The Happiest Shows on Earth: ‘Parks and Recreation’ and optimism on TV via #EWCommunity

Parks and RecreationI wrote the following for the #EWCommunity, to share some shows that have made me smile even half as much as Parks and Rec did. There aren’t many, but click through for some shows that celebrate optimism, love, and friendship.

Parks and Recreation was lauded for its combination of comedy and earnest sweetness. The people of Pawnee, Indiana, are “first in friendship, fourth in obesity,” and they proved the former to us for seven seasons. The characters love each other, love the work they do (even as underappreciated public servants), and taught us to celebrate Galentine’s Day, waffles, and ourselves (Treat yo’ self!).

Very few shows allow themselves as much happiness as Parks and Recreation did. So many shows are gritty and dark, or concern us with which major character is being killed off this week. Nothing is wrong with that; I love a lot of shows that raise my blood pressure in a very real and probably unhealthy way. But sometimes you need to balance it out with shows that make you smile every single time you watch an episode. Parks and Recreation was one of those shows.

Now that it’s gone, I want to reflect on other shows that celebrated friendship, love, and optimism, and were unafraid to be bright spots in a cynical and dark world. There aren’t many, but here are a few shows that exemplified a few of the qualities that made us love Parks so much:

Click through to find out the shows: The Happiest Shows on Earth: ‘Parks and Recreation’ and optimism on TV | EW Community | EW.com.

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Fall TV 2014: How Packed is Your Primetime Schedule?

I’m trying to blog more, I really am. But work-life and attempting to write scripty things has taken away my energy. Also my obsession with the show Arrow. BUT Fall is approaching and I wanted to take a look at the shows I’ll be watching this season.

Here’s TV Line’s full Fall Schedule.

And here’s mine! [Sept 13 edit, after I’ve watched several of these pilots, check out how and read reviews here.]

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What should I be watching that’s not on here?

I’m most excited for The Flash, Arrow S3, and Brooklyn 99 S2, but of course my other returning shows bring me much joy as well. I’m watching the Nolan Batman trilogy as I type this–Batman Begins at the moment–so I’ll check out Gotham (hopefully it goes more the way of Arrow and less the way of Agents of SHIELD in maintaining my interest). I’m gonna check out Cristela (even though it’s a multi-cam comedy) because diversity needs a shot on television. black-ish also gets my views for that reason, but also just missing the existence of a black sitcom, and having a TV that might speak to my experiences as a black nerd (hopefully).

How to Get Away with Murder should be very interesting. Shondaland Thursdays are in full effect–if only I still felt like watching Grey’s Anatomy. Sleepy Hollow and Castle are my Monday mainstays–hopefully I’ll still be able to blog about them come fall. New Girl and Mindy help BK99 fill the void of Parks not coming back till mid-season, but only just barely. Finally, I’ll check out Mulaney and Jane the Virgin, but those could go either way for me.

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On September 6th, I’ll be at the Paley Center here in NY watching the FOX, ABC, and CW pilots, so I’ll have a bit of an early preview regarding those, with an audience no less! Should be fun! I’ll try to blog about the experience. I know some pilots are available already, but like I said, other concerns have taken precedence. I’m working on getting back to blogging as fall approaches, hopefully I can start posting more. [Edit: Full post with links to episode reviews here.]

If you’re following along, what fall shows are you most looking forward to watching? So far my schedule is 14 shows deep! That’s not including Key&Peele, Whose Line, The Tonight Show, The Daily Show, The Colbert Report…! Phew! I hope my DVR can handle it all!

How packed is your primetime schedule?

Upfronts 2014: Parks and Recreation

Before I talk about the new shows coming up, let me mourn the shows going out.

We all know now that Community is gone for good. And while I knew it was probably the case, the other NBC stanchion from the last comedy block era, Parks and Recreation, is headed into it’s last season. Parks is easily one of my top 2 shows right now (along with Castle). I love a show that can make me smile every single time I watch it (a reason I love The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon). Parks knocks it out of the park (oh, oops, totally not on purpose) with comedy, heart, emotion, zaniness, inspiration (who hasn’t been inspired to do something big and crazy after Leslie Knope tried something big and crazy), and a love of waffles and whipped cream. Even the dullest episodes of Parks make me smile in some way that hold me over until the next big episode.

And it’s all of the above that let me know they couldn’t do it forever. Mostly, the idea that they don’t hold characters back to adhere to comedy/storytelling/tv tropes. Ben and Leslie got together and then stayed together. Chris and Ann faltered a bit, but then had a baby and actually moved out of town. April has gotten married, (graduated? left school? they’re a bit fuzzy on that) and moved up in her career several times. Ron has gotten married and had children! Talk about character development! The show’s commitment to allowing their characters to be people, to be funny but real people is why it couldn’t last forever, because we’ve hit moments that are series enders. Leslie having a baby, Leslie finishing Lot 49, Leslie moving up in government are all series enders. We’re moving past the premise (and title) of the show, so it definitely couldn’t last forever. Leslie’s character could never stay cooped up in the Parks department, if she did, we’d love her less, or at least lose respect for her and her huge vision.

So I knew this was coming, but it doesn’t make it any less sad. And mad. Because NBC hasn’t put it on the fall schedule. How dare they make their longest running sitcom thus far wait until a new show is cancelled before putting it in the line up?! Do they not care about Parks fans? Seems not if this is how they’re treating Parks fans, which just by virtue of enjoying the show, are loyal fans. We wouldn’t like the show is loyalty wasn’t important to us, because it’s important to Leslie. I won’t be watching any of their new comedies (there’s only 4 of them. Could that be a record low for recent years?) and if the trend is right, other Parks fans probably won’t either. Mike Shur, Parks Executive Producer, has a show on another network that fits the Parks brand. Even the other FOX comedies feel more in line with Parks than NBC shows do. So NBC lost a lot of points with me by doubling my negative emotions. But once season 7 begins, I’ll forgive them, just for the half hour Parks is on, until the series finale. (This summer they get my Maya Rudolph eyes. And Jimmy Fallon. And sometimes Seth.)

I am excited to see what they do for this last season. Knowing that it’s ending gives the writers an opportunity to take risks they couldn’t before, to push the boundaries of both comedy and storytelling, because it’s their last shot. And they can take the characters to the end goals you know they’re headed towards with more time than a rushed series finale. Hit those home runs, Parks team, I know you will.

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ConStar Watches Parks and Recreation “Gin It Up!”

“Your heart’s in the right place. Your heart and your butt.”

I’ve honestly forgotten why Leslie was being recalled in the first place. I know it’s Jamm’s fault but what was the “reason”? I know it doesn’t really matter, but I definitely forget what the exact catalyst was for his hate.

TATIANA MASLANY! Tom in her face was a GREAT moment. WHY did he switch into a British accent (besides the BBC America reference, I suppose). I can’t wait for more Nadia/Tom, because she thinks he’s really weird but then she says things like “Jet Blue Ivy” and we all (Tom included) discover there is something there that could draw them together. Hope she gets to stay for a while.

This was a great Ron story. It was nice seeing Ron and Ben interact; we know Ron loves Leslie, but it’s nice to see him extend that sentiment to Ben in his own way. Making Ben and Leslie the godparents to the kids is so wonderful (I wish I’d been able to see Leslie’s reaction to it), because you know they’d do their best to raise them the way Ron would have wanted. But Ron will only die by the man who understands the symbols on his first will. So he’s safe.

I’m happy we got a Donna-centric episode. I can’t remember every getting one, and if we did, it’s been a long, long time ago. This was the perfect plot for her. Retta played sheepish Donna really well (it was kind of adorable). I hope we get more Donna-centric episodes, because she’s the Parks Department member that gets the least amount of screen and story-time. Even Jerry gets more screen time than she does.

I need a Leslie Knope so someone can get me presents at every turn.

As usual, Parks episode posts are mostly quotes, because this show is just so funny.

“That folder in my hand is deadlier than his bow in yours.” “Oh thats… probably true.”

“What are these weird symbols?” “The man who kills me will know.”

“We’ll be all set, like two biscuits inside a tin.”

“Obviously accountants are a little more bad-boy.”

“I’m going to say this one last time Wyatt–check that accounting crap at the door.”

“Are you a doctor? Somehow?”

“I’m going to keep her here using the most powerful weapon I have–beaurocratic incompetence!”

“Another word for jokes is lies. I do not lie.”

“isn’t language fun? it’s like racquetball for your mouth!”

“Jet Blue Ivy”

“We need to talk.” “That has never been true.”

ConStar Watches Parks and Recreation “Doppelgangers”

I don’t have a lot to say except to quote some of tonight’s fabulous lines. But it was fun seeing Ben and Chris be good cop/bad cop. I’m sad for Leslie, but her acting out was great. Again, it’s interesting that the plot is being introduced so early, as I believe they’re leaving in episode 13 and we’re just in 4(?). But ample time for all the characters to say their goodbyes, which is nice and well deserved for Chris and Ann.

I loved the distraction waffles and distraction Joe Biden.

Donna is fabulous and I love that she got to mention Scandal referencing her real life love for the show (it’s even better that Scandal airs on Thursdays as well.)(aside: I can’t wait for Retta to watch the premiere! Her livetweets will be EPIC!)

Sugar mustard.

April was brilliant and hilarious as Tynnyfer’s counterpart. It was merely funny at first until you realized that April was a genius in bonding with the girl to get her to leave her position.

One thing I would’ve like to have seen was the Eagleton Parks Department interact with each other. I was going to say that I wanted to see them act like our Parks Department, but then I realized that of course they wouldn’t act like our department–our department is a family; the Eagletonians aren’t. But it still would have been nice to see if Craig went to alt!Ron for advice and what the answer might be. I also might have liked to see what an Eagleton Jerry might have looked like. I imagine they would have just been like a Pawneean (poor, unworthy, lol) and everyone thinks he’s awful because of it. Leslie would be a Jerry in Pawnee.

I had more to say than I thought, but quotes below!

Ron is basically a better version of George Washington.

OH MY GOODNESS IS THAT JOE BIDEN ON A HORSE SHIRTLESS??

Craze-mazing

Sorry for the delay ladies, I was busy being ambushed by treachery.

You’re developing an accent from that town you might move to!

You’re like skinny Mother Teresa.

Giving into hate is like drinking salt water. The thirst only gets worst.

“The meth-like high of solving accounting puzzles”

ConStar Watches Parks and Recreation “The Pawnee-Eagleton Tip off Classic”

“Knope out!”

Glad to see Kristen Bell on my TV! This Pawnee/Eagleton merger will bring more. She’s more the straight man, as her only humor is in how rich Eagleton is, so maybe more humor will come from Eagletonians being fish out of water in Pawnee situations. I think I like that there is a clear arc for this season; I wasn’t quite sure what it was going to be last episode. This gives it a clear arc beyond just a recall election.

Ron moved in with Diane!! I figured he’d build them a house, but maybe he hasn’t decided to do that yet. He needs to get off the grid first. It’s so sweet that he’s got the girls on his old phone. The Tom&Donna bit with social media has great. I’ve known so many snapchat-ers who’ve done exactly that scene. I really missed Donna last week, so I was glad her lines were so great this week.

“I live for the grid. It’s where I meet 40% of my jump offs.”

Aww, Ann practicing her mothering skills on April as well as the spark for her and Chris leaving. Where is Ann from? I wonder if leaving Pawnee is easier for her bc she was born elsewhere? Her parents don’t seem to be in town, so I’m not sure how deep her Pawnee ties are besides Leslie and the gang. I didn’t think they’d introduce this thread so early, but ‘m glad it’s not all introduced in the same episode, of course. Though this may hurt if they decide to tell Leslie early and then we’d see Leslie slowly breaking down over the episodes as she anticipates her best friend leaving her. But watch, April is gonna react the hardest. She’s gonna act out and then be the most upset.

I love how Ben makes Leslie an even better person. They are an amazing pair.

Finally; hold up: how does Leslie have the power/authority to just merge the towns. Is there no one else on city council or the mayor or anyone else who has anything to do with this decision? Lol. Seems a bit of a big decision for just Leslie to announce. I’m anticipating to see where they take this arc.

WELCOME TO PAWNEE!

ConStar Studies Parks and Recreation

In order to think of spec ideas, one tends to turn to recent events in the news to spur an idea. I’m not always good at that. But a show that I would love to spec (I’ve been trying and have yet to get it right) is Parks and Recreation and I think they’ve been fantastic, especially this season, at taking current events and adapting them to Pawnee.

Just from this season:

  • 5.02 “Soda Tax” pokes fun at cities (esp NY currently) that are imposing rules on the size of soft drinks in stores. Great way to adapt to Pawnee. Especially the great visual humor of the “child size” cup. 
  • 5.13 “Emergency Response” makes reference to cities’ amount of preparation for major storms and in giving Pawnee a failing grade, subtly makes commentary on the fact that most cities have been unprepared for the crazy kinds of storms we’ve been getting recently. (Quakenado!)
  • 5.16 “Bailout” took the idea of a major government bailout and scaled it down to be about an independent movie rental chain (covering two things at once, really).

These are just a few examples in which Parks is able to take a major news story or a recent trend (as with the movie chain idea) and adapt it to life in Pawnee. I really like this idea and keep searching for ways to take media stories and move them to Pawnee.

Side note: I wrote this post yesterday but scheduled it for today. I’m working my way towards blogging more! Score!