Editor’s Note: Hey, did you realize that today was the 10th anniversary of the day that Parks and Recreation first premiered on NBC? Yeah, neither did I! But after the realization, and the two hours of crying that went with me staring straight into the anxious void of aging and death, I decided it would be as good a time as any to resurrect this one from the ol’ Geek Binge archives. Basically, it’s like a way of updating the blog, without having to update the blog! Yay, no work! Thankfully, my picks remain pretty much the same to this day, so even four years after I first published it (**EXISTENTIAL SCREAM**), this remains my picks for the 10 Best Episodes of Parks and Recreation. Enjoy!
I’ve done a lot of 10 best episodes since this site was first formed, and in that time I’ve never talked about a show in which it was easy to put together a list. And yeah…Parks and Recreation is no different. For years Parks and Recreation was LIT-REALLY my favorite show on television, and even in its later, less amazing years, it was still pretty enjoyable at a consistent rate. I love this series so much, so of course it was freaking hard for me to just chose 10 episodes to talk about. But, somehow, I did. Without further ado, here’s what I believe are the 10 best episodes of Parks and Recreation.
There’s a lot of honorable mentions, so I won’t both listing them all. Suffice to say this could have easily been a Top 30 list and I would have still been scratching the surface. This show was really something, wasn’t it? Anywho, the 10:
10. “The Fight”
The basic plot of “The Fight” isn’t much, as it just tells the story of Leslie trying to get Ann to take on a government job and Ann’s (perfectly reasonable) resistance to do so. But what makes this episode work so well is the central relationship between Ann and Leslie (and the wonderful chemistry between Amy Poehler and Rashida Jones), which drives their conversations to feel natural in addition to being absolutely hilarious. And of course the real reason this episode made the list is the middle segment, in which almost the entire cast goes to The Snakehole Lounge and gets drunk off their asses. It’s a gloriously funny sequence, and it brought the world this incredible gif:
What more could you want out of an episode of Parks and Rec?
9. “The Johnny Karate Super Awesome Musical Explosion Show”
This is by far the newest entry on the list, what with it premiering just last Tuesday (Editor’s Note: IT WAS A DIFFERENT TIME.) So yeah, it makes it a little bit fresher in my mind than most. But even if it wasn’t, “The Johnny Karate Super Awesome Musical Explosion Show” would still make my list, simply because it was hilarious from start to finish, I had a gigantic grin on my face the entire time I was watching it, and it was sneakily poignant in its final moments as well. Breaking the mockumentary formula might have seemed like a risk for the show but, with “The Johnny Karate Super Awesome Musical Explosion Show,” it paid off greatly.
8. “Ron and Tammys”
While writing this list, I purposely limited myself to choosing only ONE of the various “Ron and Tammy” themed episodes because, if I didn’t, most of this list would be just them. I can’t help but love every time Ron takes the focus opposite one of his crazy wives and, of all these episodes, “Ron and Tammys” is truly the one that takes the cake. Featuring all three of the Tammy’s for the first and only time, “Ron and Tammys” works so incredibly well because of how great Megan Mullaly, Patricia Clarkson, and Paula Pell are, but also because of how it frames one of the show’s best relationships (Leslie and Ron’s) around it. Seeing Leslie almost kill herself with alcohol to get her friend back is as hilarious as it is touching. De-mustached wimp Ron, however, is still…deeply disconcerting.
7. “Ben and Leslie”
As someone who firmly believes that the Leslie and Ben relationship is one of the sweetest, most well built-up relationships on television, “Ben and Leslie” is just a perfect capping off point for their romance. An hour long extravaganza, there’s just so much sweetness within “Ben and Leslie,” and so many moments that are just so incredibly cathartic to watch. The reading of the vows, Ron’s talk in the jail with Leslie, Ron punching Jamm (one of the best moments of the show overall, if you ask me) — there’s just so many highlights to this episode that makes the marriage between “Ben and Leslie” so damn wonderful to watch
6. “Harvest Festival”
I’ve always been under the belief that Parks and Rec is at its best whenever it commits to an extended storyline (which, yes, makes Season 4 my favorite season of the show), and the beginning of Season 3 is certainly one of their best arcs, as the Parks crew works hard to get the annual Harvest Festival re-established in an effort to save their department. It was really great material for a high stakes storyline, and it paid off wonderfully in the final episode of the arc. And come on, there’s so much wonderful stuff in this episode — the incredible “re-enactment” of the Wamapoke tribe curse, Andy’s response to April’s admission of love (“That’s awesome sauce!”), and of course the introduction of one of the show’s best characters: Lil’ Sebastian. Yeah, “Harvest Festival” is the episode that gave us Lil’ Sebastian. That puts it on this list by default.
5. “Lil’ Sebastian”
And so we go from Lil’ Sebastian’s introduction, to his death, in the suitably titled “Lil’ Sebastian,” in which the ensemble has to say goodbye to everyone’s favorite tiny horse. It was a sad occasion to be sure, but also a grand one, complete with an excellent funeral suitable of a king (or lovable miniature horse.) The episode also advanced the Ben/Leslie relationship to new levels, and introduced the campaign storyline that would be the driving force of the next season. But this was really Lil’ Sebastian’s episode all the way, and boy did that little horse earn it. Half mast is indeed too high. Show some god damn respect.
As someone who watched Parks and Recreation from the very first episode, I knew I was enjoying the show from earlier on. But it was really “Telethon” that convinced me this would end up being something I loved. Scripted by Amy Poehler herself, “Telethon” is a hell of an episode of television, one that seemed to have jammed in LIT-REALLY (never gets old) as much jokes as it possible could in the 22 minute format, with so many wonderful moments coming out of the telethon experience. Ron sleep fighting, Barney doing Quick-book lessons, Perd Hapley doing the worm (“What the fuck are you doing, Perd Hapley?”), Tom getting drunk with Detlef Schrempf — there’s just so many wonderful moments contained within “Telethon.” Excellent from start to finish really, and a strong sign of what was to come with this series.
3. “The Debate”
As I’ve already said multiple times before in this article, Season 4 is my all time favorite season of Parks and Recreation. There’s LIT-REALLY not an episode in this 22 episode stretch that I didn’t like, and more than a handful that I absolutely loved. But one of the highlights of said handful is “The Debate,” in which Leslie goes toe-to-toe with her dim-witted opponent Bobby Newport. Debate’s are a great thing to stage an episode of television around (just ask Veep), but this episode (once again scripted by Amy Poehler, and this time directed by her as well, because she’s just a champ like that) is fantastic from start to finish. So I guess my thoughts on “The Debate” are let’s just have a good time!
2. “The Comeback Kid”
But as much as I love “The Debate,” it’s not even the best episode of the season! No, that episode is “The Comeback Kid,” which for the longest time was actually my favorite episode of the series. But although that’s not the case anymore, it’s still probably the funniest, primarily because of the climax scene, which is my all time favorite scene from Parks and Recreation, and one of my all time favorites from television in general. GET ON YOUR FEET.
(Editor’s Note: In the time since this list went up, NBC has removed the scene in question from Youtube. Like, entirely. Time to go buy some billboards in Ebbing, Missouri.)
1. “Leslie and Ron”
Yeah, I know right? I didn’t think that a Season 7 episode of Parks and Recreation would end up being my all time favorite episode, but here we are — “Leslie and Ron” is my favorite episode of Parks and Recreation. You can read Jared’s review of the episode from a few weeks back as to why (we agree pretty much completely on it, which is a rarity with us), but to put it briefly, “Leslie and Ron” is Parks and Recreation at its funniest, at its most creative, and its most emotional. Seeing the dissolve of Leslie and Ron’s relationship was realistic and saddening, and seeing their reconciliation was touching and heartwarming. “Leslie and Ron” is just the masterful kind of episode that you can only get from a series in its later years, and it pretty much stands as a perfect episode of television in my mind.
And that’s that, what I feel are the 10 best episodes of Parks and Recreation! You still have time to go watch all of them on Netflix — so get on that.
Also published on Medium.