In case you weren’t aware that America is a nation full of idiots with poor taste in entertainment, consider this. Two and a Half Men is the most watched sitcom in America, averaging about 18 million viewers each week. 2 Broke Girls has 13 million. Mike and Molly, which wastes the comedic talent of Melissa McCarthy with mean spirited fat jokes, gets 13 million. (How I Met Your Mother, by far the best CBS sitcom, comes in behind those three. Go figure!) And, meanwhile, Parks and Recreation and Community, easily the two best sitcoms on network TV, struggle along with about 4 million viewers each.
Community’s struggle is understandable. The show about seven quirky friends at a junior college is filled with meta-references about obscure pop culture tidbits, which can alienate mainstream viewers. And it airs on NBC at 8pm on Thursdays opposite CBS’s hit show The Big Bang Theory, which, while not as good as Community, is still pretty funny and was already a hit before Community first aired.
But there’s no excuse for why millions more watch CBS’s execrable Rules of Engagement at 8:30 over NBC’s Parks and Rec. (Watching David Spade act like a slime ball is not humor. It’s torture. David Spade’s career should have died with Chris Farley. But I digress.)
I could tell you that Parks and Recreation is an Office-style mockumentary about city hall government workers in the fictional city of Pawnee, Indiana, with Emmy nominated SNL alum Amy Poehler starring as cheery and hardworking parks and rec assistant director Leslie Knope, who hangs pictures in her office of Hillary Clinton and Madeleine Albright and hopes to one day be president.
Or I could tell you that Parks and Rec co-stars Nick Offerman as dour faced libertarian parks and rec director Ron Swanson, who is quickly becoming a cult legend for his awesome mustache and his hilarious deadpan quips—“Birthdays were invented by Hallmark to sell cards.” “Fishing: it’s like yoga except I still get to kill something.” “The whole point of this country is if you want to eat garbage, balloon up to 600 pounds and die of a heart attack at 43, you can! You are free to do so. To me, that’s beautiful.”—and, during one episode, decided to teach a 9 year old girl just what government does to taxpayers by emptying her lunchbox and eating 40 percent of her sandwich.
Or I could tell you that Pawnee is the most fully created fictional town since Springfield from The Simpsons, culminating in Season 3’s Harvest Festival episode and Season 3’s season finale memorial service for beloved Pawnee miniature horse and Harvest Festival main attraction Li’l Sebastian, which climaxed with the song “5000 candles in the wind,” created by city hall shoeshiner, guitar player, and goofball Andy Dwyer, who took Leslie Knope’s instructions literally to write a song “5000 times better than Elton John’s Candle in the Wind.” And speaking of Andy, the romances on Parks and Rec are sweet and adorable. Andy and April Ludgate, and Leslie and Ben Wyatt, have nice, innocent, fun, healthy, charming relationships. They literally get giddy and excited talking about making out. In contrast to shows like Two and Half Men where the characters are loathsome human beings who hate and emotionally hurt each other and talk about nothing else but sex, the characters on Parks and Recreation are nice people who genuinely like one another. There’s none of that grating “battle of the sexes” nonsense. The male characters respect women, even and especially iconic manly man Ron Swanson, who hunts and fishes and loves meat and bacon and breakfast food and drinks whiskey straight, but is attracted to strong women like his ex-wives Tammy 1 and Tammy 2 and never makes a pass at or disrespects his female co-workers and genuinely cares for and helps his office mates, even if he does it with a raised eyebrow grimace. And there’s not a better friendship on television than Leslie’s and Ann Perkins’s.
Parks and Recreation has the wit of shows like Community and 30 Rock, but without the snobbish desire to cater only to hipsters by making the jokes overly meta or obscure. And Parks and Rec is so wholesome and gosh darn nice that your grandma would like it. I frankly don’t understand why people aren’t watching. Maybe Americans don’t realize they can change the channel from CBS to NBC. Or maybe Americans are still too lazy to watch a comedy show without laugh tracks, a comedy show that trusts them, and expects them, to figure out when something is funny and laugh for themselves.