Jeff Tweedy

What Parks and Rec has done for music

Leslie Knope is my spirit animal. In truth, I’ve been in love with every single thing Amy Poehler’s done, but what she’s managed to do with her Parks and Recreation character has been absolutely fantastic. It only adds to the show’s awesome that she’s surrounded by truly unforgettable characters such as Nick Offerman’s Ron Swanson, not to mention guest stars the likes of Swanson’s ex-wives Tammy 1 and Tammy 2.

Major kudos to all the superior acting done on Parks and Rec, as well as the hilarious writing – I’m sure I’ll be shedding gallons of happy tears this Tuesday as the series finale airs. It’s also been extremely sad to learn P&R writer/producer Harris Wittels passed away last week from a drug overdose. That guy was priceless in his portrayal of a stoner animal control staffer on the show, which made it even more heartbreaking to hear of his death. And so this is why I wanna focus on the cheerful stuff the show is made of, namely the way it’s brought music to the forefront in so many wonderful ways, especially by featuring terrific musicians.

Questlove himself was one of the first to note how important music was to the show – be sure to watch as he explained in 2010 that P&R is, without a doubt, the Wu-Tang of comedy. The Roots drummer also recently did an outstanding guest spot at Donna’s wedding as her estranged brother Lavondrius, but this portrayal was not to be outshone that episode, as Ginuwine also made a flawless return as her cousin. If for nothing else, please watch “Donna and Joe” just to hear April Ludgate scream at Ginuwine to “get it together”. Then dial back to the Season 6 finale to catch the R&B singer dedicate his hit single “Pony” to beloved Li’l Sebastian at the Pawnee/Eagleton Unity Concert, held in memoriam of the fallen mini-horse:

A good number of musicians were also in the spotlight during that finale, as Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, Yo La Tengo, The Decemberists and Letters to Cleo showed up to perform and work to merge the two cities together. Tweedy had appeared on a previous episode of P&R, as Knope and Andy Dwyer work to convince his band Land Ho! to reunite for the concert, and it was sweet to see them do so in the finale, especially as Dwyer’s band Mouse Rat joined them for a song. Which reminds me not to forget the importance of Mouse Rat, who frequently provided the series impressive musical chops and highly entertaining lyricism.

It’s gonna be super tough to see Parks and Recreation and all its splendid musical reference come to an end next week, particularly in that we’re losing all this:

  • the witticism of Tom Haverford, also great at contributing musical references: “Whenever Leslie asks me for the Latin names of any of our plants, I just give her the names of rappers. Those are some Diddies. Those are some Bone Thugs-N-Harmoniums, right here. Those Ludacrises are coming in great.”
  • the snarkiness of April Ludgate, and her band-aid devotion towards Dwyer
  • the brazen manliness of Ron Swanson, flawless in his moonlighting as jazz saxophonist Duke Silver
  • the, ummm, ahhh…forget it. We won’t miss Garry/Barry/Larry/Gerry Gergich for anything. Instead, let’s quickly recall how fabulous Ann Perkins was before she left. 😉
  • Donna’s ability to effortlessly live life the way only she wished it to be lived – it’s definitely no surprise when her fiancée mentions in his vows that Pearl Jam’s Vitalogy was written about her
  • Ben Wyatt’s adorably nerdy ways and unquestioned loyalty towards Ms. Knope…
  • …and, of course, all that is Leslie Knope. She may not have supplied P&R with a ton of musical wonder, but her recreation of Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” makes up for all that, and more

Thanks for everything, Parks and Recreation – you are, without a doubt, one of my top 5 favorite television shows of all time.

Leave it to Jimmy Fallon to almost capture the cast’s amazingness at its all-time musical best (of course I say almost because this skit is a reference to another television show I cannot stand, and because P&R has done hundreds of equally rad other things):