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'Parks and Recreation' series finale fan recap: Exactly what fans deserve

Season 7 | Episodes 12 & 13 | “One Last Ride” | Aired Feb 24, 2015

Parks and Recreation wrapped up seven seasons of laughs and love tonight. The hour-long finale was certainly more heartwarming than hilarious, but that’s not a bad thing. At the end of season six, the show jumped three years into the future, to 2017, for season seven. It’s appropriate that the series sang its swan song in future tense, in flash-forwards that showed fans where all of their favorites ended up.

Is it a groundbreaking concept? No. But who cares? It’s satisfying, just like Parks and Rec (almost) always was. So how does everyone end up? What’s the good and the bad? The expected, the obvious, the completely unexpected, the curveballs?


The most nonsensical thing about the Parks and Rec finale wasn’t any of the amazing things that happen to the characters in the future; it was that Jean-Ralphio got a flash-forward. The flash-forwards were otherwise reserved for main cast, the real members of the Parks Department. Jean-Ralphio’s future involves him faking his own death to run away with the insurance money and start a casino. It’s a random, meaningless aside and, sorry, Jean-Ralphio, but I would have traded it in a heartbeat for more Ann and Chris time.


Craig marries Typhoon and he keeps on screaming, well into old age. There isn’t a lot to his story, but it seems like a happy one. It’s brief in a way that makes me wonder if there was more that was cut for time and, if there was, why that time wasn’t taken from Jean-Ralphio.


Donna is everything you want her to be. She’s wealthy and loved and she loves her husband, Joe, deeply and genuinely in return. The real estate market in Seattle is great for her and she showers herself in diamonds and treats the love of her life to exotic vacations. When he complains that the school district has cut math (let’s hope that’s not really the future we have to look forward to), Donna decides to take some of her vacation fund and use it to start a foundation through April’s nonprofit. The program is called Teach Yo Self, and it provides teachers with the funds to run the programs they need.

The great thing about Donna’s future is that she grows. She doesn’t change in any unbelievable ways; she just grows. She becomes the best version of the person she’s always been. She also has amazingly fierce, red highlights in the future. The future is awesome for Donna.


Tom’s story is sad, but then not. It’s also satisfying, but then not. Of all the Parks alums, Tom is the only one who suffers any real strife in his life (yes, that’s including Garry). He tries to expand Tom’s Bistro into a franchise and he fails. He loses everything (but not Lucy) and has to start from scratch. He does, though. He rebuilds himself as a best-selling author and motivational speaker. His best seller is called Failure: An American Success StoryIt breaks down seven archetypes of success, named after all of his Parks friends (minus Garry).

The sad thing is that even with his massive success, Tom doesn’t grow. He doesn’t really change. He’s still the guy who doesn’t give Leslie and Ben a sincere compliment. He’s still the guy who is too full of himself to see the amazing people around him, even though he borrowed their personalities for his book and used them for profit. Of all the Parks flash-forwards, Tom’s is the one that doesn’t feel right, like it’s a puzzle piece that’s been slightly miscut and is throwing off the big picture.

April and Andy

April and Andy’s futures are entwined forever. In the future, in D.C., Andy desperately wants a baby, but April doesn’t. She turns to Leslie for advice, and it’s not really clear if she wants to be talked into or out of her decision. In an un-Leslie move, Leslie refuses to push her in any direction, but a year later, on Halloween, April is in labor. Andy suggests naming the baby Burt Snake Hole Lugdate Karate Dracula Macklin Demon Jack-O’-Lantern Dwyer—Jack for short. And Jack it is.

April’s nerves about starting a family are tied to her fear of her kids being “lame,” but that’s really code for worry that she and Andy won’t be good parents. They do take the plunge, and she’s even expecting baby number two in a later flash-forward. The only truly disappointing thing about April and Andy’s future is that his career is never addressed. I can’t help but wonder if he started another children’s show or found another calling.


Eventually, Ron tires of work at Very Good Building & Development Company. Upon having this realization, he resigns on the spot, leaving the company in the hands of the board (his brothers). He goes to Leslie for guidance and she promises to pour all of her energy into helping him find the perfect next step. Boy, does she deliver. She shuffles people around and gets him a job running the Pawnee National Park. His job is to walk the grounds of a National Park every day. Yes, it’s with the Federal government, but it’s perfect for him.

I can’t express how happy I am with Ron’s life. It’s a beautiful contradiction that his dream job involves working for the Federal government. He gets to spend his days in nature, in the town he grew up in. It’s brilliant and the best possible ending for Ron Swanson.


Garry’s future is amazing, just as you knew it would be. After his term as interim mayor ends, he’s elected to the position for real, by an overwhelming write-in ballot. He serves at least 10 terms as mayor and dies on his 100th birthday, surrounded by family and friends and a wife and daughters who haven’t aged a day.

Sadly, the most interesting thing about Garry’s flash-forward isn’t about Garry. At his funeral, Leslie and Ben are flanked by Secret Service agents, hinting that one of them goes on to become president. But even though Garry is overshadowed at his own funeral, his story is still lovely. He lives the full, happy, idyllic life you would expect. He gets a real happily ever after.

Leslie and Ben

Finally, we get to Leslie and Ben. They live in Washington. They get invited, at least semi-regularly, to dinner at Joe Biden’s house. Leslie has never looked more gorgeous in her life. At one fateful dinner at Biden’s, a woman named Janet from the DNC approaches Leslie about running for Governor of Indiana. Separately, at the same party, Jennifer Barkley approaches Ben about the same job. As Ben and Leslie are trying to decide who will run (they have identical pro/con lists), they return to Pawnee for a reunion with all of their friends and decide to get outside perspectives, but forget to ask for anyone’s opinions in their busyness catching up with old friends. Ann and Chris are there, along with their kids, Oliver and Leslie (how cute is that?).

When it comes to the big decision, Leslie suggests flipping a coin because there’s no wrong answer, and Ben is so moved that he announces Leslie’s candidacy. She wins, and spends two terms in office as Governor before moving on to a mysterious next big step, hinted at in a speech she delivers at Indiana University in 2035. But we’re left to assume (or at least hope) that that step is a presidential campaign, and that the Secret Service agents at Garry’s funeral were hers.

Leslie and Ben’s future is so perfect, it reads like fan fiction—the kind with no conflict, just wish fulfillment. The entire finale plays out conflict-free, for the most part. But that’s okay. The Parks and Recreation finale is, like the entire seventh season, exactly what the fans of the show wanted and deserved. We’ve dedicated years and tears and laughs and love to these characters, and Parks said farewell in a way that honored all of that. It ends on Leslie being asked if she’s ready for what’s ahead, to which she replies, “Yes, I’m ready.” I’m still not ready for Parks and Recreation to be over, but I can’t think of a better ending.

Most hilarious moments:

  • Garry gets an answer right and Leslie screams, “Five points for Hufflepuff!”
  • Ben creates a sequel board game, Cones of Dunshire: Winds of Tremorrah, which is described as “punishingly intricate.”
  • To honor Leslie, Indiana University names its library after her. She hates this and curses it under her breath, because she still hates libraries, even in 2035.
  • Andy creates a new character: Sgt. Thunderfist, M.D.
  • Leslie gives Chris three new compliments for Ann: Ann, you rainbow-infused space unicorn; Ann, you beautiful sassy mannequin come to life; and Ann, you opalescent tree shark.
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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