They say that home is where the heart is. My heart belongs in a fictional town in an often forgotten state in a country I have never visited. Pawnee, Indiana feels as real to me as my home town. These two towns could not be more different, aside from one being fictional and the other, well, being in Wales. They have both, however, had comedy shows based on them. Pawnee being the setting of long-running, well-loved NBC show Parks and Recreation, Barry playing host to Gavin and Stacey from BBC Wales.
Parks and Recreation aired from April 9th 2009 to February 24th 2015, spanning seven seasons. Only the first two of which have ever broken onto British airwaves. But that did not stop the global reach of this show breaking down borders, breaking down walls between people. If recent events have anything to go by, making new friends is a lot easier if you have Parks and Recreation reaction gifs to hand.
I remember the week I was introduced to this show as though it was yesterday. It was the middle of August 2013. I was living, alone, in Liverpool nearly 300 miles away from home. I had just moved to this strange city, had just broken off things with a long-term partner. I had never felt more homesick. An acquaintance had mentioned this show, Parks and Recreation more than once.
Living in Liverpool was the first time I had truly moved out of my childhood home. Sure, I had just spent four hours on the south coast of England at university. But this was different. This was the big, wide world. And it was scary. One lonely night after work, I found myself pondering what to kill away the hours watching. Next thing I knew, I had consumed the entire first season of Parks and Recreation and the early morning sun was filtering through my window. I was hooked.
Before long, and coincidentally the day before the season 6 premiere, I was all caught up with the comings and goings of the realistic characters of the Parks department. The characters are more true to life than most people I know. However, I could quite easily point to people in the office and say “He’s an April” or “She’s a Leslie”. But deep down, the characters represent parts of each of us that we may not want to admit to. Personally, I very often take on board Ron’s dislike for people, April’s general hated of everything, Ben’s nerdiness, Leslie’s determination, Ann’s… Well, I think Ann Perkins is a special character.
The journeys that we have been on with this characters are deeply personal ones, sometimes even journeys of reflection and finding things in us that we never knew existed. Comedies are not made with this purpose in mind; 30 Rock is another prime example of this. Relating to these two shows is easy, both are centered around strong females who reside in predominantly male worlds. That has not stopped people of other backgrounds falling in love with these shows and their characters.
Saying goodbye to this show has been like moving out all over again. The wonders of “what will the future hold”, the anticipation, the worries. These were all respectfully handled in the finale of Parks and Recreation, which was a pure joy to watch. Just joyful, raw emotional resolutions. Hope for the future.
I hope to return home one day. I know that Pawnee, Indiana will be there waiting. With waffles.