28 November 2015

One Last Ride

Streaming media and television are in a strange relationship these days. We had been waiting for the final season of Parks & Recreation to hit Netflix for...like, months. After having the baby we wanted something fun to watch and, in the search for a new, 'easy' program we came back around to our ultimate feel-good show. Rewatching the sixth season left us no option --we had to buy season seven. But in fact we did not. We just got a Hulu trial and binge watched the whole thing (which, thankfully, is only 13 episodes).

Now I can't stop thinking about it.

That's kind of a big deal because even though I don't watch much TV I watch more TV than I want to or think I ought to, and so not many shows stick with me. When they do (LOST, Deadwood, Star Trek [which actually transcends TV I don't mind telling you], Rectify, Justified) it means they've really hit a note with me.

Part of the reason why is because Parks is just so very funny. It strikes the bullseye between relationships you want to see, situations you find funny, downright absurdity, and spectacular outfits. The show also carries poignant social commentary that's still kind and hopeful, as opposed to strictly critical. But many shows are able to achieve this end. I believe that the reason Parks lodged itself into my guts is because everything works out (mostly) for our beloved characters. Their dream careers come together, they grow as people, all because they stick together.

Some of it is wish fulfillment and downright fantasy. Take Ben for instance: he becomes city manager, could easily be a high-paid and desirable accountant, has the woman of his dreams, graduates to Senator (and possibly President), makes 'the ninth-highest-selling multi-player figurine-based strategy fantasy sequel game in history', all while staying thin and overcoming the greatest trauma of his life (Ice Town). 

It's not all peaches and cream of course: Ben and Leslie's kids seem to run roughshod over their lives and Tom fails at business (even if he bounces back).

The inspiring bit is not seeing the aspirations of our favorite TV friends come true; it's that it all seems so achievable because they do it together. These work proximity associates are there to fill in one another's dream-gaps, whether they be handmade chairs for a restaurant or the proverbial shoulder to cry upon. Suddenly parenthood, political office, small business, game design, and public service are within reach and enjoyable. Leslie's quote sums this up nicely and with inspiring levity:

Teddy Roosevelt once said, ‘Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is a chance to work hard at work worth doing.’ And I would add that what makes work worth doing is getting to do it with people that you love.
It touches on things wanting in our society that we too often claim voyeur on through screens and books: real community. Real community is hard. It takes time and money, heartache and headspace. So any show that gives you that in an accessible way will be exceptional and Parks does it exceptionally well. It does it with forward action, personal growth, and communal growth - the community of friends and the city of Pawnee.


It's positive. The show doesn't doggedly crash into existential issues without answers or play up the pathos of the already tragic life on Earth; it celebrates those things that make life worth living, even it is idealized. Even if, at the beginning of the season, our two favorites are butting heads, the dispute resolves in a touching and funny way. Parks doesn't dwell on what is wrong, but nudges the viewer and characters towards obtainable, beautiful things.

Maybe there are more shows like this but, like I said, I don't watch a lot of TV. And with this show tidily completed I don't feel much need to hunt down another feel-good program.

2 comments:

secondhandtook said...

I think you hit the nail on the head. The sense of community in this show is hard to find in other shows. I may watch a bit more TV than you but probably not by much. Even so, I can't think of many shows where an ensemble of characters really felt like a community/or extended family (however you want to call it).

And yes, it's definitely something hard to obtain in society. I look at my old neighborhood, where my friends and I, even being part of the Millennial generation, would run around outside, knock on each others' doors to hang out and just stay outside. Now I hardly see anyone outside. If there's a community it's on a digital level.

Derek A. K. said...

Isn't it crazy how there's so much community online? It makes sense, since it's so convenient, but I'm honestly surprised sometimes at how many of my friends (local or not) are kept up with online.