bestof2014-23

Every day between now and Christmas morning, we’ll share the twenty-five stories that engaged, enchanted, amused and amazed us the most in 2014. If you missed them, now’s your chance to catch up; if you’re looking for a gift for the wonk in your life, then these are our most enthusiastic recommendations!

Today, Parks and Recreation.

It’s easy to forget about Parks and Recreation. Since 2009 — or, more accurately, since the second season in 2010 — it has quietly been one of the funniest, sweetest, warmest and most deviously subversive shows on TV. It spent its sixth season moving its stories forward, revisiting old characters and relationships, and finally giving everyone a satisfying conclusion to their arc. That process was somewhat undermined by NBC’s decision to bring the show back to a half-length seventh season to prop up a flagging comedy output, but the fact remains that the sixth season didn’t just effectively conclude most of the ongoing story-lines, but did so in a brilliantly confident manner.

Some of the stories were more successful than others. Ann and Chris’ journey toward parenthood, and each other, was sweet and sensitively played; Chris Pratt’s departure for much of the season left April with little to do. On the one hand, Ron descended a little further toward caricature — as in the C-plot of “The Pawnee-Eagleton Tip Off Classic”, in which he frantically tries to destroy every trace of his own existence — but on the other, Nick Offerman’s performance remains so direct and honest that it’s impossible to be disappointed in it. Councilman Jamm is thoroughly abhorrent, and the ongoing shuffle toward Tom’s new business is exactly as dull as every story the writers have given Tom over the years, only this time without Ben Schwartz to lighten the load; Leslie and Ben, meanwhile, rose to new heights. Leslie’s fire and passion have always been the narrative engine of the entire show, and pairing her off with someone more pragmatic and objective could have moderated her sense of principle and drained the vital spark from the show; Adam Scott, though, brilliantly matches Amy Poehler every step of the way, and their romantic and comedic chemistry is as well-observed — and as well-served by the material they’re given — as anything on television this year.

Plus, the Cones of Dunshire is genius.

It seems inevitable that season seven will be a slight let-down, since most of the stories were resolved this year, but the execution of season six means that we can relax into whatever comes next, and enjoy it for what it is.

Get it now: Parks and Recreation.