Enough time has passed since Parks and Recreation’s 2015 series finale that you may not remember how the beloved NBC comedy — which managed to build out a sizable universe over its seven seasons — ended.
I’ll give you just the briefest reminder. Every character, from political icon Leslie Knope to eternally put-upon Jerry, got their rightful happy ending, proven by glimpses at their lives as far into the future as the 2070s. It was satisfying and, most of all, truly conclusive.
That hasn’t stopped fans of the show from begging for a revival or special event of some sort; such is the way of the modern TV viewer. So during Parks and Rec’s 10th-anniversary reunion panel at PaleyFest in Los Angeles on Thursday, the question inevitably came up: Is there a Parks and Rec return in the works?
The answer, according to reports from attending outlets like the Hollywood Reporter, isn’t quite “no.” But it’s not a resounding “yes,” either. And in explaining why, series co-creator Michael Schur offered a good argument against another season of Parks that the rest of the TV industry may want to learn from.
“I think that in the world that we live in now, nothing is ever gone,” Schur said during the panel. But “everyone on this stage — and like six other people — would have to feel like there was a story that needed to be told.”
And sometimes, there just isn’t. Schur said he felt like Parks and Rec did what it set out to do, and that’s that.
“The argument was about teamwork and friendship and positivity, being optimistic and not getting cynical, and believing that people can do good and believing in the power of public service, and believing that if you work hard and you put your head down and believe in the people around you who are part of your team, that good things are possible,” Schur said. “That you’ll achieve the things you want to achieve, and I don’t feel like we left anything on the table. I feel like the show sort of made its argument.”
Some shows make their argument, but then just ... keep going
The notion of “making the argument” is one that many showrunners seem to have waved off over the past decade. Wrapping up a show in just one holistic season is a newfound rarity, and that’s the case even when said season reads like a complete story, or even literally is one.
HBO’s Big Little Lies made waves when it aired in 2017, garnering the critical and commercial acclaim that generally warrants a renewal. But the show was conceived as a limited series, based on Liane Moriarty’s 2014 novel. It tells a story from start to finish over its seven episodes, with few gaps left to be filled.
But good viewership numbers and vocal interest from director Jean-Marc Vallée led to a change in HBO’s plans, despite a lack of additional source material. By the time the network announced a second season of Big Little Lies, it was hardly a surprise. There had been ample precedent, after all, to carry on when perhaps there was no need to, all across the television landscape.
For every welcome Deadwood revival, which promises to tie a bow on the cult hit HBO series several years after its premature conclusion, there is an Arrested Development season four. Twin Peaks: The Return was a brilliant piece of television that expanded on and challenged the universe its predecessor left behind decades prior, coming away as both fresh and vital. But original fans of Twin Peaks’ compatriot The X-Files hardly raved about that show’s return as a stale miniseries — especially after it wrapped with an ill-considered cliffhanger. (And let us not even speak of movies like Sex and the City 2.)
Reanimating old franchises after the book is shut isn’t always a cynical move, nor one that has to threaten the goodwill engendered by an initially successful run. But the propensity of revivals these days means that viewers may eventually relitigate the legacy of nearly every popular show: whether it should have ended the way it did, if it technically ended at all. With so many stories retroactively declared unfinished, a never-ending cycle of renewals, reboots, revivals, continuations, and feature films feel like a foregone conclusion.
Sure, maybe the Breaking Bad feature film will be as good as the original, masterful drama. Maybe Judd Apatow and Pete Holmes have some decent ideas for a movie follow-up to the recently canceled comedy Crashing, even if its denouement felt fitting. And Big Little Lies season two stands to be as worth watching as the first one was, even without a literary source to pull from: Most of the star-studded season one cast is set to return, and Meryl Streep is joining them in her first TV role in more than 15 years. That’s reason enough to at least tune in out of curiosity. But it seems like a good idea for showrunners and TV execs to take Mike Schur’s thinking into account: Sometimes, the strongest argument a series can make is its first one.