Parks and Recreation is truly one of my all-time favorite shows thanks to its combination of heart and humor. The warm tone, genuine affection that the characters have for one another and belief in the ability of people to change the world for the better makes it a comforting and delightful comedy show.
In anticipation of this week’s brand new Parks and Recreation episode to benefit Feeding America’s Coronavirus Relief Fund, I want to get into the Pawnee spirit! Whether you’ve seen the show a zillion times or you’re looking for good episodes to check out to get on board, I hope this list inspires you to grab a plate of waffles and enjoy some comedy!
Pawnee Zoo (Season 2 Episode 1)
The first season of Parks and Recreation is passable, but the show really takes off in its second season. Though this episode definitely has some dated notions about gender and sexuality it functions almost like a perfect second chance at a pilot! We meet all of the Pawnee Parks Department, along with some of the series’ best reoccurring bit characters like Joan Calamezzo!
Andy and April’s Fancy Party (Season 3 Episode 9)
It’s time to speak my truth: I think Parks and Recreation’s third season is basically a perfect season of television. There’s an alternate universe in which this article is just entirely focused on getting people to recognize season three for the masterpiece that it is.
In Andy and April’s Fancy Party, we’re treated to a surprise wedding, forbidden love between coworkers, and Ann Perkins hilariously striking out at a dating event. Gotta be honest: the wedding sequence in which April says she hates most things but can’t seem to hate Andy tugs on my heartstrings every time I watch it.
The Fight (Season 3 Episode 13)
This is it, folks: My absolute favorite episode of Parks and Recreation. I have seen it a heebity-jillion times.
I maintain that the show is at its very best when the entire cast is involved in group activities. In The Fight, the whole parks department goes out to The Snakehole Lounge for a night of debauchery as they partake in Tom Haverford’s new liquor, Snake Juice.
This episode also brings us Jean Ralphio’s silly, off-beat, non-rhyming raps. Whenever I’m having a bad day, singing “R to the O to the N-N-N yeah, Swanson’s got swagger the size of Big Ben Clock” makes everything better.
Do you need more evidence that this episode is the greatest? Just remember it’s the one that brought us the gif of Ron Swanson blissfully dancing in an old-timey ladies’ hat.
Pawnee Rangers (Season 4 Episode 4)
Parks and Recreation had a positive impact on many aspects of culture, but this is probably the episode that changed ALL OF US for the better. “How?” you may ask…I’ll tell you in three words.
Yes, Pawnee Rangers introduced our culture to the concept of one-day consumerist excitement that is “Treat Yo Self.” But it also gave us the delightful Pawnee Goddesses, who have puppy parties, craft time, and puppet shows about The Bill of Rights!
Hear my womanly roar: YAAAAAAAAAAAH
The Comeback Kid (Season 4 Episode 11)
You know how I mentioned that the best episodes involve the whole team coming together? This is one of those episodes. However, instead of perfect projects and joyful hangouts we are treated to a hilarious disaster of a campaign rally for Leslie Knope’s city council run.
Trust me. After this episode, you’ll never hear Gloria Estefan’s “Get On Your Feet” the same way again.
Leslie and Ben (Season 5 Episode 14)
Leslie Knope and Ben Wyatt make up one of television’s sweetest couples. It’s so encouraging to see partners who love one another for the ways they complement each other’s personalities and styles. They love each other and they like each other.
This episode features their adorable wedding. Sure, there are hiccups along the way…but the end result is incredibly positive and heartwarming.
Ann and Chris (Season 6 Episode 12)
The departure of Ann Perkins and Chris Traeger definitely changed life in Pawnee…but this episode gives them a lovely sendoff! Leslie hosts a cute party to celebrate all the events through the year that she and Ann would normally celebrate together. Soon, however, the two of them are on a fun final mission together to fulfill the promise that founded their friendship! Once again, this gives us an excuse to hang with some Pawnee side characters we know and love like the verbose newsman Perd Hapley.
Another bonus? Seeing all the men of the Parks Department hanging out together, positively supporting one another, and trying to find the perfect goodbye gift for Chris. I’m all about the positive examples of masculinity and male friendship in this series!
Moving Up (Season 6 Episode 20)
The sixth season finale of Parks and Rec is such a treat because of the sheer scale of it compared to your average episode. This one has Michelle Obama! Giant Redwood Trees! A concert featuring members of real-life bands like Yo La Tengo and Wilco!
Another pleasant quality this episode has is its general optimism for the future. Sure, things can change. And sure, that can be difficult. But by following your heart and gathering your best crew of people, you can get through any big changes!
Leslie and Ron (Season 7 Episode 4)
Leslie and Ron is special because it’s carried almost exclusively by…well…Leslie and Ron. The premise is that these two have been fighting for a long time, but viewers don’t know why. So when the two famous characters are shut in at the Parks Department overnight they have no choice but to hash things out and mend their friendship!
Parks and Recreation often supports that people can be friends even in the face of ideological disagreements as long as their hearts are in the right place—and Leslie and Ron prove that time and again in the series!
One Last Ride (Season 7 Episode 12)
A quick personal tidbit: This episode first aired at a time in my life when my husband and I moved away from a city we loved. It gave me hope to think that even when we’re far from people we love, the future can hold promise for all of us. It’s a message that I’m really taking to heart these days, too.
One Last Ride neatly ties up the lives and stories of everyone in the main Parks and Recreation crew. Some have accused this ending of being a little too sappy, but I don’t care. This is a show that wants the best for its characters, and I couldn’t be happier to know our favorite fictional people are living good lives!
Do you have a favorite Parks and Recreation episode? Or a character who lights up your life? Tell us more about it in the comments or by tweeting @onfrolic! And remember in these uncertain times that every so often, it’s good to TREAT YO SELF.