The business success seems to be contagious for former Parks employees, as Ron (Nick Offerman) and Donna (Retta) both run their own; Donna’s a realty company, and Ron’s the appropriately named Very Good Building and Development Company. April (Aubrey Plaza) still works with Leslie at the National Parks Service, and Andy (Chris Pratt) works there part-time, except for the days he is filming his TV show, “Johnny Karate’s Super-Awesome Musical Explosion Show,” featuring child-sized ninjas and Terry in a mailman costume. And oh yeah, almost forgot—Gerry/Gary/Larry/Jerry (Jim O’Heir) is now Terry.

Now that we’re all caught up on the new stuff, these first two episodes of season 7 hammer home why, despite the ratings lag, this veteran comedy is so good at what it does. Even with 2017’s futuristic tablets, pop culture references, new jobs and April and Andy’s newfound terror at how they became (almost) real adults, the show is still the same show we know and love. The new year and new jobs create new situations, new love-lives, and new realizations, all which help give a spark to a show not necessarily at its peak anymore. But the characters are the same at their core. For a show that is sadly on its way out the door, the familiarity of Leslie’s blind determination, Ron’s stoicism, Andy’s goofiness, or Larry’s (Terry’s?) awkwardness (yes, there is at least one accidental spill in the premiere) are all what we as an audience want to see and take comfort in as the show ends its run.

It feels almost like the show has come around full circle. We see Leslie and her unending optimism and idealism still at the core of the plot and her comedy. As she mentions in “2017,” she began this story fighting for a little park to fill a vacant lot in Pawnee, and now she is fighting just as hard and with just as much heart for the land for a new National Park. Even though we see progression in the characters, it feels like more of a “moving forward” for them, rather than a “moving on.”

Right now, in this era of prestige drama, sitcoms like “Parks and Recreation” feel like a dying breed. In its last season, the show reminds us that even though its goal is to make you laugh—which it most certainly does—it’s going to keep a comedic tone that isn’t too cynical or too biting, and it’s not going to shy away from character progression for the sake of one-liners. It has a comedy standard that few have been able to touch, especially in its season 3-4 peak, but one that hopefully continues to influence comedies in the years to come.

These first two episodes are generously peppered with genuinely funny moments. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard than at Leslie’s impression of Tammy during her and Ron’s desensitization session with Councilman Jamm in the second episode. It’s moments like those that make me hopeful that, with these last 13 episodes, “Parks and Rec” will be going out with a bang rather than a whimper.