'Parks And Recreation' Didn't Need (Or Deserve) An Emmy For Season 7

We couldn’t very well walk away from Emmys night without drawing ire from one or two glaring miscalculations, even in the case of a ceremony as uniquely right minded as the 2015 Emmy Awards. Breaking from celebration of victors like Jill Soloway, Jeffrey Tambor, Regina King, Viola Davis, and Jon Hamm, the viewing public funneled all prepared discontent through the last in a string of losses for Parks and Recreation. But maybe Parks and Recreation being snubbed for an Emmy was a loss that wasn't so off base.

Having concluded its seventh and final season earlier this year, Parks and Recreation rode that special post-finale fervor into this year’s ceremony, boasting nominations for Outstanding Comedy Series (its second) and Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for star Amy Poehler (her sixth). And while the NBC sitcom most certainly deserved an Emmy for the peak of its comic splendor, ditto Poehler for the best of her work as series hero Leslie Knope, these examples of premier quality didn’t showcase in the contending Season 7.

They had long since given way to less inventive stories and scripts, less affective performances by the cast on the whole. You might say that while Parks’ later helpings wouldn’t compete with the pinnacle of its grandeur, they’d still best just about everything else on TV. You’d be right, so long as you respected the margins of that defining “just about.” Living right outside those parameters are shows like Veep, which saw victory of both aforementioned Emmys over its chipper contemporary.

The rivalry between Parks and Veep, two half-hour government-themed comedies focusing on female officials, is one stuffed with intrigue. The defining difference, you might say, is in the shows’ outlook: Where winner Veep is scathing and cynical, Parks and Recreation is hopeful and humanistic. How direct a role this discernment plays in Veep’s victory over Parks is, too, worthy of inquiry. Do we blindly mistake snark for wit? Did Parks’ penchant for soft heartedness lead it down a path of sappiness in its later years?

And, as a result of this tacit kinship, are we more inclined to take personally the triumph of Veep over Parks than we might that of any of the other nominated programs. Would we simply chalk a Modern Family win up to the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences falling into its own habits? Would we champion the social implications of a Transparent win? Or designate an Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt win a point for powerhouse underdog projects everywhere? That Veep is so close in form to Parks seems to be a good part of why fans of the latter are so dismayed by the Emmys' evasion of its grasp. It’s as if we’re asking the question, “If you were going to award a smart, snappy, female-driven government satire sitcom, then why not the one that’s going off the air?” Well, because that one wasn’t as good this year.

It’s tough to admit it when the shows we care so much about — and Parks, with its soft heart, made it very easy to care so much about — lose the luster that invoked that passion in the first place. But later, lesser season of Parks and Recreation don’t dismantle the ones to come before, which are indubitably some of the strongest exploits in small screen comedy to rear in the 21st century.

Early seasons of Parks, charged with Ron’s defrosting, Andy and April’s blossoming romance, and Leslie’s graduation from underappreciated public servant to beloved city council candidate, will forever remain at the apex of its period’s television output. Distance from the 2010s will have us looking back at Parks in the way we do now at The Mary Tyler Moore Show. By virtue of their comedy and their empathy will the program and its star Poehler earn this legacy.

It’s understandable to be disappointed over your favorite show’s dissolution into the ether without a blue ribbon to speak of. But to credit Parks’ final year as its Emmy winning season would be doing a disservice to its competitor — Veep Season 4 outweighs Parks Season 7 — and to itself — Parks Season 7 doesn’t deserve to represent the splendor that was Parks Season 2, or 3, or 4. But those seasons will keep something more important than the Emmy, which only holds its victors to public conscious for the time being. They, and as such, Parks and Recreation on the whole, will keep a legacy. We’re not going to forget about or take for granted the power of this program any time soon. And, really, if we’re all this committed to recognizing the achievements of Parks and Rec’s best work, then what does it need an Emmy for?

Images: NBC (3); HBO