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'Parks and Rec' react: An ode to Garry/Jerry/Larry/Terry and Donna

Season 7 | Episodes 10 & 11 | “The Johnny Karate Super Awesome Musical Explosion Show” and “Two Funerals” | Aired Feb 17, 2015

In this week’s episodes of Parks and Rec, Andy hosted his very last episode of The Johnny Karate Super Awesome Musical Explosion Show. April cried. Tom got engaged to Lucy. Bill Murray guest-starred. And yet, all I can think to write about is my undying love for Garry/Jerry/Larry/Terry and Donna.

Every time I think of Garry (to abbreviate, even though it feels a little wrong not to include every one of his names) and Donna, I think of Gilligan’s Island. During the first season of Gilligan’s Island, the Professor and Mary Ann were tacked on to the end of the theme song with an unceremonious “and the rest,” even though they were integral to the little ensemble. Garry and Donna are Parks and Recreation’s Professor and Mary Ann. Their roles may be considered smaller than their costars’, but they’re irreplaceable and fill up a lot of real estate in the section of my heart devoted to Parks and Rec love.

I’ll start with Donna, because Garry is used to waiting his turn and patience is not a Meagle’s most abundant virtue.

Donna started her life on Parks and Recreation with a lot of well-timed eye rolls and boisterous laughs from the back of the room. Long before Retta was a series regular (season 3 onward, along with Jim O’Heir, though neither made the opening credits until Rashida Jones and Rob Lowe bowed out of the series), she was commanding attention from the podium of her Parks desk. I believe that Donna Meagle was born not from the pages of Parks and Rec scripts, but from the brilliant mind and careful decisions of Retta. On the page, Donna could be one-dimensional. She could be a wallflower that blended into the background, emerging with an occasional quip and then retreating again. Thanks to Retta, she’s more than a character; she’s a presence. And this season, her brutal honesty and self-conscious selfishness have been softened by love and perspective. She’s become the big sister/cool aunt/lifelong best friend that everyone (not just her fictional Pawnee pals) wants to text with their best news and vent about their worst days to.

Thank you, Donna Meagle, for being the big, warm hug of the Parks department. Thank you for bringing joy, light, and the most perfect kind of sass to every scene you’ve graced. Thank you for saying more with an eye roll than most people can say with a paragraph. Thank you for being the sturdy bridge between fun frivolity and endless heart, and for balancing both to perfection. Thank for you encouraging everyone to treat themselves and for showing that loving yourself is the first step to being able to shower love on those around you. And thank you, but also not thank you, for singing “Kung Fu Fighting” to Andy. I never cry watching TV, and that scene almost got me.

And now for Garry. Garry, Garry, Garry …

Calling Garry Gergich the most thankless character on Parks and Recreation is technically true, but it’s the kind of understatement that feels like a lie when said without qualification. Garry Gergich is maybe the most thankless character of all time. Garry’s existence is one joke with the variations on the same punchline—Garry is the worst. At everything. And no one likes him. As the show progressed, two things happened that saved Garry from becoming a broken record begging to be smashed: The writers gave him gifts in the form of a beautiful family and wonderful life, and Jim O’Heir used the kind of talent it’s hard to believe exists in one person to sell us on the idea that Garry is just happy to be at the party. Garry only works as a character because as much as his coworkers tease him, he really does have an amazing life that makes him happy.

And because Jim O’Heir is a genius.

I hit major Garry fatigue early on in my Parks and Rec viewing. Or, I should say, I hit major Garry joke fatigue. As brilliantly as O’Heir and the rest of the cast sold the joke, and as great as the writing always was, I had a hard time watching Garry be bullied week after week, especially by Leslie Knope, World’s Best Best Friend. Garry had enough moments that proved the rest of the department really loved him to keep my urge to jump through my screen, into Pawnee, and defend him at bay. But it wasn’t until season seven that my long-time Garry love really culminated in the emotional payoff I needed.

Season seven has been a fan’s dream. Everything I could have wanted to see happen has happened, but nothing has moved me more than seeing Garry have his day. Donna gifted him with his real name at her wedding. He got to live a notary’s dream following Ben around to get paperwork signed. He and Donna bonded over a typical Garry screw-up. And finally, in this week’s “Two Funerals,” he was named interim mayor of Pawnee after the unexpected death of Mayor Gunderson. If Garry’s life gets any better in the finale, I might actually cry real tears (especially if Donna serenades him).

Thank you, Garry Gergich, for proving that a positive outlook really does matter. Thank you for not really retiring when you said you would, even though your wife is a supermodel and wanted you home. Thank you for your expressive eyes and for delivering every line about loving your life and your coworkers with the kind of earnest sincerity that makes me melt. Thank you for staying lovable, even as everyone pretended to hate you. Thank you for being such a people pleaser, because I couldn’t be happier with anything about you.

Garry and Donna are the unsung heroes of the Parks Department, and in some ways, I’ll miss them most of all.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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