THE GREY THURSDAY HALF-MASSACRE: By now you've heard that NBC is killing Community and 30 Rock with 13-episode final-season orders, and that it may or may not be doing the same with Parks & Rec (eta: NBC renewed P&R; Sepinwall says 13 episodes "for now"). It would be unfair to compare this to [BRIEF REFERENCE TO SCENE FROM LAST WEEK'S GAME OF THRONES EPISODE] Theon Greyjoy incompetently hacking away at somebody's neck, having pronounced a sentence he's not competent to carry out, [END OF SPOILER REFERENCE] so I definitely didn't just do that. NBC is a business, and apparently having several of the best comedies on television is bad for business, so NBC has to do what it has to do. Better that we had X.5 seasons of those three shows than none at all.
But it's still a bit of a head-scratcher for me. Community, I get. It's dark and sometimes deliberately obtuse, it relies on the memories and the intelligence of its viewers, and even when it zeroes in on things like the compassion and friendship of its characters, it approaches those matters from an unpleasant angle -- compassion for our friends' deteriorating mental state; friendship as a defense against outsiders. It's like a grown-up version of all of those Maurice Sendak sound bites this week -- the world is a cruel and scary place, and sometimes your family (in Community, your surrogate family) is the scariest part. And 30 Rock, I get that too. It's too superficial, too slick for audiences accultured to expect different rhythms and different sentimentalities.
Parks & Rec, though, that I don't understand. It is the TV version of the kind of person that everybody likes. It is positive and rarely has a mean word to say about anybody. It is optimistic and sentimental and nice. It is romantic. It is funny and smart. It is familiar. It is naturally pretty, but not so made-up that it makes you not like it. If Parks & Rec were a person, it probably would not be prom king or queen, but it might win most likely to succeed and best smile and it would be a mortal lock to be elected student body president. To switch metaphors, its closest comp is Cheers -- no surprise given Michael Schur's love of that show -- a workplace comedy where almost everybody liked each other and they all supported each other. Its closest tonal analogue among active shows is not The Office (which, despite its common lineage and workplace setting, has for several seasons now been a show about people who barely tolerate each other), but Modern Family. Cheers was, and Modern Family is, a huge hit. Parks & Rec lives under the constant shadow of cancellation. Unfair.
Anyway, let's celebrate it while we can. [SPOILERS FOR LAST NIGHT] We always knew Leslie would win. This show embraces change (bringing in Ben and Chris; breaking up Ann and Andy for good; marrying April and Andy; putting Ben and Leslie together without too much URT), and, frankly, it seemed like Leslie losing an election wouldn't have squared with the tone of the show. So I wasn't as moved by her victory, which I saw as a foregone conclusion. What I did find moving was the way the episode paused to show Leslie's emotion when she got to vote for herself. Sepinwall thought that Poehler's acting upon hearing the result(s) was her best work yet; I thought the few beats she took to savor the act of voting were even better. And it was quite a nifty bit of writing, too. The demonstration that Leslie's dream was not to win an election, but rather to be the kind of candidate worthy of her own vote, felt perfect as an encapsulation of a great character.