Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Returning Shows: Parks and Rec (NBC Isn't Really Evil)

Parks and Rec is one of those shows that just about everyone agrees on. I mean, I don’t really know anyone who (if they’ve seen it) actually dislikes the show. That’s impressive. I can’t say that about many other shows or movies, not even the ones that are, to me, so obviously awesome (Community, Doctor Who, The IT Crowd).

But all of this unadulterated adulation makes it a little hard to actually assess the show from an objective standpoint. Yes, it’s a fantastic show. Yes, I enjoy watching it a lot and am very happy that it appears in my magic picture box. But, no, I’m not really sure that NBC is making the right ratings decision to keep it on the air.

Please hear me out before you start leaving death threats in the comments. And, remember, a properly punctuated death threat is a happy death threat.

Okay, we’ve all known for a while that NBC is a poopiehead when it comes to shows that are critically loved and, you know, good. They have a very tight rein on what airs on their network, and lately it’s seemed like the noose is only getting tighter. 30 Rock is going into its last season. Community has been postponed indefinitely and had its showrunner fired. Whitney is terrible but tragically still on television.

And Parks and Rec has also had to bear some of that brunt. Why, NBC? Why are you being so mean to all these shows that get you Emmy nominations and critical acclaim? Why are you trying to rush them off the stage when they are some of the most brilliant sitcoms television has ever seen probably?

It’s really very simple: money.

I don’t mean that in a cynical, “Oh, well, it’s all about money, isn’t it?” kind of way, and I don’t mean to imply that the people at NBC are all money grubbing jerks. I mean, practically speaking, it’s all about money.

NBC needs money from advertisers in order to keep having a network. In the past few years, they’ve really gone down the tubes on this, and the network is visibly struggling. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t shows actually need money to run? Parks and Rec is an amazing labor of love done by the fabulously talented cast and crew, but they’re not doing it for free.

The Thursday night comedies that we love suffer from a lack of ratings. And while some networks discount ratings in favor of a loyal and slavish fanbase (see the CW), NBC can’t afford to do that. They need money. Actually, literally need it in order to stay in business. And Parks and Rec, sadly, doesn’t make them any money.

“But what about artistry?!” I hear you cry. “Why can’t we just make good shows and not worry about the money? Why does it always have to be a battle between art and commerce?”

Nice points, straw men, but you know as well as I do that the world doesn’t really work that way. Shows need to make money in order to stay on the air. And Parks and Rec, tragically, doesn’t make money.

Amy Poehler is a crazy talented woman. I think that Leslie Knope is one of the best television characters we’ve been blessed with in a long time, and I can’t express how happy it makes me to see an effortlessly feminist, sexually empowered, exasperatingly nice and relentlessly ambitious female character on my screen every week. True story.

I think Aubrey Plaza, Rashida Jones, and Retta are amazing actresses who inhabit fully realized and absolutely hilarious characters. I think the show is one of the finest sitcoms on TV and when it gets cancelled I will weep into my waffles.

But it’s going to get cancelled. Have no illusions about that. NBC has already been very generous to its Thursday night block, and we can’t blame them for wanting to make a little more money off of some choice TV real estate. It’s not a crime for a network to worry about how it’s going to keep the lights on next year. They’re not dicks, they’re just being prudent.

So, yes, I will cry with the rest of you when Parks and Rec gets the boot. I’ve already shed my tears about the upcoming Community news, and I’m gonna be a sobfest during the last episodes of 30 Rock. But that doesn’t mean I think it’s wrong. It just means that I’m really going to miss these shows, and I’m super psyched to see what these crazy talented people do next.

It will be epic. 

Parks and Recreation airs on Thursdays at 9:30pm on NBC.

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