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The Happiest Shows on Earth: 'Parks and Recreation' and optimism on TV

Parks and Recreation was lauded for its combination of comedy and earnest sweetness. The people of Pawnee, Indiana, are “first in friendship, fourth in obesity,” and they proved the former to us for seven seasons. The characters love each other, love the work they do (even as underappreciated public servants), and taught us to celebrate Galentine’s Day, waffles, and ourselves (Treat yo’ self!).

Very few shows allow themselves as much happiness as Parks and Recreation did. So many shows are gritty and dark, or concern us with which major character is being killed off this week. Nothing is wrong with that; I love a lot of shows that raise my blood pressure in a very real and probably unhealthy way. But sometimes you need to balance it out with shows that make you smile every single time you watch an episode. Parks and Recreation was one of those shows.

Now that it’s gone, I want to reflect on other shows that celebrated friendship, love, and optimism, and were unafraid to be bright spots in a cynical and dark world. There aren’t many, but here are a few shows that exemplified a few of the qualities that made us love Parks so much:

1. Boy Meets World

Cory, Shawn, Topanga, and Eric.

Boy Meets World told us to fight for your friends. It showed us that young love can be everlasting, and reminded us that your friends often become your family. Cory’s earnestness and honesty is a lot like Leslie’s: Both characters strive to get things done using fairness and perseverance with a touch of neurosis. The title of this article comes from a season three episode of Boy Meets World, where Cory and Shawn travel to Disney World so Cory and Topanga can get back together.

2. Pushing Daisies

Chuck and Ned share their first, and last, kiss.

What show is brighter than Pushing Daisies? Literally one of the most colorful settings I’ve ever seen on television, Coeur d’Coeurs is the location of this modern pie-loving fairy tale (filled with the requisite dead bodies of a procedural TV series). The fact that Ned and Chuck couldn’t touch (for fear that Ned’s power would re-kill her) made them able to pour out their feelings all the more. The show honored pure and unfiltered romantic emotion in a way we rarely see on television. Ned would trump everyone in a Pawnee “pie-mary.”

3. Parenthood

The family from Parenthood

I’ve never watched Parenthood (tragic, I know!), but from the many friends who’ve watched it, I get the impression that it has a very Parks effect on its viewers. As the New Yorker put it: “It manages to be warm, even sentimental, without being dumb.”

4. The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon

Jimmy Fallon

Everyone knows that Jimmy Fallon is the most optimistic guy in late night. His genuine love of people (not just celebrities and their work, but of them as people)—and being unafraid to laugh at himself—make him a bright spot on television. He celebrates happiness and having fun no matter what. These qualities, unlike any other television personalities’, are what many people love about him and his show. Andy Dwyer and Jimmy have a lot in common: They’re both goofy, love to sing and play guitar, and host their own shows. (Can the Johnny Karate Super Awesome Musical Explosion Show please be a real show?)

5. The West Wing

The West Wing‘s political idealism matches Leslie’s belief that there are people in the government who can and wants to get things done. With the fan-held assumption that Leslie Knope is president in the future, maybe in a few years we could get a Parks and Rec reboot with Leslie in the West Wing.

Can anything fill the void?

Jane, Xiomara, Abuela Alba, and Rogelio.

There are few shows like Parks and Recreation that display all the happiness, love, friendship, waffle appreciation, and willingness to help people even when they don’t appreciate it. When looking for a taste of that kind of optimism and enthusiasm on TV, I turn to this season’s Jane the Virgin. A wacky but extremely heartfelt telenovela, the tituluar character is very Leslie Knope. She’s a planner, loves labels and binders, and moves with an earnestness to help those around her who she loves. Jane is always sincere; it’s her honesty, not her deception, that gets her into trouble. If any currently running show can continue the trend of warmth and friendship that Parks gave us, I think it’s Jane the Virgin.

There will never again be a show like Parks and Recreation, but hopefully other shows will give us pieces of the same hope—and love of life and friendship—that Parks and Recreation brought to our TVs for seven years.

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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