Following in the footsteps of The Office as NBC’s next workplace mockumentary, Parks and Recreation had some large shoes to fill. After a shaky first season, the show found its groove and became a beloved comedy filled with hilarious moments and endearing characters.
While Parks and Recreation is certainly funny, it is the show’s touching moments and sweet character interactions that set it apart from other comedies. Over the course of its 7 season run, Parks and Recreation produced many heartwarming moments that stuck with fans long after the show came to an end.
10 Flu Game
Leslie and Ben’s relationship reached a turning point in the season 3 episode “Flu Season.” The two started off on the wrong foot but were paired together for an important pitch to the Chamber of Commerce about Leslie’s proposed Harvest Festival. However, Leslie caught the flu and was hospitalized, putting the presentation in jeopardy.
Somehow, Leslie managed to pull herself together and give a flawless presentation, impressing Ben and causing him to compare her performance to Michael Jordan’s legendary “flu game” in the 1997 NBA finals. This was a touching moment that highlighted Leslie’s unbreakable spirit and showed the exact moment that Ben’s view of Leslie started to change.
9 Ron’s Birthday Gift
In the season 3 episode “Eagleton,” Leslie discovered Ron’s birthday, something he had kept secret for years. Much to his dismay, she promised to throw him a birthday party. Throughout the episode, the other characters made Ron believe Leslie was going to throw him a huge party. The episode ended with Leslie revealing that Ron’s party was an empty room with a steak, whiskey, bacon, and his favorite war movies.
Before leaving the room, Leslie noted that Ron had given her great career advice and had helped solve her dilemma. This moment perfectly demonstrated the duo’s relationship as she planned the ideal party for Ron, even if his idea of a good time was the exact opposite of what she wanted to do, and he gave her caring and insightful advice despite his gruff demeanor.
8 Bye Bye, Lil Sebastian
When celebrity miniature horse Lil Sebastian died in the season 3 episode “Lil Sebastian,” nearly everyone in Pawnee was devastated, prompting Leslie to organize a memorial service. She hired Tom and Jean-Ralphio’s company Entertainment 720 to put on the event and commissioned Andy to write a tribute song.
The result was one of the show’s best moments as it featured the town coming together to pay tribute to a fallen hero as Andy delivered the perfect song, titled “5,000 Candles in the Wind.”
7 Treat Yo Self
When Leslie decided to run for city council, she knew it meant she would have to end her secret relationship with Ben. Ben took the breakup hard, leading Tom and Donna to invite him to join them for their annual Treat Yo Self day in the season 4 episode “Pawnee Rangers.”
After initially giving him a hard time, they eventually encouraged Ben to splurge on a Batman costume when they saw how happy it made him. While Ben is often made fun of for his nerdy interests, it was heartwarming to see his friends go out of their way to include him and support him when he was feeling down.
6 Ethel Beavers’ Transcript
In the season 4 episode, “The Trial of Leslie Knope,” Leslie and Ben confessed their romantic relationship and were subjected to an ethics trial as a result. Leslie received only a minor punishment when Ben took the full blame and lost his job. The transcript from Ben’s hearing revealed his deep feelings for Leslie.
In a grand romantic gesture, Leslie got stenographer Ethel Beavers to go to Ben’s house and read an addendum to the transcript in which Leslie declared her love for Ben. It was a sweet and dorky romantic moment that included midlevel bureaucrats, the perfect encapsulation of Leslie and Ben’s relationship.
5 Ben’s Proposal
In the season 5 episode “Halloween Surprise,” Leslie was preparing for Ben to return from Washington D.C. after successfully managing a campaign. In anticipation of his return, Leslie took out a lease on a house so they could move in together. However, Ben was forced to choose between advancing his career in Washington or being with Leslie.
Ben surprised Leslie by showing up in their new home and proposing to her. Watching Leslie and Ben take their relationship to the next level and seeing Ben choose her over his job opportunity was incredibly sweet and romantic.
4 Leslie And Ben’s Wedding
After Leslie and Ben’s plan to convert a gala into a last-minute wedding was ruined by Jeremy Jamm, Leslie became resigned to the fact that she would have to wait several months for their regularly scheduled wedding in the season 5 episode “Leslie and Ben.” However, later that night, Leslie’s friends surprised her with an unexpected wedding back at the office.
The personal and intimate ceremony surrounded by their friends in the location that means the most to them was a perfect wedding for Leslie and Ben. Every character had a role to play and they all came together to give Leslie the wedding of her dreams.
3 Ann’s Goodbye Party
The season 6 episode “Ann and Chris” saw the titular characters move away from Pawnee. Not knowing when she would see Ann again, Leslie threw a goodbye party that celebrated every holiday all at once, packing a year’s worth of parties into one night. That same night, Leslie and Ann managed to finally break ground on Pawnee Commons, the project that first brought them together years prior.
Leslie always found extravagant ways to show her friends how much she cared about them and so it is only fitting that she saved her biggest party for her best friend Ann. It was also incredibly satisfying to see them finally break ground on the park after years of effort and planning.
2 Garry’s Funeral
Parks and Recreation saved arguably its best episode for last, as the series finale “One Last Ride” was the perfect conclusion to the show. Throughout the series, Garry was often the butt of the joke, but the show always managed to make him endearing. In the series finale, the audience got to see that Garry went on to live what he described as “the perfect life,” passing away at 100 years old surrounded by his loving family after multiple terms as mayor.
Garry’s funeral concluded with a secret service member telling Leslie and Ben that it was time to go, implying that one of them had become president. In an episode full of heartwarming moments, this one sticks out as it was a loving conclusion to Garry’s story and a subtle indication of Leslie and Ben’s destiny.
Five years after the show’s finale, the cast reunited for a special episode in 2020 that benefitted Feeding America’s COVID-19 Response Fund. The special followed the characters through a series of video calls, allowing audiences to see how everyone was responding to the pandemic. Leslie told Ron that she missed her friends and the special ended with Ron organizing everyone coming together to sing “5,000 Candles in the Wind.”
In a year where many people were missing their friends and family, seeing all these beloved characters reunite on screen for a heartfelt song was an emotional moment that helped lift fan’s spirits when they needed it the most while also raising money for a worthy cause.
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