Parks & Recreation was the best comedy show of the 2010s by far. Though the first season was a little uneven, by season two the show had definitely hit its stride. Since then, it’s become one of the most rewatchable shows and you’d be hard pressed to find a fan who has only watched the show through once. In many ways, the show is absolutely timeless.
However, society has come a long way in the last five years, and already some of the episodes have aged pretty poorly. So we’ve rounded up the five most timeless parts of the show, and its five worst moments.
10 Aged Poorly: Ben’s Creepy Obsession with Jerry/Garry/Larry and Gayle
After Ben meets Gayle, he can’t get over the disparity between their levels of conventional beauty. He is stunned that Gayle (played by Christie Brinkley, a former model) would have ended up with Jerry/Garry/Larry. At various times he wonders if Gayle is a KGB agent, under some kind of hypnosis, or has a brain disorder. When Leslie encourages him to let go of it he says, “I can’t, it keeps me up at night.”
Ben seriously needs to let it go. Just because Garry isn’t as hot as Gayle doesn’t mean he doesn’t bring other things to the table! For instance, in season six we learn he’s an amazing chef and excellent dancer. The joke that Gayle could only love someone as attractive as she is seems cheap and lazy today.
9 Timeless: Leslie Learns Her Lesson with the Wamapoke
This is a low point for Leslie in the series. When she buries the Wamapoke artifacts in lot 48 so that Councilman Jamm can’t build a Paunch Burger, it’s unforgivable.
So why is it timeless? Because Leslie learns her lesson. Because her friends tell her she’s done a terrible thing and they have to spend the rest of the party trying to fix it. And most importantly, because she apologizes to Ken Hotate’s face and admits her mistake. Sure, there are jokes throughout (like April shouting “Use the pen****s!” while digging), but this is not a good moment for Leslie Knope, and it’s important that we see her learn this lesson about respecting minority cultures instead of exploiting them.
8 Aged Poorly: Andy Stalking Ann from the Pit
After Ann and Andy break up, there’s a long run of episodes where Andy tries to win Ann back. Sure, we’ve all been heartbroken and wished an ex would give us another chance, maybe even months on. But from today’s perspective, that arc makes Andy look pathetic.
Worse, however, it also makes Andy creepy. He lives in a tent in the pit behind Ann’s house? He watches her come and go? If Andy didn’t have such a lovable puppy dog kind of energy, this is the opening to a horror movie! Thankfully, he’s caught and Ann scolds him, but he never really faces any other punishment.
7 Timeless: Everyone’s Love for Li'l Sebastian
Losing a beloved pet is part of human life, unfortunately. And the heartbreak you feel is very real. Your friends might think you’re crazy for wanting to have a funeral for him (and animal funerals are occasionally the butt of jokes, like in The Good Place), but hasn’t everyone secretly wanted to throw an enormous funerary send-off like they do for Li'l Sebastian in Parks & Rec?
The Li’l Sebastian in your life deserved an Italian poem, a video montage, a grand fire complete with military march, and all the rest of it. But if you can’t afford that all, the love the Parks Department has for that miniature horse is the next best thing.
6 Aged Poorly: Tom’s Annoyingly Relentless Pursuit of Ann
Tom is pretty awful to women in general, especially in earlier seasons. The first few minutes of the pilot show him hitting on Ann in the middle of a town hall meeting. And when they eventually start dating, he shows that he has no sympathy for her needs and no respect for her boundaries whatsoever. He so relentlessly begs her to stay with him or get back together with him, and her warmest response is “you wore me down.” Which he thinks is a compliment, somehow!
At no point is their relationship good, but Tom’s initial pursuit of Ann is particularly annoying.
5 Timeless: Ann's and Leslie’s Friendship
The friendship so grand that it launched 103 scrapbooks is indeed one for the ages. Ann and Leslie are endlessly supportive of one another, push each other to be better people, and together they make Pawnee a better place. Helpfully they’re also hilarious today, and Leslie’s love for Ann has birthed some of the best compliments anyone could ever receive, including “beautiful glowing sun goddess” and “beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful, muskox.”
The only reason we’re not all jealous of their friendship is because it’s so pure. Even when Leslie is being controlling, their friendship give us all something to aspire to.
4 Aged Poorly: Leslie Shaming the Strippers
In the one where Tom gets divorced, Leslie commits to doing anything to cheer him up. She tries taking him to Jurassic Fork for dinner, and when that doesn’t work they head off to the Glitter Factory so Tom can move on by seeing strippers.
Leslie, however, is awful the whole time. She universally shames all the strippers in the building, and even when she’s buying a lap dance for Tom she’s a jerk to the woman. She repeatedly calls her Seabiscuit, comparing her to a horse. Leslie calls herself a feminist as she stands outside The Glitter Factory, but feminism that isn’t intersectional is useless.
3 Timeless: Tom Advising Chris to Start Therapy
Early in season 5, the usually wildly optimistic Chris Traeger starts to spiral downward. He is first heartbroken over his break up with Millicent Gergich and then has an existential crisis when he realizes that he’ll die someday.
Tom steps up at the end of an episode and encourages Chris to see a therapist. He starts to realize that he’s always been extrinsically motivated, and begin seeing Dr. Richard Nygard. Of course, there’s an argument to be made that Dr. Nygard is a basically a cult leader, but Chris is much healthier by the end of their sessions.
2 Aged Poorly: Louis C.K.’s Role
Knowing what we know now about Louis C.K., his appearance as Dave Sanderson, a gentle and kind police officer that Leslie Knope dates, is uncomfortable. He appears in several episodes and Leslie considers moving to San Diego with him. His last appearance is when he tries to break Leslie and Ben up because he wants her back.
To make it worse, series creator Mike Schur has acknowledged that he had already heard the rumors about Louis C.K.’s sexual misconduct when he brought him back on the show. Whether he had heard them before or after casting him as Dave is unclear, but Schur certainly knew about the harassment and let the comedian back on set anyway.
1 Timeless: Leslie’s and Ben’s Relationship
These two characters had so much on-screen chemistry that it was inevitable that they would end up together. The only unknown was how long it would take.
Of course, their relationship didn’t go smoothly. They had to temporarily break up when Leslie was running for city council, and even after they married they had a big blow out fight in a fountain. But just like Leslie’s friendship with Ann, her marriage to Ben is aspirational. They love each other, support each other, and like each other. They have inside jokes that are hilarious, and have taught each other so much. Ben and Leslie are timeless.