We are living in an era where there are simply too many great television shows to watch for any one person to keep up with and maintain anything like a life. There are many shows that I know that I’m just never going to get to, but with so many options, it’s tough for me to decide sometimes which ones that I’m going to try out.
There is one very basic criterion that a show must meet if I’m going to stick around, though: I have to like the characters. And by that I don’t mean just that they have to be well written and interesting. Terrible people can be incredibly interesting (Case in Point: Frank Underwood on House of Cards). No, I actually need to like them, as in I would like to be friends in real life.
Now that doesn’t have to be true for every character. That would be impossible. But if I can’t stand the main characters on a show, I’m not going to be watching. Seinfeld is generally considered to be one of the best comedy series ever, but I all four main characters are completely reprehensible. I’ve tried watching, but I just can’t get into because I hate the main characters. I made it through two seasons of the aforementioned House of Cards, at which point I stopped because I had no one to root for and identify with. Even the critically-acclaimed Breaking Bad drove me away by episode three because I did not like Walter White or Jesse Pinkman one bit.
Conversely, if I don’t just like a show’s characters but instead grow deeply attached to them, I am on board through whatever may come. The last two seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer had their ups and downs, and, if I’m honest, Buffy herself wasn’t much fun in the final season. Still I was attached enough to Xander and especially Willow that I wouldn’t have stopped watching for anything. Give me characters that I love, and I am with you until the end.
And then once the end arrives…well…it can be rough.
I know that sounds overdramatic, but characters that I grow really attached to, such as the crew of the Enterprise-D on Star Trek: The Next Generation do feel like friends to me, and suddenly not having them around anymore is a loss. Sure, there’s reruns, DVD, Netflix, etc, but it’s not the same.
I just got a major reminder of this part of my personality this week. Over the years I’ve had several friends recommend that I watch Parks and Recreation. I never did because I thought it was going to be like The Office, which I didn’t really like. The pseudo-documentary style has never been something that appealed to me, and I also found the comedy style of The Office to be mean-spirited. By that I mean that the show seemed to exist to make fun of its characters.
After much urging, I gave Parks and Recreation a chance, and I honestly wasn’t impressed by the first episode…or the next few after that. I had been warned, though, that the six-episode first season was a bit rough as the show found its identity. In the last episode of the season, though, things started to change. I jumped right into season two (Thank you, Netflix) and soon found myself completely hooked.
In less than two months (maybe closer to one month), I watched all 125 episodes of the series, ending with the final episode this past Monday.
And I’m completely crushed.
Seriously. It didn’t really hit me until the next day, but I spent Tuesday, particularly Tuesday night, in a state that I could only compare with mourning. I missed my fictional friends. Yes, I was glad to see how everything turned out for them, but what am I supposed to do now?!?
(As a side note, the final two-part episode of Parks and Recreation is fantastic. It did exactly what I wanted and brought the show to a close perfectly, unlike some other finales I could mention. *Cough*HowIMetYourMother*Cough*).
I’ve since learned that there were a couple of web series that I missed, so I’m tracking those down in order to spend a few more minutes with my Pawnee, Indiana friends. After that, though, it really will be over. And if I’m realistic, I know that I wouldn’t hit it off with all of the Parks and Rec crew. Tom, Donna, and April would find me way too normal. Andy and I would struggle to find anything in common. Jerry/Larry/Garry would like me, but he likes everybody. Ron…well, we might bond over a shared love of meat, but I don’t know that he’d have much use for me otherwise. Maybe he could teach me how to build things. But I think Leslie, Ben, and I would really hit it off, especially me and Ben. If there was a character close to me in that bunch, it was him. I’d understand his references, and I so want to play Cones of Dunshire and its follow-up, even if it is “punishingly intricate.” I’m there.
Or I would be…if they were real.
- Alan Decker