The Best Show on TelevisionSeptember 21, 2011
Quiet, Mad Men. Shut up, Breaking Bad. I know that one of you is actually the Best Show on Television. But you know what? Neither of you has Ron Swanson.
In fact, neither of you has six Ron Swansons superimposed against an American flag.
Actually, Parks and Rec doesn’t have six Ron Swansons superimposed against an American flag either. That would be ridiculous.
Here’s the point — Parks and Rec currently holds the prestigious title of Reinman’s Favorite Show of the Moment and Also It Has to Be Still on the Air at the Time He’s Watching It — In Other Words, It Can’t Be One He Discovered Through Re-Runs or on DVD Like Freaks and Geeks, Otherwise Freaks and Geeks Would Obviously Hold the Title for 1999.
And now, in an effort to contribute information to the internet, I am going to provide the complete list of shows to have held that title (which, for personal reasons, I have chosen not to repeat):
1984 – 1986: N/A
1987 – 1988: Sesame Street (For some reason, my favorite segment was the one where you followed that ball around some sort of psychedelic shopping mall/menagerie/bowling alley while hippies sang “1-2-3-4-5, 6-7-8-9-10, 11-12.”)
1989 – 1990: Ducktales (This was my first experience with continuing, mutli-episode story arcs. I remember the time-traveling Bubba Duck saga blowing my six-year-old mind.)
1991: Talespin (I never hear this one mentioned when people of my generation speak nostalgically of childhood shows, but make no mistake about it — Talespin was awesome.)
1992: Darkwing Duck (“Suck gas, evildoer.”)
1993: Star Trek: The Next Generation (Nerd…)
1994 – 1995: The Tick (The biggest gut-punch cancellation of my life — I had absolutely no warning. I turned on the TV, expecting to see the follow-up to another brilliant Speak episode, and instead I got some piece of crap garbage crap dump toilet brown crap called Eagle-Crap-Jerk-Riders. I was so traumatized that the piece of crap theme song is still burned into my memory. I’m still so mad about it I can’t even write coherently.)
1996 – 2002: The Simpsons (I hung on about two seasons too long.)
2003 – 2005: NFL football (This was a dark period — in retrospect, it should’ve been Arrested Development.)
2006: Friday Night Lights (The favorite of favorites — the only show I’ve ever aggressively pestered people to watch. In fact, I’m going to pester you right now. Watch it. It’s the best. You’ll love it. Unfortunately, it can only qualify for one year on this list because the show got jerked around so much. Season 1 was the only one I enjoyed “purely” as it was airing. Season 2 was a little disenchanting, and I caught the last three brilliant seasons through a combination of re-airing on NBC, Hulu, and DVD.)
2007 – 2008: The Office (I still love The Office, but we can all admit its best days are behind it.)
2009: Lost (I was all in during season 5 — and then, well, then that other season happened.)
2010: Modern Family (A good show that got a huge bump because ABC was the only channel I got that year — I mean, Wipeout was in the running for goodness sake.)
2011: Parks and Recreation
Five thoughts on Parks and Rec:
1. Of all people, it was the inclusion of straight-laced Ben that pushed the show over the top for me. He arrived at the same time as Chris (Rob Lowe), a character who is a million times funnier (all it takes is one “AnnePerkins!” and he’s already got me cracking up), but Chris was just one more crazy/funny character on a show that had a wealth of them.
Ben, however, brought that essential quality of being the stand-in for the viewer (this used to be Anne’s roll, but she started to go a little crazy herself during season 3).
Ben is the only one who doesn’t crack up at Crazy Ira and the Douche’s radio bits. Ben is the only one who is dumbfounded when everyone — Ron included (or more accurately, especially Ron) — seems to be pathologically in love with the miniature horse Li’l Sebastian.
Ben and his conspiratorial glances at the camera (trademark: Jim Halpert) keeps the show grounded somewhat in reality, which, by contrast, makes the crazy things that happen around him seem even crazier. (And like fellow straight-man Jim Halpert, Ben gets to be really funny on occasion as well, especially in pressure situations.)
2. I love the way Parks and Rec portrays police officers. The show avoids the easy cliche of the out-of-shape, donut-scarfing cop. Rather, building off the model established by the brilliant Louis C. K., the police officers on Parks and Rec are professional and polite, but also almost painfully stiff, conversing with Leslie and others in a clipped, jargon-peppered dialect — making for a respectful portrayal that doesn’t have to sacrifice humor in the process.
3. Ron Swanson is the evolutionary Hank Hill — a staunchly conservative character who nevertheless is beloved by audiences across the political spectrum.
They are both men of simple passions. (Hank loves propane; Ron loves meat.) They are both routinely victorious over hippies/euphorians. (Hank often literally kicks euphorians in the ass; Ron wins a cook-off by serving a plain all-beef hamburger patty on a plain bun.)
But only Ron rocks a sweet, sweet stache. (I did, after all, call him the evolutionary Hank Hill.)
4. My only complaint against the show is that it occasionally ventures a step too far into Crazy Land. There’s the mural of the traveling magician who visited Pawnee and was burned at the stake — in 1973. And there are smaller moments that aren’t as obviously crazy but still break the illusion of reality, such as when Ben appears on a daytime talk-show and a graphic labels him “Human Disaster.”
These are funny moments, yes, but they feel undisciplined. Parks and Rec is a fantastic show — it shouldn’t have to resort to breaking the “reality” it has established just to go for a couple of easy laughs.
5. Number 4, though, isn’t really a big deal at all.
So that is, literally, all the thoughts I have ever had about Parks and Rec.
Tell me what you think of the show.
Tell me if you have seen the show. (I probably should have put this one first. Oh well, I already typed it this way — there’s no way to change it now.)
Tell me your list of favorite shows, year-by-year.
And tomorrow, remember to watch the season premiere of Parks and Rec — the Greatest Show in Television History.