Parks & Recreation was aight. It was basically a nicecore version of The Office (US) with extremely bad politics. That does sound really bad when you put it like that. There were fun moments, episodes, and strong characterizations in the early years. As the years went on, the show got progressively less good, and that is mostly reflected in the rankings of the seasons.
7. Season 7: One Last Ride
Despite the noble attempt to shake things up by jumping three years into the future, the show had internalized way too much of their bad energy and just fundamentally was not all that funny. This final season was all about giving the characters a happy ending including such ridiculousness as Leslie or Ben being revealed as having been elected president at one point. The show prioritized the audience liking the characters and “feeling good” at the expense of a biting sense of humor. I’m just not sure why watching the final three seasons of this show would make someone feel good. What about seeing cutesy and humanizing portrayals of the monsters that run the world could make someone happy?
6. Season 6: Goodbye Ann, Chris, and Councilwoman Knope
Season 6 of the show seems to reflect that the show was getting caught in a rut. They did a storyline early where Leslie got recalled from being a councilwoman. Rashida Jones and Rob Lowe got written out of the show. Billy Eichner got added to the show. And then ever after all that, they did a Battlestar Galactica time jump in the season finale. And it was all for naught. The show only got more stale. The Pawnee/Eagleton merger did not lead to much great stuff, and the Unity Concert storyline felt like a poor imitation of the Harvest Festival.
5. Season 5: Councilwoman Knope
This was a significant turning point in the show. After season 4, it seems like the rest of the show was one giant victory lap. They progressively start to run out of stuff for characters to do progressively more and more at this point. This is when the nicecore shit started to get prioritized over being funny to the point of no return. Lowpoints included doing humanizing cameos of monsters Joe Biden, John McCain, and Newt Gingrich.
4. Season 1: The Office (US)
The creative team of Parks & Recreation made the exact same mistake they made with The Office. The US Office in the first season had no sense of its own identity and cribbed too much from the British version of the show. Parks & Rec season 1 was way too much like the US version of The Office. It led to some funny stuff but was not working for this show overall. Much like the shortened premiere seasons of the US Office and Seinfeld though, it is pretty interesting to go back and look at the show trying to find itself. All sitcoms should start out with a six-episode backdoor-ish debut.
3. Season 4: Knope 2012
Season 4 would have been a really fitting end to Parks & Recreation. Much like its source material (The West Wing), the creative team’s sensibilities actually lended itself quite well to an election storyline (hence why season seven of The West Wing is one of the more genuinely good seasons that show did). Dealing with an election hides the bad politics and creates fresh situations from which to create comedy. (Important for a situational comedy I’m told.) The show was clearly nearing its natural end though, and that is best captured by the fact the show did a storyline where Tom and Ann got together. Awful.
2. Season 3: Soft Reboot #2
Season 3 represented something of a soft reboot for the show. Adam Scott and Rob Lowe became full-time cast members. Andy and April got together (and never split). The tone of the show started to get a lot more broad. The show was still fresh enough at this point to pull off the reboot. It also started the trend of the show using some serialized stories to lean on (The Harvest Festival was a great six-episode mini arc). The show fully decided on its voice this season, and it was a less interesting voice than what came before it but undeniably more successful for what this show had to work with.
1. Season 2: Mark Brendanaquits
Season 2 represents the best balance between the values of the show when it started and the nicecore bullshit it gradually morphed into after season 2. There was a very specific version of cynicism here that was far preferable to what was to come. Paul Schneider was also a very welcome presence on the show, and he was able to help ground a show that gradually became too ridiculous.