“Parks and Recreation” premiered on NBC’s Thursday night schedule April 9, 2009, from the producers (Greg Daniels and Michael Schur) who co-created the U.S. version of “The Office,” in the same mockumentary style, with “Saturday Night Live” alum Amy Poehler playing Leslie Knope, the well-meaning midlevel bureaucrat in the parks department of the fictional town of Pawnee, Indiana.
Over the course of the show’s six seasons, Poehler’s Knope rose to city councilwoman, and in this Thursday night’s 100th episode at 9 p.m. (ET/PT), she will face her final day in office and stepping down from her post. How will she cope? What kind of future plans will she cook up with Adam Scott’s Ben? Meanwhile, Rashida Jones’ Ann and Rob Lowe’s Chris are about to discover the sex of their soon-to-be-born child, with Jim O’Heir’s “Garry”/“Jerry”/”Larry”/“Gengurch” Gergich in the midst of yet another identity crisis.
The show, which has received critical kudos if not blockbuster ratings, is arguably at its creative peak these days, with Golden Globe co-host Poehler receiving a Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Television Series, Musical or Comedy, and the series up for Best Television Series, Musical or Comedy. The show has also received a 2011 Prime-Time Emmy nomination for Best Comedy Series, while Poehler has been nominated as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series four times without winning.
Want to catch up? Here’s a Streampix-curated list of 10 of the show’s best episodes from its first five seasons for your binge viewing pleasure:
“Pilot” (“Make My Pit a Park”) (Season 1, Episode 1): The series’ pilot introduces the main characters, as Poehler’s Leslie Knopes learns from Rashida Jones’ nurse Ann Jones about the existence of a dangerous large pit outside he house—her boyfriend Andy (Chris Pratt) apparently fell in and broke his leg—and immediately makes it her cause, while her staunchly anti-government boss, Nick Offerman’s mustachioed Ron Swanson, reluctantly allows her to form an exploratory committee. Aziz Ansari is her apathetic colleague Tom Haverford and Aubrey Plaza plays her disinterested intern, April Ludgate, who mercilessly mock her efforts.
“Rock Show” (Season 1, Episode 6): The six-episoide first season finale finds Leslie unwittingly getting set up on a blind date with an elderly town manager (Ron Perkins) by her mother (Pamela Reid), an important figure in the Pawnee school system. An angry Rashida Jones’ Ann discovers her boyfriend Chris Pratt’s Andy could have had his leg cast removed weeks ago, but refused so she would keep pampering him. Andy celebrates the occasion by performing a concert with his rock band a rock concert at the local bar. Paul Schneider’s city planner Mark Brendanawicz, Leslie’s unrequited office love interest, makes a move toward Ann when she appears angry with Chris, only to be summarily rebuffed. Directed by Schur, the episode marked a turning point in the show, striking a better balance between the characters’ professional and personal lives.
“Pawnee Zoo” (Season 2, Episode 1): The second season premiere earned a GLAAD Media Award for “Outstanding Individual Episode.” Leslie tries to drum up publicity for the local zoo by arranging for the wedding of two penguins, who both turn out to be male and set her up as an advocate of same-sex marriage. Schneider’s Mark continues to pursue Jones’ Ann for a date. Directed by Paul Feig (“Bridesmaids”),the episode was based on a real-life story that took place at the San Francisco Zoo.
“The Master Plan” (Season 2, Episode 23): The penultimate episode of the show’s second season introduces eventual series regulars Rob Lowe and Adam Scott as state auditors who arrive in Pawnee to make major budget cuts, much to Leslie’s horror and Ron’s delight. Chris Pratt’s Andy contemplates asking Aubrey Plaza’s April to be his girlfriend at her 21 st birthday party, but is worried about their age difference, while Rashida Jones’ Ann breaks up with Paul Schneider’s Mark because the relationship “didn’t have the right chemistry.”
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“Andy and April’s Fancy Party” (Season 3, Episode 9): Winner of a Prime Time Emmy for best sound mixing, this episode features the surprise wedding of Pratt’s Andy and Plaza’s April, even as Leslie tries to dissuade them since they have been only dating a month with no place to live. Nick Offerman’s Ron opens the show by pulling out an aching tooth from his own mouth with a pair of pliers. Leslie asks Adam Scott’s Ben to stay in Pawnee and work for the department, while Rashida Jones’ Ann gamely attends a singles mixer, where she gets advice from stand-up comic and series regular Retta’s Donna.
“Eagleton” (Season 3, Episode 12): Parker Posey guest stars as the parks director from the prosperous town of Eagleton, and antagonizes her former best friend Leslie by constructing a fence to divide a park within both cities’ boundaries. Leslie appeals the decision to an Eagleton town board, but is rebuffed by the rich, snobby residents. After getting into a garbage fight with Posey that lands them both in jail, Leslie forms a wiffle ball team to take advantage of the fence. She also plans a surprise birthday party for Ron against his wishes, which turns into an intimate affair, featuring steak, whiskey and his favorite movies.
“Pawnee Rangers” (Season 4, Episode 4): Ron and Leslie get into a feud over their rival scout troops, the former’s spartan Pawnee Rangers and the latter’s more genteel, indulgent Pawnee Goddesses. Ansari’s Tom and Retta’s Donna invite Adam Scott’s Ben—despondent over the break-up of his relationship with Leslie—to their annual “Treat Yo’ Self” spa and shopping excursion. O’Heir’s Jerry takes his attractive daughter (Sarah Wright) and Rob Lowe’s Chris to lunch together.
“Win Lose or Draw” (Season 4, Episode 22): The fourth season finale offers a cliff-hanger as the gang awaits the results of the city council election pitting Leslie against Paul Rudd’s Bobby Newport, who are neck-and-neck in the latest poll. Ansari’s Tom plans a post-results party, hoping Rashida Jones’ Ann will get back together again, which she does, though in a drunken state. Adam Scott’s Ben is offered a job in Washington, DC, by Kathryn Hahn, Bobby’s campaign manager (involved in a torrid affair with Rob Lowe’s Chris), impressed with his own work managing Leslie’s campaign. When Bobby is declared the winner, the close vote triggers a recount, while a disappointed Leslie is encouraged by Ron. When all the votes are tallied again, Leslie emerges victorious, and encourages Ben to take the job in DC. Aubrey Plaza’s April turns to Chris Pratt’s Andy for help when she
accidentally deletes the department’s files.
“Halloween Surprise” (Season 5, Episode 5): In this seasonal trick or treat episode, Leslie and Ben try to decide whether he should continue his career as a campaign manager in Washington or return to Pawnee with her. Jim O’Heir’s Jerry has a heart attack and Ansari’s Tom comes up with a new business plan, while Offerman’s Ron struggles in his relationship with Diane (Lucy Lawless), as he botches an attempt to take her daughters trick or treating with Chris Pratt’s Andy, who is studying to become a cop. Rob Lowe’s Chris screens “Death Canoe 4: Murder at Blood Lake” for Pawnee staffers in costume, including Leslie as Rosie the Riveter. Im the final scene, as Leslie is about to cancel a lease on a new house, Ben walks in, resplendent in a suit and tie, surprising her with a marriage proposal.
“Are You Better Off? (Season 5, Episode 22): In the season five finale, Leslie takes the opportunity upon the close of her first year as city councilor to ask a simple question of Pawnee citizens who, much to her chagrin, angrily respond with a very different opinion. Ron finds out he’s about to become a father, while Tom looks to further his business, only t encounter competition he didn’t expect. Andy calls his alter ego, FBI agent Burt Macklin, out of retirement, to help with an investigation, as April receives life-changing news.