“We love the show because too often public service workers are vilified by the media,” explained Tiffany Ricci, an AFSCME employee who helped organize the Leslie Knope advocacy.Even Vice President Biden seems to be aware of the show’s, uh, references to him. (“He’s on my celebrity sex list,” Leslie previously confessed. “He is my celebrity sex list.”)“The Vice President encourages all citizens to get involved in public service,” Biden’s press secretary, Kendra Barkoff, said in an e-mail when asked to comment on Knope’s crush. “We here in his office have followed Ms. Knope’s career with interest and wish her well on her upcoming election.”
Yet before you assume that “Parks and Recreation” is actually bluer and more pro-Obama than its stated apolitical stance indicates, consider the man who has emerged as perhaps the most beloved character on the show: the aforementioned Ron Swanson, staunch advocate for guns, manual labor and the end of taxation, with or without representation. The “Parks and Rec” personality unofficially responsible for the most Tumblrs, YouTube montages and other assorted online memes, he’s the ultimate antigovernment government employee. Proof: In the April 19 episode, he was promoted to assistant city manager even after stating, “I do not believe the position nor the entire government should exist.”
“I always like to think that [‘Parks and Rec’ co-creators] Greg Daniels and Mike Schur are to blame for coming up with the perfect piece of candy that the American psyche was kind of craving,” says Nick Offerman, the man behind Swanson. “And it happened to be just a sort of normal, blue-collar, plumber-like man who likes meat and brunettes and breakfast foods and lives by a simple code.”
Perhaps it’s that combination of viewpoints — Swanson’s open frustration with government, Knope’s warm embrace of it and, for good measure, Tom’s belief that get-rich-quick capitalism can save the day — that makes“Parks and Rec” so right for these times, like a more sarcastic, oddball, localized version of “The West Wing.” In fact, if the ethos of the show could be distilled and turned into a candidate for any political party, it seems fair to assume it would win.But despite its loyal fan base, it hasn’t been winning in the Nielsen ratings.
“Parks and Rec” began its fourth season by consistently grabbing 4 million-plus viewers each week, but in its new 9:30 p.m.Thursday time slot, immediately after “The Office,” about 3.4 million people watched last week. (ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” and CBS’s “Person of Interest,” its competition in the 9 p.m. hour, snagged 9.8 and 8.8 million sets of eyeballs, respectively.) NBC has not yet announced whether it plans to renew “Parks and Rec,” although, given the media and online attention it continues to attract, that seems likely.And if Knope’s tenacity — dare we say, the audacity of Knope? — leads her to continue climbing the political ladder, it could open new story line possibilities for Poehler’s protagonist. Perhaps, even, a move to Washington?
“She’s not a complacent person,” Schur says of Knope, who will debate Rudd’s Newport in the April 26 episode, directed by Poehler. “She really loves her job and she really loves her town. But she’s antsy. She wants to move up in the world and I don’t see any reason to deny the character that pleasure.”
“The show is about the fact that there’s a lot of people who work together who have nothing in common except for the fact that they work together,” notes Poehler. “That really describes, to me, national politics.”
Nick Offerman on the appeal of Ron Swanson
Adam Scott on the future for Ben and Leslie