First In Friendship: Small-Town Shows To Watch After Parks And Recreation

I haven’t been able to rewatch the Parks and Recreation finale yet. Part of it is because I’m just not ready to cry again just yet. And a bigger part  is that I’m busy. I’m not someone who treats busy as a four-letter word, even though it can have a negative connotation. Maybe we should start calling it something cuter, like “bustling,” or positive, like “engrossed.”  It’s good to be involved; Leslie Knope would be proud.

But even when you don’t have a lot of free time, it’s easy to feel a tv show-sized hole when one of your favorites gets cancelled. That was especially true of Parks, a half-hour (or hour, thanks NBC) oasis every week. When you’re busy – and honestly, I hardly know anyone who doesn’t qualify as such – you need those little breaks in your day or week. If you’re missing those 30-60 minutes in Pawnee every week, here’s what to watch next:

Parks And Recreation

I mean, again. Watch it again. Now that we know what happens to everybody, take it back to the beginning! Not every show holds up well on a rewatch. Sometimes those “off” seasons are too painful or your favorite character started off awesome and became terrible. I mean I’m still mourning for Season 1 Joey Potter. But Parks is a show that doesn’t have any of those pitfalls … well, it did have a lot of falling into pits for a while, but they filled it in and everyone moved on. Parks and Recreation did character development better than any other show. It’s so fun to watch bratty college April knowing that there was a hard-working go-getter in there all along, or tough cookie Ron Swanson before he had a wife and kids. Or Ben Wyatt, back when he seemed like Public Enemy Number One. So, my first suggestion for what to do after you finish watching Parks and Recreation is to watch it again.

One of the best things about Parks was getting to know all of the wacky residents of Pawnee and feel the sometimes stifling warmth of small-town life. Most t.v. shows are either set in major metropolises – and at that, it’s usually just New York or L.A. Or, it’s in a tiny town. You don’t get a lot of shows set in actual cities that are less acclaimed, like Toledo or Tucsan. If it’s small-town TV you want, we can find that for you. Once you’ve rewatched Parks, here are the next series you should check out:

For an endearing small town: Gilmore Girls

You can’t watch this without wanting to move to Stars Hollow so that you can buy coffee from Luke, take dance lessons from Miss Patti, and plan a weird event with Kirk. Like Pawnee, there are people you love, people you hate, and places you’ll come to know like they’re from your own hometown.

For an innocent small town: The Andy Griffith Show

But not too much Andy Griffith Show. It’s a television masterpiece but it can also get a little hokey in large doses. However, if you’ve never watched it you might be surprised by how fun and quirky it is. If you grew up on classic TV, Griffith is like a half-hour of childhood. Or your dad or grandpa’s childhood, if you grew up on modern TV.

For an April Ludgate-worthy small town: Welcome To Nightvale

Guys, it’s a podcast, not a tv show. You just have to trust me. It’s about the happenings in a spooky yet hilarious town, with idiosyncrasies to rival Pawnee. It’s one of those shows you just have to listen to to understand.

For a dramatic small town: Twin Peaks

Yes, it’s a drama about Poor Dead Laura Palmer. But the second the log lady shows up, you know that you’re dealing with something a bit more wacky than your typical network drama. Twin Peaks is a small town withs dark side, but there’s also teen drama and the requisite diner.

For a heartwarming small town: Friday Night Lights

If you watched Parks and Recreation, listened to the Tim Riggins references, and didn’t get it, I’m jealous of you. That means you haven’t seen Friday Night Lights yet and still get to watch it for the first time. If you’re one of those people who thinks “football? GROSS. Texas? NEVER” then this is the show for you. It’s about football but it’s about life. And Tami Taylor is like Leslie Knope if Leslie Knope got married young, worked in education, and lived in Texas. Guaranteed, you’ll change that “Texas Never” into a “Texas Forever” by the end of season one.

 For a small town that’s not actually a small town: Parenthood

All right, the Bravermans don’t live in a small town, but you never see evidence of where they live, anyway. The Bravermans are sort of a small town unto themselves. Like Parks, it’s a show about the people you love who also drive you crazy.