If you’re a fan of the NBC comedy Parks and Recreation, you may have heard by now that this will be the final season for characters Chris Traeger and Ann Perkins. In the show arc, the on-then-off-then-on-again couple will be moving away from Pawnee to raise a child together.
In the real world, Rob Lowe and Rashida Jones, who play these roles respectively, will both move on to pursue other projects. Their departure certainly marks the end of an era for Parks and Recreation, leaving many questions to be answered.
What will Leslie and Ben do without their best buds, Ann and Chris? Will there be new additions to the principle cast to fill their absence? Or might this be the beginning of the end for this highly lauded, but not so widely watched show?
We’ll have to watch Parks and Recreation this season to find out all the answers for certain. However, perhaps we can speculate on what we know now to figure what lies in store for the future of television’s most endearingly dysfunctional government employees.
The Real Story Behind Ann and Chris’s Departure
In an interview given at a recent press event, writer, producer and co-creator Mike Schur explained the split between Lowe/Jones and the show was a mutual agreement. In fact, he claims that writers had been envisioning having characters Ann and Chris depart anyway, so when it corresponded with the actors’ plans, both parties were satisfied. Yet Schur’s explanation reads as a bit diplomatic. It seems an awfully convenient coincidence that both show and actors would decide to leave at the same point.
Nevertheless, as we’ve seen from the noticeable lack of Andy in recent episodes as Chris Pratt works on a film, actors in the show have seen a recent rise in stock. There’s also the “Mark Brendanawicz” precedent, where lead actor Paul Schneider left the show after Season Two, only to have it flourish after his departure. Furthermore, it wasn’t so long ago that Jerry was headed off to retirement, only to return a few episodes later. This is all to say that as long as Leslie and Ron (and perhaps to a lesser extent, April and Tom) are around, the show’s writers and ensemble cast have proven adaptable and consistent in the face of change.
Still… There May Be Some Writing On the Wall
In past seasons, fans have had to do an alarming amount of waiting to watch Parks and Recreation. Many may remember Season Three when NBC signed the show as mid-season replacement, meaning episodes began airing in January rather than September. The shows status was far from certain at this point, which writers playful referenced by having the government of Pawnee shut down indefinitely just prior to the finale of Season Two.
This season, the show recently had an unusually early and lengthy hiatus, and will be hit with another one soon. The series endings of both 30 Rock and The Office this past year have weakened the NBC comedy block, with many viewers leaving along with those well-loved sitcoms. However, as we’ve seen with NBC’s stringing along of Community fans the past couple years, the network’s finicky scheduling does not necessarily spell out impending doom. NBC likely recognizes that those who do watch Parks and Recreation have developed a cult-fellowship for the show, idolizing the hilariously rigid Ron Swanson and delightfully relishing some good ol’ Jerry-shaming.
What the Future Holds
It seems unlikely anything will immediately deter a full run for the current season. Perhaps the most important detail working in favor of the show is that the sixth season will contain its 100th episode. Seeing as NBC owns distribution rights and 100 episodes is the programming standard for a move to syndication, canceling the show now would be financially illogical for the network.
Throughout its run, Nielsen ratings have consistently reflected that a surprisingly low number of people watch Parks and Recreation. Nevertheless, the show has persisted through its success on Netflix and the undeniable charm of Amy Poehler’s Leslie Knope, a role that has garnered the actress four Emmy nominations to date.
Even as we are sad to see to well-loved characters leave, we can reassured that for the time being there will definitely be more misadventures to come from the Parks and Rec gang. So grab some whip-cream, apply it to a meat tornado, and get ready to settle in for all-new awesome sauce from PnR in 2014!