Shows

Parks and Recreation’s Beloved Friendships Were Crucial to the Storytelling

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It’s been 15 years since Parks and Recreation introduced us to the crazy characters of Pawnee, Indiana.


It’s a show that feels like it’s always been around — a pop culture mainstay — and yet it’s only been 15 years.


After a bumpy start with an awkward first season, Parks & Rec became one of the greatest comedies on television.


It gave us everything: characters we couldn’t help loving (or hating), romances that warmed our hearts, and a satisfying conclusion that gave us a glimpse into where all our favorites ended up.


One thing that sets Parks & Rec apart from many of its contemporaries is its focus on platonic relationships.


Sure, there were some great romantic relationships. Leslie and Ben showed us what true love looks like, April and Andy gave us the weird combo we didn’t know we needed, and Ron and Tammy 2 taught us that even the most level-headed person can be ruined by love.


But once these relationships were established (or fizzled out), that was it. Parks & Rec didn’t waste our time with a lot of will-they/won’t-they or on-again/off-again drama.


Instead, the show chose to focus its energy on the iconic friendships it created. And that elevated this show to a timeless classic.


Let’s take a look at some of Parks & Rec’s most memorable friendships.


Leslie and Ann


We have to start with the best friendship on the show, and that’s Leslie Knope and Anne Perkins.


Their friendship was the central relationship in the show — a kind of friendship that stood the test of time.


The two became friends by chance when Ann came to the Parks & Rec office to complain about a giant pit near her house.


And the rest is history. The two became fast friends and developed a kinship that can only be described as magical.


Can you imagine having a friendship where your best friend refers to you as a “beautiful tropical fish” or a “poetic, noble land mermaid” on the regular?


Leslie and Ann were there for each other through all of life’s ups and downs, from job woes and dating mishaps to the big things, like marriage and kids.


They showed that true friendship can last even from a long distance after Ann moved away with Chris to start a family.


This pairing gave us an optimistic view of what an adult friendship could look like and showed the strength of the female bond.


Leslie and Ron


Leslie and Ron are an unlikely pairing as far as friendships go.


She’s a do-gooder go-getter who loves public service almost as much as she loves waffles while he phones in his government job with the utmost disdain.


Still, Ron had a soft spot for Leslie, and they built a solid friendship based on mutual respect and trust.


Leslie and Ron get each other, even if they don’t understand each other.


He supports her passion for her work, though he doesn’t share it. And she lets him be his curmudgeonly self without trying to change him.


Even when Leslie’s antics seemingly annoy Ron, she always shows up for him when it counts, like when she planned the perfect birthday party for him — a solo steak dinner — or the numerous times she rescued him from Tammy 2.


What started as a mutual love for breakfast foods became a classic friendship.


Ron and April


Speaking of Ron’s disdain for people, it only makes sense that he would connect with the equally unenthusiastic April Ludgate.


She started as the perfect assistant for Ron, rescheduling and canceling meetings so he wouldn’t have to deal with the public.


Eventually, the two became friends through their shared hatred of their jobs.


Ron Swanson gave April advice, becoming a mentor of sorts, and accepted her for who she was.


When April quit after a misstep at work, it was Ron who sought her out and asked her to come back to work, proving he respected her as a coworker and friend.


April gave that respect right back, keeping Ron’s secret that he moonlighted as a jazz saxophonist named Duke Silver.


The father/daughter bond between these two storm clouds gave us a surprisingly sweet friendship that was always fun to watch.


Tom and Donna


Tom Haverford and Donna Meagle might not be Leslie and Ann-level besties, but they have a fun, low-key friendship everyone needs.


These two shared a love for the finer things, celebrating a regular “Treat Yo Self” day, where they indulged in all the materialistic things they wanted to enjoy.


Tom and Donna are a lot alike: self-obsessed, vain, driven, and cool. They value these same traits in one another, which keeps their friendship going.


Their friendship might not be very realistic, but it showcases a different type of adult friendship — the kind where people can hang out and enjoy things together but aren’t necessarily involved in every part of each other’s lives.


Don’t we all need someone we can just chill with sometimes?


Tom and Jean-Ralphio


While all of Parks & Rec’s friendships are iconic, not all are good.


Tom and Jean-Ralphio represent an all too common type of friendship: frenemies.


Jean-Ralphio is a wild card. At first, Tom is on board with all of Jean-Ralphio’s crazy schemes. The two even start a business together.


But they’re never really there for each other.


Tom uses Jean-Ralphio for his money to indulge his business dreams, and Jean-Ralphio continuously manipulates Tom into doing unethical or illegal things.


With friends like this, who needs enemies?


Eventually, it becomes clear that Tom has outgrown Jean-Ralphio. As Tom begins to mature, we can see the cracks in their already unstable friendship start to widen.


Tom experienced growth, while Jean-Ralphio remained stagnant.


Jean-Ralphio may have given us some of Parks & Rec’s most memorable lines and scenes, but he also gave us a great example of the type of friend you don’t want to have.


Whether the friendships on Parks & Rec were built to last or fleeting and superficial, the show did a fantastic job of highlighting the importance of friendship.


Friendships were the driving force in the show, not romantic relationships, setting Parks & Rec apart from many other sitcoms.


Which Parks & Rec friendships did you love the most?


Let us know in the comments below.

Shela Ward is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. You can follow her on X.



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