A few weeks ago I asked my students a round of questions about marriage and friendship. As is often the case with seniors, the answers were interesting. A couple of kids, quite out of the blue, decided to answer my questions with references to Parks and Recreation, one of the last great sitcoms. The students pointed out the way that characters like Leslie Knope and Ben Wyatt and even Ron Swanson were able to embrace both romantic love and real friendship in ways rarely seen.
Parks and Rec is a show that I revisit often. I just finished rewatching the show’s seventh and final season. One of the cornerstones of the season (and ultimately of the show) is the friendship between Leslie and Ron, which starts off the season in a horribly sad place but resolves itself in a touching way. Which is what makes this scene, which takes Ron’s character years into the future, such a great one.
I have great affection for NBC’s last great comedy block: The Office, Parks and Rec, 30 Rock, and Community. All of them became shows about friendship and love (as all good stories are, really). But somewhere along the way, Parks and Recreation was able to take a leap that the others either couldn’t or wouldn’t: a leap into a world of real affection between the characters. And so while I’ll always love a good Jeff Winger speech and the odd relationships at Dunder Mifflin and the passive-aggressiveness of Liz Lemon’s love of everyone around her, it’s really the characters of Parks and Rec that embody a good and better hope. One where people are known and loved, where fights can happen and feelings can find healing, where you do get a real sense of the significance of this oft-quoted-on-Twitter CS Lewis quote:
Friendship is the greatest of worldly goods. Certainly to me it is the chief happiness of life. If I had to give a piece of advice to a young man about a place to live, I think I should say, ‘sacrifice almost everything to live where you can be near your friends.
You get a sense of that throughout the show’s final two seasons, first when Ann and Chris leave and then when almost every other main cast member considers moving on. Who knew Pawnee, Indiana would be such an amazing place?
I’m grateful for lots of things. Family, good work, and friends. And I’m grateful for the ways that they often intersect and overlap. Just thought I’d get that down as the week comes to an end.