Tuesday night marked the end of an era at NBC. That evening, we said goodbye to the last of the network’s niche, quality comedies that have defined its programming for the past several years. “30 Rock,” “Community” and “Parenthood” survived for much longer than they normally would have due to NBC’s perpetually low ratings. Ending its run this week, the brilliant “Parks and Recreation” left us with a beautiful finale that gave us insight into the characters’s futures and allowed us to say goodbye to one of the all-time greatest comedies on television.

“Parks and Recreation”

Series Finale
Tuesdays at 8 p.m.

The “Parks” finale followed the former members of the Pawnee Parks Department as they worked to complete “one last job” by fixing a broken swing. As they went through the process, Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler, “Saturday Night Live”) had a final moment with each core ensemble character, then flashed forward to detail each character’s definitive end.

Donna (Retta, “Drunk History”) moved to Seattle with Joe (Keegan-Michael Key, “Key & Peele”) and started a nonprofit to help finance education. Craig (Billy Eichner, “Billy on the Street”) married Typhoon and grew old with him. Jerry (Jim O’Heir, “Strip Mall”) lives happily as mayor until age 100. April (Aubrey Plaza, “Safety Not Guaranteed”) has a child with Andy (Chris Pratt, “Guardians of the Galaxy”). Tom’s (Aziz Ansari, “Human Giant”) restaurant goes under and he writes a best-selling book about his failures. Ron (Nick Offerman, “Children’s Hospital”) becomes the superintendent of the Pawnee National Park — and our endearing Leslie becomes the governor of Indiana with Ben’s (Adam Scott, “Party Down”) support. She is finally one step closer to her presidential dream.

This episode did exactly what all series finales should: It reminded viewers about why they followed — dedicated themselves — to the show for so long. The hour never lost track of the warm sentimentality that made the show great. The entire idea of the finale was built upon how much these characters truly love one another, and especially how much Leslie cares about each of them. It was simply another episode, without any gimmicks that made the show feel like it was something it wasn’t — just a piece fit for the final run.

What really made this episode special were the little moments within the flash-forwards. One of the best was the return of Ann (Rashida Jones, “The Office”) and Chris (Rob Lowe, “The West Wing”), allowing us to check in with characters we still care about, even after they left Pawnee (even if it did lead to Ron bashing the University of Michigan). What made the scene was Poehler’s delighted delivery of “Ann’s here!” before running up to hug her. Another favorite was Ron out on the lake in a beautifully composed sequence and location. There was also Jerry’s 100th birthday party, giving the often-bashed character one last chance to celebrate. “Parks” had several landmark moments over the course of its long run (like the Harvest Festival in the third season), but what really built the show were the commonplace interactions between these characters. The finale was able to honor that with small character notes of its own.

It’s fitting that “Parks and Recreation” closes this particular chapter of NBC programming. The show survived for seven seasons mostly because NBC had other problems to fix. This little show ran its course naturally, creating episodes that were managed to be both hilarious and heartwarming. The finale served as a reminder of what made this show great and how much it will be missed. TV is a sadder place without new stories from Pawnee, but “Parks” undoubtedly leaves a legacy as one of the best TV comedies of all time.

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