While at first glance, it seems like a mockumentary in the same vein as The Office, but Parks and Recreation possesses its own unique style. This may be because the protagonist, Leslie Knope, is inspiring, determined and capable unlike the bumbling boss in the other popular sitcom. Leslie can be clueless and naive, but she is a civil servant with presidential ambitions who will do anything to make the town she lives in better. If you watch Parks and Recreation online, you will see the journey a group of underdogs takes to make their town and own lives better.
The Parks Department Bosses
Some government agencies receive flack because of inefficiency, too much bureaucracy and incompetent employees, but the director of the parks department appreciates when the government is slow and unorganized. Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) is a libertarian who believes the government spends too much taxpayer money and interferes too much in citizen’s lives, so he likes when his department gets as little done as possible. While he hired many employees purposefully because they are unmotivated or inept, Leslie is an exception. Their opposite natures serve them well because Leslie is happy to do most of the work, and Ron keeps her from going overboard on projects.
Despite once claiming to be the birthplace of Julia Roberts and being the town of the Julia Roberts lawsuit instead, Pawnee, Indiana has little claim to fame and has problems with obesity, raccoons and government scandals. Leslie often makes the best of Pawnee’s faults because she loves the town she grew up in, and she is the Deputy Director of the parks department because she wants to provide the community with important, fulfilling services. Leslie is a motivated idealist who has a crush on Joe Biden, has been a member of the Indiana Organization of Women since she was nine and can sometimes be overzealous when working, but she is usually a very sweet individual who loves whipped cream and would do anything for her friends.
Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari) has an entrepreneurial spirit and a kind heart, but it is easy to overlook the latter as he obsesses over clothes and shamelessly flirts and schmoozes to gain any advantage. He cares more about his own image than his job, but Leslie can often annoy him enough to make him start working. Tom can be very selfless as it is revealed in the second season that he married a friend from Canada so she could work in the United States as a doctor. Though he seems very confident, he can also be vulnerable and has trouble telling his wife that he actually has feelings for her.
Leslie wants to motivate the department’s intern April Ludgate (Aubrey Plaza) but usually has trouble understanding her as April has morbid interests and is puzzlingly dating a gay man who has a boyfriend. April is not interested in work or the government, but her abrasive nature lands her a salaried job because Ron appreciates that she is rude enough to drive away anyone who comes to talk to him. Though she maintains an apathetic, deadpan demeanor, she finds she actually likes helping animals. She also has a soft spot for a dimwitted shoe shiner who works at Pawnee City Hall named Andy Dwyer (Chris Pratt).
Parks and Recreation initially kept minor characters Donna Meagle (Retta) and Jerry Gergich (Jim O’Heir) in the background, but the actors became series regulars in Season 3. Since then, Donna and Jerry are often found engaging in small but funny and memorable antics together and separately.
Donna works as an office manager who does her job well, but she is mainly interested in extravagance and luxury. This means she gets along well with Tom, but Donna has more success than him as she has a separate residence outside of Indiana, owns a Mercedes-Benz M-Class SUV and is a stockholder at a Pawnee club. Donna also does very well romantically, and she has been sought after by a Venezuelan diplomat and a professional football player, but Donna follows her grandmother’s motto that states “use him, abuse him, lose him.”
The whole office views Jerry as a loser, and he accepts a lot of teasing from everyone. He often makes mistakes and is judged harshly by his coworkers, but Jerry has an amazing life outside of the workplace. He is a talented painter with three lovely daughters, and most people cannot believe that a very good-looking woman married him.
Outside The Parks and Recreation Office
The inhabitants of Pawnee are not always rational and even panic about a potential curse, but the parks department is usually slightly saner. However, the oddest quirk found on Parks on Recreation might be the hatred the rest of the government feels toward the library. Though no one at the library appears particularly detestable except for Ron’s second ex-wife Tammy (Megan Mullally), Leslie and the gang are convinced the library staff is evil. The only people more despised than librarians are citizens of a neighboring town called Eagleton. Pawnee is often the longshot in the many disputes involving the richer, more sophisticated town.
Pawnee is home to an assortment of strange and silly reoccurring characters that help make the show special, but Leslie’s favorite person is probably her best friend Ann Perkins (Rashida Jones.) Ann and late Season 3 addition Chris Traeger (Rob Lowe) leave the show together in Season 6, but she had plenty of time to get close to Leslie after approaching her about turning the vacant lot behind her house into a park. While Leslie can be intense as she dotes on Ann and even encouraged her to eat a whole cheesecake once, Ann often indulges Leslie’s crazy ideas and would do anything for her. Along with her romantic relationship with Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott), some of the most touching moments on Parks and Recreation stem from Leslie’s closeness with Ann and Ron.