Featuring a mustached doppelganger, a naked librarian, and a science fiction-esque twist on local government, Parks and Recreation returned on Tuesday Jan. 13 with as much gusto as it left us last Spring. The NBC comedy sitcom molded from the creative genius that is Michael Schur (creator of The Office and Brooklyn 99) garnered a record 1.5 million views for the premiere episodes of its seventh, and final, season.
What other show could continuously change the name of a character (Jerry, Larry, Terry) while still managing to feature the highs and lows of local politics via guest stars like Michelle Obama and John McCain? (Answer: none).
The season six finale ended with a vignette into 2017, a detail subtly continued. Season seven started off with a back-to-back premiere of two episodes, and as usual, each one is better than the last. However, there were some missing elements.
At the end of season six, main characters Ann Perkins (Rashida Jones) and Chris Traeger (Rob Lowe) left beloved Pawnee in favor of Ann Arbor to raise their child. Though their absence was gradually settled, it wasn’t quite the same season premiere without a Chris Traeger “literally” or an Ann Perkins concerned smile. And even more shocking, Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) did not utter even one mention of her best friend for the first time in six years.
This minor detail, however, was overshadowed by outstanding performances from Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) and Tom Haverford (Aziz Anzari). In a not-so-shocking turn of events, libertarian Ron traded his “piglet” government job for a profitable business, so named ‘Very Good Building and Development Company’. Similarly, burgeoning entrepreneur Tom Haverford, A.K.A. Tommy H, has expanded his italian bistro into multiple ventures, one of which being a chopped salad kiosk within a grounded helicopter (dream big).
However, Parks was lacking something else that detracted from the continuity of previous seasons: the famous Ron-Leslie bond that has engrossed watchers for six years. Animosity replaced genuine friendship for the two, more than ever before (the climax of which being Leslie and Ron’s collapse into a massive cake, upon which Leslie screams “JUST ROLL OUT THE BACK-UP CAKE!”). Schur undoubtedly plans to reference the source of their “unmentionable” past betrayal sometime in the coming season.
I have to say I was fearful upon reading that Schur and the Parks team was committed to setting season seven in the year 2017. But a man of good tastes, Schur embarked on the future without cliches. The only noticeable differences between present and future Pawnee were translucent, tablet-esque devices and Shia LaBoeuf’s wedding dress line hitting the market. Oh, and the fact that Leslie, once manager of the Parks Department (of about six people) now heads the MidWest branch of the National Parks Service and oversees 1,200 employees (one of which is an inept assistant, Ed, played by the wonderful Jon Hamm of Mad Men).
While the traditional elements of a Parks episode (breaking of the fourth wall, gratuitous amounts of waffles, and offensive slurs for the government) were largely absent, Parks kept its signature charm through reunions and crises. To rephrase the words of Leslie Knope, the premiere was definitely not “the human equivalent to gas station sushi.”