THOUGH YOU WERE LI'L, THE JOY YOU BROUGHT TO US WAS NOT LI'L: I'm sure I butchered that tag, but Google couldn't fetch me the quote. In any event, when Leslie Knope spoke those words (or thoseish words), it was one of the great meta moments of TVdom, right up there with "anyone who can't make money off of Sports Night should get out of the money-making business" and Cougar Town's Travis asking his mom why she has a picture of herself dancing with Bruce Springsteen and half the gags in Arrested Development's third season and Community's second. Because while Parks & Rec is a li'l show, in ratings and in ambition -- trafficking not in the worlds of corporate and network politics or life-and-death surgeries or hillbilly mob warfare or covert intrigue or gruesome forensics, but rather small-town bureaucracy and its alternately lulling and invigorating effects on the people who practice it -- pretty much everybody, it seems, sees it as radical. It is simultaneously hysterically sharp and unabashedly sentimental. Kids like P'n'R for what P'n'R has got; moms like P'n'R for what P'n'R has not. [Ed: Got.]
So in a television season that seems to have flown by quickly when it wasn't dragging interminably behind an unpredictably dispersed plume of summerlike hiatuses (hiati?) and cast absences and newsy preemptments and postponery, I saw some things. I saw Mags Bennett wrestle with grief and ambition and resignment while Raylan Givens stalked her with sublimated anger and duty that didn't know whether it was filial, paternal, or occupational. I saw a collection of drudges buoy an inconstant buffoon toward a moving proposal. I saw a rag-tag band of misfits tell sad and hopeful stories in clay and cowboy costumes while their writers and producers told sad and hopeful stories about clay and cowboy costumes. I saw a warrior tyrant wield a weave as a weapon and then cut some sour teenagers' hair off just to see them cry. And I saw a miniature pony twice move Ron Swanson, first to schoolgirlish glee, and then to silent, manly tears.
I watched less new television this season than in years, I think, but, as I've said before, we live in an age when there is so much good television that there is absolutely no reason to watch bad television.*
*And yet the biggest television headline last week was that Ashton Kutcher replaced Charlie Sheen on a Chuck Lorre show. Huh.