Eagleton residents, calzone connoisseurs, and all you lovers of salad better get out of here, because we’re about to dive into the sugar coated, whip cream topped waffle of a world that is Leslie Knope and her beloved Pawnee. Sure, Parks and Recreation ended after 7 Seasons of political tomfoolery years ago, but the times we’re living in now seem basically perfect to bring it on back, especially since the gang got back together for a Quarantine episode last year. In honor of the pure hell Ron Swanson would find the state of our government in, we’ve ranked some of the best Parks and Recreation episodes for your binging pleasure.
10. Animal Control (Season 5, Episode 18)
This episode has so many funny moments, and it’s pretty much impossible to have a “best of” Parks and Rec list without somehow including the Animal Control duo of Brett and Harris, played by Colton Dunn and Harris Wittels, respectively. Wittels was also a writer and producer on the show, but passed away before the series’ end, making his character even more dear to the hearts of fans and those who worked on the show.
The burn-out slackers of the Animal Control department show up occasionally from Season 2 to 5, but in this particular episode Leslie Knope has had enough of their shenanigans. After Chris Traeger gets “one of his running feet” caught in a coyote trap that is loose on the floor and loses his cool probably more than he does in the whole series, the pair (and in Chris’s fit of rage, the whole department) is fired and Leslie gets to work finding a suitable replacement. In a side plot, Ron Swanson has to figure out how to eat a banana, and ends up hiding it in a burger like you hide a pill from a dog.
9. The Treaty (Season 4, Episode 7)
Leslie Knope and former lover/future lover Ben Wyatt are broken up for this episode and out for blood. The two major government nerds are leading their own model UN teams and work their frustrations with each other out in probably the most mature way they know how. This episode is vital for their relationship, as it shows they are both completely psychotic and basically the perfect match. Oh, we also learn that Andy’s idea of world domination is based on the amount of lions one possesses.
8. Jerry’s Retirement (Season 5, Episode 20)
One of the best running jokes of Parks and Recreation is that Jerry/Larry/Garry is the world’s worst. Or, at least, that he is completely inconsequential. After working for the Pawnee government for 40 years, Jerry is finally retiring and Leslie throws him a very last minute party while trying to tick off his career to-do list so he doesn’t feel like a failure. It’s only when she visits him at home and sees how happy he is and what an accomplished family man he is that Leslie realizes she needs to be focusing more on her personal life and relationship with Ben.
Not to worry, though, because even if Larry were to leave the show for good (he didn’t), the joke would remain because Tom became the new office martyr as soon as Garry left.
7. Media Blitz (Season 3, Episode 5)
“Media Blitz” basically acts as Ben’s villain origin story. He is so uptight about government budgets because as a boy mayor he bankrupted an entire city. Leslie’s promotions for the Heritage Festival get steam rolled by the uncovered “Ice Town” scandal when Ben spent all the town’s money on a winter sports complex. The complete wreck Ben turns into on live TV with Perd Hapley is just one instance we see him freak out, but seeing his past catch up to him gives everyone a new understanding of the character. This episode also acts as the introduction of “Crazy Ira and the Douche”, which are two of the many recurring special characters in the series that gives the show a little something extra.
6. Galentine's Day (Season 2, Episode 16)
This episode quite literally started a real holiday that is now held dear to many. The day before Valentine's Day is now set aside for the gals and the holiday is celebrated by Leslie and her gal pals sporadically throughout the series. Created by Leslie Knope, Galentine’s Day honors female friendships before the next day focuses on the romantic ones. This thoughtful holiday also helps set the tone of female power that is shown throughout the series as well.
5. The Fight (Season 3, Episode 13)
“The Fight” puts Leslie and Ann’s friendship to the test as they have their first major fight over their respective relationship habits and struggles after getting entirely too drunk off of Tom’s Snake Juice. Hilarity ensues as pretty much everyone from the Parks and Rec department downs a ton of “basically rat poison” Snake Juice. Andy and April’s alter egos, Burt Macklin and Janet Snakehole, make their first appearance role playing together and this episode also marks the beginning of Ann and Chris’s relationship (“Ann Perkins!”), Ann having both met and made out with Chris after fighting with Leslie.
4. Andy and April’s Fancy Party (Season 3, Episode 9)
Probably the series’ most unexpected and chaotic good couple, Andy and April hold an impromptu dinner party that turned out to secretly be their wedding. Foregoing a tux and rose petals, Andy wears a Tom Brady jersey and potato chips are sprinkled down the aisle in a very fitting Dwyer/Ludgate fashion. Leslie is panicked at first, but she quickly warms up to the union once she sees how truly pure the love is between Andy and April.
April and Andy start off like every bad decision your parents warn you about making, improvising their way through life, but they end up happy and that’s all any of us ever really want.
3. Flu Season (Season 3, Episode 2)
The flu has stricken Pawnee and two of the most unstoppable powerhouses get taken over by the virus. Chris, whose “body is a microchip”, gets compromised and a mini montage of fever induced delirium takes place that may just be the best 30 seconds of screen time Rob Lowe gets in the entire series. Leslie also falls victim to the outbreak, and won’t stop working. Fighting through a 104 degree fever, she gives a powerful speech to the chamber of commerce, leaving Ben in awe.
Aside from the comedy gold that happens throughout the episode, we basically see Ben fall so deep in love with Leslie that fighting it seems pretty much a moot point.
2. Ron & Tammy; Ron & Tammy Part 2 (Season 2, Episode 8; Season 3, Episode 4)
Pretty much any episode with Ron and one of his ex wives is gold. Or his mother, (also Tammy), but there’s something special about Tammy II. Maybe it’s the fact that Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman (Tammy II and Ron Swanson, respectively) are happily married in real life, or maybe it’s just that pure chaotic bad happens when Ron and Tammy II connect, but when Tammy II is on screen viewers pretty much know to prepare for a wild time. Who else could get Ron to cornrow his hair and get married wearing a kimono?
There’s a reason Ron can sense whenever she is near and why libraries are no longer a safe place: Tammy II is the most wicked force residing in Pawnee….she sure makes for good TV, though.
1. Pawnee Rangers (Season 4, Episode 4)
You’ll see Seasons 3 and 4 featured pretty heavily on this list, and that’s because they are peak Parks and Rec. Topping the list is yet another Season 4 gem; “Pawnee Rangers” makes the top spot for highlighting two of the best platonic relationships in the series: Leslie & Ron and Tom & Donna. Parks and Rec has an overwhelmingly stellar cast, and while the series finds the opportunity to shine light on each and every character, we don’t see enough of Tom and Donna together. When we do, though, it’s utter magic.
While Ron and Leslie are off in the woods leading their own group of campers, the Pawnee Rangers and the Pawnee Goddesses, Tom and Donna are having their annual celebration of the self. The latter’s “Treat Yo Self” yearly tradition is one of the most hilarious skits in the show, and showcases just how Tom and Donna can be so amazing together.
Honorable Mention: Rock Show (Season 1, Episode 6)
While Season 1 definitely isn’t the strongest of all the series, it does have one jewel that shines brighter here than any other season: Andy’s band Mouse Rat. The final episode of Season 1 showcases just how good Andy’s band surprisingly is, and the closing song “The Pit” that Mouse Rat plays at their rock show hilariously sums up the first season in such a blatantly simple way that if I didn’t know better, I’d think Andy was a closeted genius.
Honorable Mention: Leslie and Ron (Season 7, Episode 4)
Between the time jump that happened in between Season 6 and 7, Ron and Leslie had a massive falling out. The two can’t even be in the same room together, so their friends lock them in the Parks and Rec department to sort it out. It takes a while, but the two spill the beans on why they’ve been so angry with one another. This episode really showcases how much Ron had grown to care and depend on Leslie and the other characters.
There’s a reason we’re still talking about Parks and Rec over half a decade later: the show gave us so much. Even if you don’t consider the countless iconic guest appearances or the pure comedic gold sprinkled throughout each and every episode, the show gave us the now A-list Marvel and action star Chris Pratt, the iconic Li'l Sebastian, and even a holiday people actually want to celebrate every year - and that honestly just scratches the surface.
While a Parks and Rec revival would literally be the universe treating itself the way it should, it doesn’t look like a reboot is happening for now. A binging rewatch (opens in new tab) may just be what the doctor ordered, though, or you can check out our list of shows with similar humor. For shows either returning or premiering, though, check out our 2021 Fall TV schedule!
Constantly thinking about books, coffee, and the existential dread I feel from Bo Burnham’s Inside. While writing I’m also raising a chaotic toddler, who may or may not have picked up personality traits from watching one too many episodes of Trailer Park Boys.