Why Parks & Rec Was The Best Political TV Show

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From the West Wing to Scandal to House of Cards, there are plenty of politics-based V shows over the years. The ins and outs of politics provide plenty of dramatic fodder for writers to use when creating storylines and characters. It is such a rich field to draw from that there have been a number of award winning political TV shows, but most of those have been dramas, and they tend to focus on national and global politics. Although the characters can be compelling and the plots intriguing, no political show has grabbed my attention like Parks & Rec.

Starring Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope, the deputy director of her small town’s parks and recreation department, the show has plenty of funny moments and lots of heart. It’s because of this comedic lens that Parks & Rec captures local politics better than any other show. As Leslie Knope navigates the waters of local politics she attempts to fund the building of a new park. The show does a good job of illustrating how one small municipal improvement can become a political miasma. Finding money in the city’s budget for things like environmental impact studies and community focus groups can become a huge obstacle for a small parks department.

It is this kind of honest portrayal of local governance that makes this show so much fun for fans of political stories. When Leslie runs for a seat on her local city council the show begins to dive into the insane world of political campaigns. Even for a small campaign there are lots of issues to overcome. Leslie finds herself battling against opponents with more campaign funding and reporters that start crazy rumors. The way that characters help her overcome these roadblocks with innovative ideas and legal loopholes is a much more honest look at what goes on in the hallowed halls of government.

Once Leslie (five year old spoiler alert!) wins the council seat she faces even more pushback than when she was a simple bureaucrat. Because her political initiatives need the full backing of the city council she finds herself fighting and compromising in entirely new ways. There are several plots that involve her going head-to-head with other council members that block her plans for their own political and financial gain. Although the stakes are much smaller at the local government level, it is a good representation of how a good idea can get bogged down among bad actors.

The show also includes a great extended cast of characters that showcase all the crazy personalities in local government. The administrators and employees of the city government have their own lives that often get in the way of government and politics. Leslie Knope’s love interest is a failed former mayor, and his political past causes him to second guess decisions and take flak from journalists. Because of his struggles overcoming his past he brings a different attitude to governing than Leslie Knope – another good illustration of how people and politics intersect.

The stories do come with a lot of love and heartwarming details that makes the politics easier to handle. The love story arc of Leslie and Ben take a couple of seasons to blossom, but it’s because of their strong partnership that they can overcome the haters in their lives. It goes to show that having strong family and friendships can help people work hard to improve their communities and cities.

Finally, the side characters of Andy (Chris Pratt) and April (Aubrey Plaza) are one of the most adorable TV couples. April learns to climb the ropes of politics from Leslie, but it is her strange relationship with her childlike husband. Andy’s enthusiasm for the simple work of being a parks department admin assistant make local government seem so much more fun that it probably is in real life.

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