Series: Parks and Recreation
"I hate the public. The public is stupid."Parks and Recreation
(or Parks and Rec
to its friends) is a 2009-2015 NBC Work Com
about small-town government, centering on the employees of the Parks and Recreation Department
of the fictional town of Pawnee, Indiana. Created by the same people as the U.S. version of The Office
and filmed in the same Mockumentary
style, it essentially does for the public sector what its sister show does for the private.
The main character is Leslie Knope, played by Amy Poehler
, a Pollyannaish Workaholic
who works as Deputy Director of the Parks Department. See here
for further information on the characters. The very short first season focused almost entirely on Leslie's efforts to cut through the red tape to turn Lot 48, a giant pit created as part of an abandoned construction project, into a park. This storyline was continued in subsequent seasons, but diminished in importance as the show explored other facets of the characters' lives, both professional and personal.Parks and Rec
was actually originally conceived as a Spin-Off
of the U.S. Office
, but in the end its only tie to that show is the format and the presence of Rashida Jones in the cast (as a different character). Now with a recap page
that needs more love.
open/close all folders
- Aborted Arc: The original story arc was Leslie's struggle to turn the pit in Lot 48 into a park. After the Re Tool going into season two, the pit was filled in, but the idea to build a park was dropped almost completely by season three as the show picked up other storylines. During the camping episode, Leslie says that they couldn't continue turning the lot into a park because Chris wanted the next project to bring in revenues. The lot remains unmentioned for two years afterwards, until April suggests making it into a dog park in season five's "Leslie vs. April". An impromptu groundbreaking occurs in Anne's last episode, then the Time Skip reveals Pawnee Commons was completed shortly after the end of Season 6.
- April going to veterinary school in Season 6, which seemed like it was going to be an important part of her character arc. When she goes to orientation, she suddenly backs out and decides to not go, claiming that she "just had a feeling". The writers probably realized that they couldn't have both Aubrey Plaza and Chris Pratt (Andy) absent from the main cast at the same time. Plus, with Rashida Jones (Ann) and Rob Lowe (Chris) leaving the show around the middle of the same season, it probably would not have been practical.
- Chris takes Ron on a series of activities that turn out to be incognito interviews for the position of Assistant City Manager. Ron seems intrigued by the opportunity to slash even more items from the budget, but at the very end of the season Ron declines the position.
- Absurdly Long Limousine: When Tom Haverford started his media company, he bought such a limo, with a hot tub in the back. It was this sort of business decision that caused his company to go belly-up quickly.
- Accidental Misnaming:
- The Ace: Justin, who seems to be an ace lawyer and a globe-trotter who impressed everyone around him (except for Andy and Mark, who are mostly threatened by Ann's admiration of him). However, Ron later deconstructs Justin's personality at the end of "Galentine's Day" and points out that despite all of his apparent perfections, at his core Justin was a "tourist", a selfish person who was more concerned about the stories he formed rather than the people he was helping, which leads to Leslie breaking it off for him.
- Jennifer Barkley, the Washington political consultant brought in to run Bobby Newport's campaign.
- Activist Fundamentalist Antics: Marcia Langman, the humorless right-wing Christian spokeswoman for the Society for Family Stability Foundation. In "Pawnee Zoo", she tries to get Leslie to annul a fake gay penguin wedding since "when gays marry, it ruins marriage for the rest of us." Later in "Time Capsule", she denounces the Twilight books as "anti-Christian" and "pro-quivering". In "Jerry's Painting", Marcia shows up again to protest Jerry's painting of Leslie as a nude centaur. Marcia was gung-ho to burn the painting (simply removing it from the public eye would not satisfy her), to Leslie's chagrin, but Leslie managed to salvage it in the end.
- Actually Pretty Funny:
- Aerith and Bob: Donna's brothers: LeVondrias and George.
- Age-Gap Algebra: Andy (29) asks Tom how young is too young to date. Tom quotes the half-your-age-plus-seven rule, which in Andy's case would be 21 and a half, causing him some consternation when he realizes this technically puts the 21-year-old April in the "too young" range. He gets over it. It helps the audience that the age gap between the actors is only five years instead of eight.
- Alcohol Is Poison: Leads to the reveal that Ben's father's girlfriend is pregnant, which makes an already bad situation (his ex-wife and Ben's mother is in the room) way worse.
- All Crimes Are Equal: Pawnee's sister city, Boraqua, Venezuela, jails everyone for everything. Including over/undercooking meat, overpricing sweaters, and flaking out on dentist appointments.
Raul: We have the best patients in the world. Because of jail.
- The Alleged Boss: Ron Swanson is technically the head of the Pawnee Parks Department, but as he wants nothing to do with government, he delegates all his duties to Leslie. Unlike similar examples, he doesn't get too chummy with the other employees.
- Allegory: Several episodes have used Pawnee as a metaphor for the United States, usually replicating a national political issue on a smaller scale and playing it for laughs. For example, the Wall Street bailout was satirized with an episode where Leslie wants the government to save a failing video store.
- All There in the Manual: Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America is a great example. In-universe, it serves as a plot point, written by Leslie to help her city council campaign. In the real world, written by the show's writers, it expands on the details of the fictional Pawnee.
- Alone Among the Couples: Subverted with Jennifer Barkley at the end of the series, she's by far one of the few characters who isn't married with or without children and she makes it clear she prefers it that way when visiting Ben and Leslie at their home.
- Aluminum Christmas Trees:
- In season 5, Ben mentions an offscreen Sweetums molasses flood. This actually happened in Boston in 1919, but was significantly more serious.
- KaBOOM! is a real non-profit organization that helps communities build playgrounds for children.
- It's mentioned that Councilman Milton was first elected in 1948 as a member of the segregationist Dixiecrat Party. This is presented in a way which makes it sound like a joke, but that was a real short-lived political party. It ran Strom Thurmond as a presidential candidate in 1948, the only year of its existence.
- Always a Bigger Fish: Ron's Tammys get progressively more ferocious the further back you go. Tammy Two flees in fear when Tammy One arrives. Tammy One works at the IRS, after all, and also threw acid on Tammy Two's foot. Tammy Zero, his mother, is a terrifying mountain woman who drinks a homemade moonshine that is basically turpentine.
- Ambiguously Brown: Ann's ancestry is never revealed in the show, though Rashida Jones is herself half African-American and half Ashkenazi Jew.
- In "Win, Lose, or Draw" Leslie tells Ann that Ann's "ambiguous ethnic blend perfectly represents the dream of the American melting pot."
- Leslie compares herself to George Clooney going to the Oscars and Ann to the type of "exotic" woman he would break as a date.
- In regard to the issue of where to build a dog park, Leslie refers to having a "dog in the fight"- "Ann, a beautiful mutt of uncertain pedigree."
- One character believes Ann to be from Puerto Rico. She's not.
- In "The Cones of Dunshire" Leslie describes Ann's "smoky, ethnically ambiguous eyes".
- And Starring: Rob Lowe.
- Animal Wrongs Group: Manrico Della Rosa in "The Debate".
Della Rosa: And anyone who even rubs their hands on a leather jacket should be tried for murder.
- Answer Cut: When Leslie asks Jerry why he lied about being mugged, he asks Leslie to think about what Tom hypothetically would've said if he knew the truth.
(cut to Leslie sitting at Tom's desk and imitating him)
Leslie!Tom: Damn, Jerry! You jumped in a creek for a burrito?! What would you do for a Klondike bar, kill your wife?!
- Apocalypse Cult: Played for Laughs with the "Reasonablists", who don't make any effort in ushering in their Destroyer God, Zorp. They just often make rather incorrect predictions on when the world will end and hold "End Of The World" gatherings.
- Armored Closet Gay: Although never explicitly shown, Marshall Langman can give Tobias Funke a run for his money in the "Married to a woman while implying homosexuality in pretty much everything he says or does" category.
- The Artifact: The fundraising thermometer for the pit project sits quietly in the background of the office, seemingly never going up a single inch, while that plotline was put on the back-burner for season two and barely acknowledged since.
- Artifact Title: As of Season 7, none of the main cast work in the Parks and Recreation department any more - Leslie, April and Garry work for the Midwest Parks Service; Ben is the city manager; Donna, Tom and Ron run their own businesses; and Andy has his own TV series. Only a handful of episodes feature any scenes in the Parks offices.
- Artistic License – University Admissions: In season five, April has decided to go to vet school without any references from actual vets, any practical experience that we know of, or possibly even the mandatory prereq classes (biology, chemistry, math, and so on).
- As Himself:
- Former NBA player Detlef Schrempf shows up as a special guest in "Telethon." Tom sidetracks him into bringing him to the Snakehole Lounge. Hilarity Ensues. He returns in "Li'l Sebastian," having been hired by Tom and Jean-Ralphio to hang out and shoot baskets at the headquarters of their new entertainment company.
- In "Ron and Tammys" Indianapolis Pacer Roy Hibbert is hired by Tom and Jean Ralphio to just play one-on-one with Detlef in the e720 headquarters. Tom tells an amazed Ben:
"The NBA's on strike so we got him for like only 75 percent of his original NBA salary!"
- "Two Parties" has Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay, wide receiver Reggie Wayne and quarterback Andrew Luck at Lucas Oil Stadium, and Newt Gingrich at St. Elmo's, a famous Indy steakhouse.
- "Ms. Knope Goes to Washington" has cameos by real Washington politicians, including Senators Barbara Boxer, Olympia Snowe, and John Mc Cain.
- The season six finale has Michelle Obama surprising an absolutely stunned Leslie Knope. The season before that, she got to meet Joe Biden in "Leslie vs. April"!
- Senators Orrin Hatch and Cory Booker show up in "Ms. Ludgate-Dwyer Goes To Washington" as themselves, being part of a (fictional) Polynesian folk duo.
- Aside Comment: Talking Heads sequences without any other hint of a Mockumentary format for the show function much like this.
- Aside Glance: Due to the Mockumentary-like nature of the show, this happens constantly.
- Attack of the Political Ad:
- In the episode "Campaign Ad", the protagonists toy with airing an attack ad in Leslie's election for city council. Leslie desperately wants to stay positive, even though Ben's attack ad is effective and accurate regarding her Upper-Class Twit opponent.
- An attack ad against Leslie airs in "Campaign Shake-Up"—it's just a Gag Dub of Leslie's successful ad from "Campaign Ad".
- Bachelor Auction: In "Halloween Surprise", Leslie conducts an impromptu one during an auction of items for charity, and auctions off a date with Ann (with Ann's partial consent).
- Back from the Dead: Andy's alter ego FBI agent Bert Macklin who "died" from a bad hangover after drinking 'Snake Juice' in the third season. In the fourth season he's "resurrected" to serve as Leslie's bodyguard during her promotion of her book about Pawnee.
''You thought I was dead? So did the President's... enemies."
- Backhanded Compliment: Thrown around like confetti by Lindsay Carlisle Shay, a former Pawnee Parks and Rec worker who moved on to Eagleton's department. Not that she's above open-handed insults.
- Badass Boast: In the second episode of the second season we get this gem.
Ron: I was born ready. I'm Ron fucking Swanson
- Badass Family: The Swansons drink their own liquor, the only legal use of which is to strip varnish off of speedboats.
Ron: Under my tutelage, you will grow from boys to men. From men into gladiators. And from gladiators into Swansons.
- Batman Gambit:
- Leslie & Andy pull one to get the pit at Plot 48 filled in - Andy gets injured in the pit for a second time when Leslie tries to fill the pit without authorisation, putting Pawnee at risk of a lawsuit if Andy were to sue. Leslie persuades Andy to sue the city & say he'll drop the lawsuit if the pit gets filled in, which winds up working.
- Chris puts Ron and April through a management seminar, and gets them each to write down what they hope to get out of the process. When he and Ron disagree over what April should be learning, they get sidetracked by a competition to see whose style works best. At the end of the episode, unable to find April, they read her objective... which was to set the two of them against each other so she could blow off the seminar. They both agree that she doesn't need any management training.
- The Bear: Alluded to in "Operation Ann", wherein Ron has to go into The Bulge and receives a lot of favorable looks.
- Beard of Sorrow: Ben sports some thick stubble after being forced to resign in disgrace.
- The Beautiful Elite:
- The residents of wealthy nearby town Eagleton. Lampshaded by Tom at the Eagleton public forum: "Look at how pretty the people are!"
- Tom and Jean-Ralphio hired female models to basically just hang around as decoration in the vast headquarters of their new company.
- Beauty Contest: The episode "Beauty Pageant."
- Be Careful What You Wish For: In "Bowling for Votes":
April: I wished for [Chris's] happiness to go away. I might be a wizard.
- Beleaguered Bureaucrat: Averted. Given Leslie's workload, you'd think she'd just be constantly exhausted, but she's such a high-energy Pollyanna that she doesn't give off this vibe. That said, the Parks Department as a whole is frequently mentioned to suffer from chronic budget cuts and other neglect.
- Belligerent Sexual Tension:
- Exaggerated, verging on a Deconstruction, with Ron and his ex-wives, especially Tammy Two. Sure, you have the Slap-Slap-Kiss where a fight turns into a makeout session, except the fight is a screaming-obscenties-in-public kind of fight, that turns (within an hour) into a maniacal orgy with a similar disregard for privacy, spiralling into an equally ferocious breakup. Ron (once his head has cleared) seems to regard it more like demonic possession than an actual relationship.
- Ben and Leslie start out as adversaries over the Parks Department budget. It's downplayed (instead of outright fighting, they butt heads and snipe at one another, but their mutual respect is also pretty clear).
- Beneath the Mask / Becoming the Mask: In "Ann's Decision", it is revealed that The Douche, aka Howard Tuttleman, actually graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in semiotics and wrote a thesis. He claims that "The Douche" is just his on-air radio persona, but his behavior heavily suggests that it's also become part of his actual personality.
- Berserk Button:
- Do NOT mess with Donna's Mercedes.
- Don't even speak in a remotely hostile manner about the late Li'l Sebastian around Ron.
- Don't insult Leslie around Ben.
- Beta Couple: Mark/Ann and Andy/April with the complication that Andy is oblivious to April and still likes Ann. This changes over the course of Season 2, and in Season 3 Andy actively switches to pursuing April. And then they got married on a whim after dating for a month. Because why not? And it sticks!
- Big Eater:
- Leslie seems to be single-handedly keeping the local waffle house afloat, and has a penchant for whipped cream.
- In "Save J.J.'s," it's revealed Leslie is literally keeping the local waffle house afloat. She's given them over a hundred thousand dollars in the run of the show.
- Ron loves meat, and breakfast foods in general:
- At a restaurant, Ron goes through three porterhouse steaks, then suggests going somewhere for an after-dinner omelette.
- When Leslie tries to persuade him to come to a dinner party, he haggles her up to five courses and insists on bringing a plate of devilled eggs nobody else is allowed to touch.
- At one deli, he decides to order the "Number 8" which is a tray of sliced meat meant for up to a dozen people. It is brought to him on a massive serving platter. Leslie tells the waiter to stick around to watch him eat it in 4 minutes.
Ron: Just give me all of the bacon and eggs you have. Wait, wait, I worry what you just heard was, “Give me a lot of bacon and eggs. What I said was, “Give me ALL the bacon and eggs you have.” Do you understand?
- Biggus Dickus: According to a doctor who gave him a physical, Jerry has one of these. The biggest he's ever seen, in fact.
- Bikini Bar: Averted with Pixellation in "Tom's Divorce," which befits the show's Mockumentary format.
- Bilingual Bonus: Councilman Jamm's home has 北朝鮮 written in calligraphy on the wall, which is "North Korea" written with Chinese characters.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing:
- Somehow, the entire population of Eagleton when it comes to Pawnee and its less beautiful people.
- Marcia Langman
- Bland-Name Product: In Season 7, Gryzzl, a huge multi-billion dollar Internet Company is relocating to town, which offers inexpensive high-speed Internet, makes "Gryzzl Glasses" a wearable camera system, has the motto "Always Be Cool" and data mines the information it gets from people's Internet activity, is obviously a stand-in for Google, a multi=billion dollar company, has the motto "Don't Be Evil," which currently offers inexpensive high-speed Internet in Kansas City, offers "Google Glasses" and uses the information it gets from searches to target advertising it sells.
- Blondes Are Evil: Ron's first wife Tammy One, causing him to forsake blondes even though he likes them.
Ron: Why do I only date brunettes? You know sometime you eat chicken and get food poisoning and then even the sight of chicken makes you sick? Tammy One is my blonde chicken.
- Blond Guys Are Evil: Greg Pikitis.
- Book Ends:
- Done masterfully between the season finale of the first and second season. Andy gets his casts off his broken legs and ends up getting a cast on his broken arm. Leslie and Mark sit at Lot 48 at night originally a pit, and now the site of a successful children's concert. Mark is originally pessimistic, but now presents Leslie with the blueprints for a new park.
- The guy who asks Leslie and the gang to fix a swing at the park in the series finale also played the drunk that Leslie chased out of a slide in the park in the first episode. (Played by an actor named Jon Daly). Word Of God is that the character cleaned up and changed his life for the better.
- Bowling For Ratings: "Bowling for Votes". Ron actually posts a 300 game by using Tom's childish and embarrassing double handed split legged style, but refuses to acknowledge the acclaim.
- Brainless Beauty: Trish Iannetta.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: Characters frequently acknowledge that they're being observed, glancing at the camera and performing Talking Heads interviews.
- Brick Joke:
- A marijuana plant is found in a community garden in "The Stakeout." In "Summer Catalog," one of the former heads of the department admits to planting marijuana plants in community gardens across town.
- Ron Swanson's second life as jazz saxophonist Duke Silver is occasionally brought back up in later episodes, such as "Eagleton" (in which his birthday party is being booked):
April: [on the phone] Hi, I have a question about your inflatable saxophones, do they come in different sizes? I'm gonna need about forty dozen of those. Also, what about your neon gangster fedora hats?
- In "Dave Returns", Andy brings the gang to a music studio to record Leslie's campaign jingle. Ron is horrified to realize that it's the same studio where he records as Duke Silver, and spends his time there frantically hiding all the Duke Silver posters and coffee mugs scattered around.
- In "94 Meetings", Andy handles a meeting with a woman from Pawnee's ultimate frisbee league. After learning that the town has its own league, he insists upon joining her team, and specifically asks if the team's name is "The Lightning". Later, in "Go Big Or Go Home", Ron and Andy become the coaches of the town's two boys' basketball teams. It can be assumed they each named their respective teams, as the scoreboard reads "Swansons" and "Lightning".
- In Season 4, Leslie openly mocks the proprietor of "Sue's Salads," noting that Pawnee hates healthy foods and won't tolerate it. In Season 5, she notes that Sue's Salads has been run out of town.
- In-universe example: In season 7 episode "Leslie and Ron," Ron tries using the partially dismantled landmine that's been sitting on his desk forever to blow a door down. When he activates it, confetti and balloons come out. Leslie had given it to him ten years earlier as a congratulatory gift, and this sends her laughing.
- British Accents: Tom impulsively does one to impress a cute female doctor.
- British Stuffiness: Subverted with Lord Covington in the season-six premiere "London":
: Lord Covington, I'm Ben Wyatt. This is Andy Dwyer, and it is an honor to meet you, sir. Lord Covington
: Well, it's nice to meet you too. However, the proper mode of address would be, "Your Royal Excellency, Lord Edgar Darby Covington, Fourteenth Earl of Cornwall-upon-Thames, Twenty-Ninth Baron of Hartfordshire
". [shocked silence] Lord Covington
: No, no, no, I'm kidding! I'm kidding! Please call me "Eddie".
- And for the rest of the episode, Lord Covington is an Idle Rich Man Child who bonds with Andy over toy helicopters and such.
- Brother-Sister Incest: In "Operation Ann":
Jeff: Leslie, you didn't tell me she was so beautiful!
Ann: Aw, thanks, Jeff!
Jeff: Not as beautiful as my sister, but...you know the law.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Dr. Saperstein. He's the best OB/GYN in town, and even though Chris and Ann hate him for what he's doing to Tom in his personal life (running Tom's business into the ground out of spite), they love him as a doctor.
- The Bus Came Back: Louis C.K. returns as Dave Sanderson in "Dave Returns".
- Ann and Chris come to visit in "One Last Ride".
- Butt Monkey:
- The long-suffering Jerry, who is a loser at everything and mocked by everyone in the office, even the nice people. It's often contrasted by the great many things he has going for him: he's talented, cultured, enormously endowed, and has a gorgeous wife and three beautiful daughters. Plus he became mayor of Pawnee and lived to the ripe old age of 100.
- Kyle (Andy's frequent shoeshine customer) is even lower on the food chain. Tellingly, even Jerry rudely puts him down.
- Buxom Is Better: In "Ron and Jammy", Leslie describes Tammy 2 as "a demonic sociopath...with great cleavage."
- California Doubling: Played straight. Most exterior town scenes are shot in Pasadena. The outside of Pawnee City Hall is actually Pasadena City Hall. Lampshaded in "Pawnee Commons" wherein Ben questions the large number of palm trees found in Eagleton, which an Eagletonian explains/the show handwaves as being the result of Eagleton's unique geologic placement.
- Call Back:
- Season 5 finale "Are You Better Off?" is a big Call Back, as everyone Leslie has fought during her year on the city council comes back as part of a campaign to recall her.
- Ron's post-sex red polo comes back a couple of times later.
- An extremely subtle one: At one point Ann mentions offhand she's from Michigan, and in a later episodes says she's left a dozen eggs in a "Kroger's." Adding an unnecessary possessive "s" to proper-name businesses (e.g. Kroger, Meijer, Ford) is a very Southeast Michigan (i.e. Detroit area) thing; series co-creator Michael Schur was born in Ann Arbor and his parents are Michiganders.
- Tom rejects the idea of starting a dry-cleaning chemical business as being way too boring. At the end of the season Dr. Saperstein off-handedly mentions that he's invested in a dry-cleaning chemical suppy company that's doing very well.
- Calvinball: The Cones of Dunshire, though it's clearly meant to be incredibly difficult to understand in-universe as well. There's one "player" whose entire job is to keep track of what's going on.
- The Cameo: Senators Barbara Boxer, Olympia Snowe, and John McCain appear in the episode "Ms. Knope Goes To Washington", which was filmed on-location in Washington, DC. Vice president Joe Biden appears in "Leslie vs. April". And then First Lady Michelle Obama appears in the season 6 finale "Moving Up".
- Captain Obvious: Perd Hapley is some sort of superevolved mutant form of this trope.
"And now, an update, which brings us new information."
- Casanova Wannabe: Tom, first and foremost, but then there's his friend Jean-Ralphio who's even worse. The Douche, Sewage Joe and Councilman Jamm fit into a more sleazy/repellent version of this.
- The Cast Showoff:
- Chris Pratt gets to sing every now and then as Andy's the lead singer of Mouse Rat.
- Donna sings opera during Leslie and Ben's wedding
- Nick Offerman is a talented saxophone player — though the writers didn't know this when they came up with Duke Silver
- Casting Couch: Implied to be the case with the 1994 Miss Pawnee winner, Jessica Wicks. One elderly male judge states offhand that he "made her", cueing a sickened expression from Wicks.
- Cat Fight:
- The "garbage fight" Leslie gets in with Lindsay in "Eagleton".
- Then there was the brawl in a Dumpster between Leslie and Tammy 2 in "Ron and Diane".
Tammy: I am so turned on right now.
- Celeb Crush: Leslie's crush on Joe Biden is a bit of a Running Gag; Ben calls in favors to get her a meeting with him as an engagement present.
- Character Development:
- Leslie started off with some unpleasant, Michael Scott-ish aspects to her character, but she has developed into a hypercompetent Pollyanna.
- April Ludgate is a Deadpan Snarker Ice Queen, until Andy brings out her softer side.
- Ron initially starts as The Snark Knight, but gradually shows an occasional soft side for his staff and Li'l Sebastian the miniature horse.
- Ben at first just saw Pawnee as simply another town that needed fixing, but eventually fell in love with it.
- Andy at first was kind of a jerk who exploited poor Ann, but he became a lovable ditz.
- Tom started off as a lazy employee who tried to look cool all the time, but over the years he changed into a competent businessman who learned how to use his knowledge of coolness effectively to help the town.
- Chekhov's Gag: The fact that Tom is married but still flirts with every woman in sight. It's gradually revealed that it's a sexless Citizenship Marriage in which he's (secretly) in love with her, but she's just in it for the green card.
- One stretching back to season 2. During an MRI scan, Leslie's date comments approvingly on her womb: "if you wanted to, you could have triplets right off the bat, Leslie."
- Ben's ludicrously complicated "Cones of Dunshire" board game is introduced as a one-off Cold Open gag, but returns later in the episode when he leaves it as a farewell gift to an accounting firm he started working at. Then comes back again in a bigger way when the folks at Gryzzl inexplicably have a set of their own and Ben uses his mastery of the game to win free wifi for Pawnee. Turns out the accountants saw the game's potential and licensed it in Ben's name.
- The Chew Toy: Leslie's mom's old boyfriend, Frank.
- Church of Happyology: Reasonablism, in which folders play a significant part. Lampshaded in Pawnee: The Greatest Town In America, when one of the last followers of Zorp denies Reasonablism's cult status by comparing it to Happyology.
- Citizenship Marriage: Tom and Wendy. The subversion of this trope is a significant plot twist, since it is actually the white, Canadian Wendy who is the immigrant.
- Coitus Uninterruptus: During their "lovey" moments, Ron and Tammy II constantly engage in this.
- Comeback Tomorrow: When Lindsay calls Pawnee a horrible nightmare from which Leslie will never wake:
Leslie: "What?! I'm not asleep! I'm awake, I'm wide awake! And I got my eyes on you!" That's what I would have said if I had thought of it in the moment. What did I say instead?
- Comically Missing the Point:
- When Ron gets shot in "Hunting Trip":
Tom: Maybe Ron shot himself.
Leslie: Hmm...he has seemed really depressed lately.
Mark: He was shot in the back of the head!
Leslie: You're right—he loves the back of his head. He would never shoot himself there.
- In "Harvest Festival":
Ron: Ground mission failed. We need a bird's eye view. (motions toward the Ferris wheel)
Andy: You want me to climb on top of the Ferris wheel?
- In "Smallest Park", Ron concurs with Andy's Women's Studies teacher when she calls marriage a form of slavery.
- Comic Role Play: In "The Fight" Andy and April do this in the Snakehole lounge. Andy pretends to be his FBI agent alias "Burt Macklin" and April is "Janet Snakehole" a rich widow with a cigarette holder who talks like Katherine Hepburn.
- This dynamic returns in "Pawnee Commons" when Macklin squares off with Judy Hitler.
"Don't you do it, Hitler. Don't you dare fall in love with me."
- Compliment Backfire / Too Much Information: "Campaign Shake-Up":
As a candidate I appreciate your strategic mind, but as a woman, all I care about is your slight but powerful body. Ben: (Aside Glance)
- Conspicuous Consumption: This is all Tom and Jean-Ralphio did at their company "Entertainment 720". Spending an exorbitant amount on expensive furniture, and paying pro basketball players and beautiful women to just hang around. An alarmed Ben: "My guess is they'll be bankrupt by the end of this...sentence!"
- The entire city of Eagleton has been doing this; they eventually go bankrupt.
- Continuity Nod:
- In "Go Big or Go Home", we find Chris, Ann, Leslie and Ben at The Bulge, a gay bar where Leslie is a heroine for accidentally marrying two gay penguins in the episode "Pawnee Zoo".
- Whenever Andy needs to coerce someone into something, he always uses the alias of FBI agent Bert Macklin.
- On two occasions April claims to be "Janet Snakehole," the daughter of the owner of The Snakehole Lounge, "Mr. Snakehole, all the while playing like a femme fatale from a Film Noir.
- As its title would imply, "The Trial of Leslie Knope" involves a hearing regarding Leslie and Ben's relationship, and naturally the witness testimony involves a lot of continuity nods.
- In "Park Safety," Jerry reveals that he has two years until he retires with full benefits and pension, a fact he brings up a few more times throughout the show. He later retires in the fifth season episode "Jerry's Retirement."
- In "Ann and Chris", when Leslie and Ann finally break ground on Lot 48, they're wearing helmets labeled 'Kick-Ass', referring back to the 'Kick' and 'Ass' helmets they wore back when they tried to fill in the Pit in "Kaboom".
- Continuity Snarl: In the season four finale, Ron mentions having the same haircut since 1978. While this is entirely in character, Ron had a different hairstyle in the first season.
- Cool and Unusual Punishment: When Tom is charged with Reckless Driving for causing a wreck while texting and driving, the Judge sentences him to one week without the use of an kind of electronic screen (Tom would sooner go to jail, even though he'd be deprived of his gadgets anyway). When Tom wrecks Ron's car in the process of violating the conditions of his probation, Ron ups the ante by making Tom read a professional-grade service manual so that he can fix the damage to Ron's car.
- Corrupt Politician: Councilman Jamm and Councilman Dexhart.
- Costume Test Montage: In "Lucky", Leslie tries on various outfits for her upcoming interview with an Indianapolis talk show host, including a pair of pants that has the word "Nympho" written on the butt.
Tom: "Nympho" means you're addicted to sex and since it's on the butt, there are other implications as well. [beat] So those are a maybe.
- Courtroom Episode: "The Trial of Leslie Knope"
- Crazy Cat Lady: The owner of the bed and breakfast in "Camping".
- Cringe Comedy:
- Generally around Leslie.
- A Running Gag has Ben completely breaking down in high-pressure social situations, usually when his disastrous past as a teen mayor gets brought up. It's amplified in "Dave Returns" thanks to his crippling fear of cops.
- Ann not realizing that Chris had broken up with her due to his ultra-positivity, and then for the same reason, mistakenly thinking he wished to get back together. After that happens, she kind of breaks.
- "The Comeback Kid" has Leslie's entire comeback rally. The venue, a multipurpose sports arena, is set up as a hockey rink instead of a basketball court. Tom couldn't afford enough red carpet to get all the way from the rink entrance to the stage, forcing everyone to gingerly shuffle across the ice. Ron didn't have enough wood to build stairs to the stage platform, meaning he has to attempt to boost Leslie up onto the stage. Leslie's speech notecards shuffle out of order, causing her to say, "We can defeat obese children". And when local basketball legend Pistol Pete actually shows up and is willing to do his slam-dunk, he obviously slips when he tries to jump and breaks his arm. And the whole time a ten-second clip of "Get on Your Feet" by Gloria Estefan keeps repeating.
- Ben's entire bachelor party, at least until they leave the house to go to a bar.
- Cringe comedy was especially strong in the weird Season 1, which felt more like the British version of The Office than the American version did by that point.
- Cryptic Background Reference: The seventh season took place in 2017, then two years in the future, so characters often make comments indicating how much things have changed since then.
- The CSI Effect: In "Greg Pikitis", Leslie keeps talking about how they can test evidence for Greg's DNA only for Dave to repeatedly shoot her down by meekly pointing out that they don't actually have a lab and so forth.
- Culture Equals Costume: Minor examples at the Model UN in "The Treaty", where, for example, the French delegate wears a silk scarf and beret.
- Curbstomp Battle: It is an unspoken rule that any fight Ron Swanson gets into will be one in his favor. Not one of them has gone past a single punch.
- Cuteness Proximity:
- Even April (but not Ron) isn't immune when a puppy shows up in "Telethon".
- No one (especially not Ron) is immune to Li'l Sebastian the miniature horse, except for Ben, who just doesn't get it.
- Everyone loves Champion, the three legged dog.
- Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon: In "Soda Tax", April creatively threatens one of Ben's staffers who had been slacking off/disrespecting him: “If you don’t do it I am going to murder you in your sleep... And I will take a melon-baller and scoop your eyes out and your Congressman uncle will have to buy you a dog to drive you around."
- Cutting the Knot: Leslie gives Ben a cryptex containing a clue to where to meet her for their date on Valentine's Day. Ben can't figure out the five-digit combination and asks Ron if he could solve it. Ron just takes out a hammer and smashes it to pieces to get the clue.
- Similarly, when the scavenger hunt turns out to be very long and complicated, Ron suggests they simply go to places that clues are likely to be and hope they happen to find the last one.
- Damned by Faint Praise: When asked to say something positive about Jerry in "Sweet Sixteen", Ron remarks that Jerry's work is often adequate. Jerry lights up at this unusual amount of praise.
- The Dandy: Tom, who turned a spare room of his old house into a huge walk-in closet.
- Dartboard of Hate: They're not that malicious about it, but Ron and Leslie tape a photo of all four living Parks Directors to a dartboard and go to town on it in "Summer Catalog"'s tag.
- Date Peepers: Ben and Leslie in "Operation Ann".
- Dating Service Disaster: Goes very wrong for Leslie in "Soulmates"—she gets matched up with Tom. Turns out he keeps several different accounts, all ideal for different sorts of women.
- Decided By One Vote: Jerry is scared that this could happen when he forgets to vote for City Council. It doesn't.
- Played straight in "Soda Tax" where Leslie casts the winning vote (justified, since the council only has five members).
- Defrosting Ice Queen: Associating with Andy seems to be making April slowly drop her barrier. By the third season credits, she actually smiles shyly at the camera.
- Deliberate Values Dissonance: Present in-story with the office murals, which proudly depict various sordid events in the town's history that are shocking by today's standards. Leslie shows them off with some embarrassment.
- "She was one of the first feminist leaders in Pawnee! She was the first to dare wearing pants on a Sunday, she spent 30 years in prison for that."
- "In 1867, the progressive Reverend Turnbill officiated a wedding between a white woman and a Wamapoke Indian chief. The secret ceremony was beautiful and romantic. But then word got out and the reception was a bloodbath. Fortunately, there were two survivors. Unfortunately, they were both horses."
- "This is a map of all the atrocities the Pawnee settlers inflicted upon the Wamapoke Indians. The atrocities are in blue."◊
- Department of Redundancy Department:
- The Society for Family Stability Foundation.
- Perd Hapley is a news reporter and talk-show host from the media whose speech mannerisms, delivered orally, sometimes invoke this trope.
The statement that this reporter has is a question.
Issue number one is the first issue we're going to talk about.
- In "The Banquet," Leslie uses this trope while talking to/insulting Ann when Ann tries to warn her about Leslie's mother's advice:
Ann: Do you always do everything your mother tells you to?
Leslie: Do you always do everything your boyfriend tells you to? (Ann gasps) Make him any pancakes lately?
Ann: He has two broken legs!
Leslie: And he has three crutches. One of them is you! The other two are crutches.
- Derailing Love Interests: Justin in season 2 is The Ace, well-liked by pretty much everyone, and a cool, interesting guy In-Universe. However, a later episode shows him as a "tourist" more interested in a good story than the actual experiences, which cause Leslie to break up with him.
- Digging Yourself Deeper: Season 1's "The Reporter" is all about Leslie, Mark, and Ann attempting damage control after a reporter's initial interview with Leslie does not go well. They spend most of the episode making things much, much worse for themselves.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Marcia Langman from the Society for Family Stability Foundation calls for Leslie to resign because Leslie staged a penguin marriage as a publicity stunt for the zoo and the penguins turned out to both be male.
- Distant Finale: The final episode, "One Last Ride", includes flash-forwards to show what the main characters would be doing in later years.
- Distracted by the Sexy: Or rather, Ron being distracted by Tammy's naughty bits being flashed just as he was accepting his award in "Ron and Diane". He goes from coherent to gibberish.
- Doctor Jerk: Dr. Harris, a doctor visited by various characters has a Deadpan Snarker attitude and is insulting toward Chris and April/Andy in response to stupid questions they ask during their visit. Oddly, he is nice to Jerry (including but not limited to being astonished by the size of his penis). Of course, he enjoys having Ron as a patient and wishes the others didn't 'ask so many questions'.
- Don't Explain the Joke: In one episode, Tom makes a joke to Dave, then has to explain it to him. He still doesn't get it:
: Hey, John McClane! Dave
: Who's that? Tom
: Die Hard
: The battery?
- Doppelgänger: In an episode appropriately titled "Doppelgangers", the gang at Pawnee City Hall meet their counterparts after Pawnee annexes a broke Eagleton and everyone from the Eagleton government comes over. Hilariously, Ron's doppelganger is a sandal-wearing vegan.
- Dramatic Drop: Leslie does one in episode two after finding Mark and April playing Rock Band with Andy, rather than doing their jobs.
- The Dreaded: The appearance of Tammy One is enough to make Tammy Two scream "Oh, shit!" and vanish and enough to make Ron disappear into the wilderness for three weeks. Back in the small town Ron and the Tammys grew up in, she was regarded with terror.
- Dresses the Same: In a season 2 episode where there was a Halloween party at Ann's house, one of April's gay boyfriends asserted that he was dressed up as a straight person. Immediately afterward, Mark walks in wearing the same outfit. A few episodes previously, Leslie comments on Tom's pink shirt being effeminate, and to prove her point, holds up a shirt she was given by the local gay bar, which is the exact same shade/color.
- Drinking Contest: A three-way one in "Ron & Tammys" between Tammy One (to stay with Ron), Ron's mother (to take him back to the farm forever), and Leslie (to keep Ron at the department). Eventually won by Ron himself, who, inspired by Leslie's (utter failure) performance, grabs the giant jug of moonshine and chugs it.
- Drop-In Character: Originally Ann before she got a job at City Hall. In season 4, it's Tom.
- Dumbass DJ: Crazy Ira and the Douche. Ben mugs about it the whole time and the soundboard operator appears to loathe himself.
- Dying Declaration Of Hate: Ron says he plans to use this trope against his ex-wives. "On my deathbed, my final wish is to have my ex-wives rush to my side so I can use my dying breath to tell them both to go to hell one last time."
- Early Installment Weirdness: In the first season, the characterizations were still in their early stages of development. Leslie is much less self-confident and less competent, and it's implied that she only got her job through nepotism. Tom is more of a jerk, and his only defining trait is being a Casanova Wannabe. His obsession with style and luxury is only introduced in the first episode of the second season. April is also shown smiling more often. Donna and Jerry are only background characters with almost no lines and no characterization. The opening credits sequence is also longer, with an extra stanza of the theme music.
- Earpiece Conversation: Discussed and Defied; Leslie assumes this is Ann's idea for coaching her through her first date with Dave (telling her it might seem like a good idea, but "it never works")... but Ann was really going to suggest a mock date.
- Effeminate Misogynistic Guy: Marshall Langman
- '80s Hair: Perd Hapley had a pretty spectacular fade back in 1989.
- Emotionless Girl: April.
- Ensemble Cast: While Leslie is undeniably the main character, the cast essentially take equal turns in the spotlight and have fleshed out dynamics with every other character.
- Erotic Dream:
- Leslie has had one about Ron.
- Andy gave everyone (except for himself and Ben) in the room code names that sounded like they were based on his sexual status with them. Donna's was "It was in a Dream Once" and Leslie's was "I'd be lying if I said I hadn't thought about it."
- Even the Girls Want Her: After Andy and April saw a painting of Leslie as a topless centaur:
Andy: Not to be inappropriate or anything, because you’re my boss and my friend, but I would totally hit that.
April: So would I.
- Even the Guys Want Him: Justin, Leslie's boyfriend for three episodes in Season 2. Tom gets a mancrush on him.
- Everything's Worse with Bees: Everyone finds out the hard way that the Pawnee-Eagleton wall is full of them.
- Everyone Owns A Mac: Averted. Everyone uses a Windows machine, which is understandable for an office environment. Season 6 turns it into actual Product Placement, however; the suddenly high number of Windows 8 devices and Windows Phones can be a bit immersion-breaking, as real-world reception to those products has been lukewarm at best and it's highly unlikely that a small town government office would adopt new technology so quickly.
- Everytown, America
- Evil Laugh: Tammy Two gets good use of Megan Mullally's high-pitched cackle.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The show is about a small town's Parks and Recreation Department. The trope also applies toward the episode titles, which tend toward the very dry.
- Expy: At the beginning of the series, before Character Development set in, the main cast were clearly based on characters from The Office (US), though this was phased out across season 2, with most of the main cast finding their own style and the incredibly blatant Jim stand in Mark getting written out entirely in favor of the much more original Ben.
- Leslie is Michael Scott
- Ann is Pam Beasly
- Ron is Dwight Schrute
- Ron's similarities to Memetic Badass Theadore Roosevelt cannot be a coincidence, given their shared badass mustache, outdoorsmanship, masculine values and ability to deliver a solid punch.
- Mark is Jim Halpert
- Andy is Roy Anderson
- Tom is Ryan Howard
- April is Angela Martin (with some Ryan mixed in)
- Jerry is Kevin and Toby rolled into one
- Face Doodling: Ann narrates the talking heads segment at the end of of "Telethon", and announces that Leslie has been asleep on her couch for 22 hours (after staying awake for a few days). She closes the episode by announcing that "I love her so much... but I think I'm gonna draw a mustache on her face."
- Fashion-Shop Fashion Show:
- Cold opening to "Sweetums" episode, with Tom. Takes place in the office, but otherwise plays the trope straight.
- Tom and Donna do another one of these during Treat Yourself Day in "Pawnee Rangers".
- A Father to His Men: Ron Swanson, gruff and reserved to-the-extreme that he is, cares a lot more than he lets on for the younger Parks employees. He looks out for them and advises them to help them grow, and pays for Andy's education out of his own pocket. April in particular he seems to regard almost like a daughter.
- Faux Documentary: The show uses the Talking Heads segments that are ubiquitous to the Mockumentary, but other than that, there is no hint of a documentary camera crew filming what's going on in Pawnee, Indiana.
- Felony Misdemeanor:
- During an interview for an article about the prospective park, Andy reveals that he was drunk when he fell into the pit, and Ann calls him out on it, which prompts him to call her out on...using birth control. Ann is mortified that he had the audacity to bring this up in front of a reporter clutching a tape recorder, and her birth control use is mentioned in the resulting article.
- "The fact that Yahtzee is not in the rec center is a tragedy on par with human trafficking. ...Slight exaggeration."
- Tom's complaints about Ann include things like her not caring about bed sheet threadcount and and still using an iPad 1.
- Fidelity Test: Ann's friends pull a few lame ones on Mark at Ann's Halloween party in season 2.
- Fish out of Water: Ben, especially in his early episodes, is constantly befuddled by the foibles of Pawnee, such as everyone loving Li'l Sebastian, hating calzones, and using Alta Vista.
- 555: Phone numbers on Pawnee taxicabs as evidenced in "Ben's Parents".
- Five Second Foreshadowing: Ben tries to use the bathroom five times in an hour before suddenly passing a kidney stone.
- Dave's reappearence in Season 4 takes his unusual speech patterns up a notch. Louis C.K. makes it work.
- Andy starts the show off as an immature, irresponsible deadbeat. Once he breaks up with Ann, he becomes an outright Man Child to make him more lovable.
- Reversed, in a way. If you watch the first season, everyone will seem like a flanderized version of what they're like in later seasons.
- Flyover Country: The Show.
- Foil: Chris, to Ron.
- Food Porn: Ron has posters of breakfasts on his walls. He also has a photo album of every steak he's ever eaten at his favorite steakhouse.
- Foreshadowing: At one point in Season 2, Leslie is given an MRI while on a blind date with a creepy doctor (played by Will Arnett). He notes that she has a very capable uterus, and could easily have triplets. Only took four years to pay off!
- Also in season 2, Tom notes that if he were to ever open a club, he would call it Tom's Bistro. Yet another one that comes back around in season 6.
- For the Lulz: KABOOM!
- Former Friend of Alpha Bitch: Lindsay used to be Leslie's best friend, but then got a nose job, moved to Eagleton, and became a real snob.
- Four Is Death: The fourth floor is generally creepy and houses all the terrible departments like divorce filings, probation, and the DMV.
Leslie: They put a popcorn machine up there just to brighten things up, but they used the wrong kind of oil and a bunch of people had to get their throats replaced.
- Fourth Date Marriage: Andy and April decide to get married after only dating for a month.
- Freudian Trio: While trying to figure out what to do about the Nick Newport crisis in "Bus Trip", Leslie, Ben, and Ann take on the respective roles of The Kirk, The Spock, and The McCoy.
- Friendly Enemies:
- Ron and Leslie have shades of this, mostly in the first season, as well as Worthy Opponent. They have diametrically opposing viewpoints on what to do with the Parks and Recreation department, but over the course of the show they become close friends.
- Jennifer Barkley, Bobby Newport's campaign manager, and Leslie. Outside of the race, she is friendly to Leslie and even gives her advice on her own campaign. In the race she is completely ruthless and does whatever she can to win. She justifies this to Leslie as being her job to win the race and it's Nothing Personal.
- Friendship Moment: Many have happened in the series so far.
- Many between Leslie and Ann and Leslie and Ron.
- Ron and April also share these, as their respective approaches to their work (fierce anti-government libertarianism and utter apathetic misanthropy) often lead one of them to handle things in a way the other appreciates.
- The moment Ann and Ben join forces to buy Leslie a waffle maker, is the moment Leslie declares the pair have became best friends.
- Frivolous Lawsuit: There is a recurring female extra who only shows up to complain to the Parks department and threaten to sue. Some examples:
- "My dog went to one of your parks and ate another dog's feces and I'm going to sue you for that!"
- "There's a sign at Ramsett Park that says 'do not drink the sprinkler water.' So I made sun tea with it, and now I have an infection."
- "London", the season-six premiere, reveals that her name is Gretel.
- Full-Name Basis: Chris calls everyone by their full name at almost all times.
- Fun with Acronyms: "Citizen Knope" features Leslie forming a citizen action committee named the Parks Committee of Pawnee. Just like the drug, they are so powerful and fast-acting they should be illegal. Later, she tells Chris she's starting a new organization: Leslie's Sorry Division.
- In "Doppelgangers" Tom's job is threatened by the implementation of a computer program, E.R.I.C.(Eagleton Reservation Information Center) Tom replaces him with T.O.M. (Town Organizational Matrix)
- The Fundamentalist: Marcia and Marshall Langman.
- Gagging on Your Words: Leslie can't say "sorry" to someone from Eagleton in "Pawnee Commons".
- Gag Penis: Li'l Sebastian has one.
- According to one doctor, Jerry has one as well. The doctor was too distracted by it to actually check him for mumps.
- Tammy Two tries to burn Ron by issuing him a large library fine for a book called "Living with a Micropenis."
- Gargle Blaster:
- Swanson family mash liquor. Its only legal use is to strip varnish off speedboats. Other applications include burning warts off mules and dissolving snail shells.
- Snakejuice, which gets even Ron shitfaced.
- Gay Conservative: Possibly Marsha Langman's husband Marshall, who is meant be Camp Gay instead of Camp Straight but shares his wife's moral guardian attitude. He seems to be intended as something of a No Celebrities Were Harmed version of Michelle Bachman's husband Marcus, who is rumored to be gay.
- Geeky Turn-On: Ben and Leslie engage in sexual role play as political figures.
- Genius Ditz: Andy has show signs of being this from time to time.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: In "The Debate", porn star and city council candidate Brandi Maxxxx gives this statement:
Maxxxx: And just like Leslie, I know what it's like to be the only woman in a room full of men.
- Ron and Tammy's wedding scene in Ron and Tammy: Part Two gets a little nasty.
- The "shockingly huge mini-horse erection" of L'il Sebastian in Harvest Festival. It's blurred out!
- Appears again in L'il Sebastian, on a photo of the late L'il Sebastian. It's blurred out again!
Ben: You should probably Photoshop that out.
- Debatably unintentional: the Eagleton scheduling program is named ERIC (Eagleton Reservation Information Center). Assuming Pawnee begins using it, that would make its name... PRIC.
- Ghetto Name: Donna's brother is named Lovondrius.
- The Ghosts: Leslie and Ben's children, until the series finale.
- Gilded Cage: The Eagleton jail. The officers are extremely polite and they serve scones for breakfast.
- Gilligan Cut: Ron promises a horrified Leslie that he's just going to go outside and have a reasonable chat with his psychotic ex-wife Tammy Two. Cut to them the next morning making out through the bars of their holding cells, her in a wedding dress and him in a kimono and cornrows.
- Girl-on-Girl Is Hot: In the episode where Leslie is set up with Tom by a dating service, the only detail about her life that interests him is her comment that she had kissed a girl in college. Also, in "The Fight", both Tom and Ben are clearly interested by The Douche's speculation about Leslie and Ann being lesbians.
- The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: April and her sister Natalie, who is exactly like her. Natalie's toast at April and Andy's wedding actually moves April to tears: "My sister is lame, but Andy is sort of cool. Guess I kind of see why he'd marry her. Also if anyone finds my grey hoodie, I lost it. Thanks."
- Godzilla Threshold: When Tammy One shows up and turns Ron into a "neutered wimp," Leslie explicitly says that they're "fighting Godzilla, and we need Mothra" and recruits her archnemesis Tammy Two to fight Tammy One.
- Gold Digger:
- Former beauty queen Jessica Wicks, married to elderly Sweetums candy owner founder Nick Newport Sr.
- Played with by Tom, whose interest in Jessica makes him a Gold Digger digger.
- In "Ron & Tammys" we find out that Tammy One is a literal gold-digger. She is after Ron's money, which he keeps in the form of buried gold.
- A Good Name for a Rock Band:
- Andy rattles off a Long List that his band formerly used in "Rock Show."
- In one episode Ann compares Andy to a baby in a straitjacket and wonders if she should suggest that to him as a band name.
- In "Harvest Festival", Leslie compares Joan to an eagle-eyed tiger, prompting Andy to say "Eagle-Eyed Tiger, new band name, I called it!"
- In season 5, Andy discovers his bandmates have been playing gigs without him. When he confronts them, he says they should change their name to "Burly and the Backstabbers." After he leaves, Burly and the other musicians note that this sounds pretty sweet and admit that Andy has a real talent for (re)naming the band. (They eventually reconcile and continue playing as Mouserat, though.)
- Go-to Alias:
- Andy used Bert Macklin, FBI agent, in a few scenarios. However, he eventually dies and is replaced by his brother, Kip Hackman. Or so the President...'s enemies think.
- In the same vein, April likes being Janet Snakehole. Originally just the daughter of the owner of the Snakehole Lounge (so she could score free drinks), the next time we see her she's a fabulously wealthy widow with a Mysterious Past.
- Government Procedural: Although it shifts in how strongly government-focused it is from episode to episode. Typically, the episodes dealing with major arcs have more political/government stuff in them.
- Grand Finale: "One Last Ride"
- Growing Up Sucks: April and Andy's new roommate Ben makes them buy important items for their house, but they pick out frivolous stuff instead. Andy realizes they need the stuff on Ben's list but April is hesitant to because she doesn't want to become adults because they're "boring". Andy assures her that they'll still do fun and childish stuff while still being grownups.
- The first episode of season 7 has April have a panic attack because she realizes she and Andy are planning their weekend, so they set out to try and rekindle their spontaneity by buying a house that was used to store mental patients.
- Happily Married
- Tom and Wendy. Because it's a green-card marriage.
- April and Andy now.
- In another example of Jerry's home life being just as good as his work life is bad, he's been happily married for 28 years to his beloved Gayle. He's the only member of the office in a relationship of any notable length. When they're seen together they're always Sickeningly Sweethearts and Gayle is massively hot, and keeps the hotness with absolutely no signs of aging up to his death at age 100.
- Leslie and Ben
- Ron and Diane
- Happy Ending Massage: In "The Camel", Ron really likes getting his shoes shined it's treated as a Does This Remind You of Anything? version of a Happy Ending Massage. Eventually, he winds up grunting loudly, enormously squicking out Andy and embarrassing Ron. The two agree to never speak of it again.
- Halfway Plot Switch: Appropriately occurs in "Halloween Surprise". The first half of the episode involves an office Halloween party, but then as a result of Leslie and Ann scaring him, Jerry has a heart attack, and the rest of the episode involves Leslie holding a charity auction to raise money for Jerry and his family.
- Hand Wave: In season 6, to explain Andy's sudden weight loss (Chris Pratt was filming for Guardians of the Galaxy at the time), the show shoehorned in a 2 month time skip and Walk and Talk conversation where Ben asks "How did you lose so much weight in 2 months?" "I stopped drinking beer, it's really fattening." "...How much beer had you been drinking?!" "Too much, apparently." With that settled, it's never brought up again.
- Hate Sink:
- Councilman Jamm. He exists for the audience to hate even when there isn't any serious overarching plot at the moment.
- Jean-Ralphio and his sister. They're two of the worst, most obnoxious people you'll ever see.
- He-Man Woman Hater: Presumably applies to a group of men at a town hall meeting in "Soda Tax" who want to tax vaginas.
- The Men's Rights Activists in "Pie-Mary".
- Henpecked Husband: Ben is accused of being this by the Men's Rights Activists in "Pie-Mary" after he decides to enter the pie baking competition for candidates wives.
- Heroic Blue Screen of Death: When Ron and Leslie go to Indianapolis to receive an award, Ron only cares about visiting his favorite steakhouse. When he discovers the steakhouse has been shut down for health code violations, he does not take it well.
- Heteronormative Crusader: The Langman family.
- Hidden Depths:
- Detlef Schrempf and Roy Hibbert (of Indiana Pacers fame) are both savvy business men, despite what Tom and Jean-Ralphio think.
- Howard Tuttleman studied Semiotics at Northwestern and wrote his thesis on "narrative forms in the digital world", yet is better known as shock jock "The Douche", a satirical persona he came up with in college that he eventually turned into a full career. He's also given a lot of thought into having children, even planning to name his daughter after his beloved grandmother.
- The meathead Ann makes out with in "Harvest Festival" calls her "Hot Lips." Who would've thought he'd be a fan of M*A*S*H.
- Hidden Supplies: Leslie marches into Ron's office and announces "I've saved your bacon!" Ron replies "I seriously doubt that" and glances pointedly at the ceiling. After she's left, he stand on his chair, removes a ceiling tile and pulls out a large, vacuum-packed slab of bacon.
Ron: [smirking] Didn't think so.
- Hide Your Pregnancy: When Poehler became pregnant for the second time, the producers decided to just write and film as many episodes as possible before she had to go on maternity leave, rather than taking a hiatus between the second and third seasons. This resulted in increasing amounts of bump-camouflaging ruffled blouses and creative clipboard and desk placement during the first six episodes of season three. Unfortunately, NBC decided to push back the season premiere to January of 2011, rather than the expected September of 2010 premiere date, rendering the creative team's efforts unnecessary.
- Hiroshima as a Unit of Measure: After Ron gets shot in the head in "Hunting Trip", Tom asks the others how angry Ron is on a scale of 1 to Chris Brown.
- His Name Really Is Barkeep: As a Freeze-Frame Bonus joke, the name badge of the bowling alley manager in "Bowling for Votes" indicates that his name is "Bob Manager".
- Holding the Floor:
- In "Canvassing", Leslie talks endlessly about this history of Pawnee to run out the clock at her ill-fated public forum. This degenerates into Leslie reading aloud from The Phantom Tollbooth.
- In "Article Two", Leslie is trying to get some laws from the Pawnee charter abolished, but a citizen named Garth (Patton Oswalt), who is against changing the laws, holds a filibuster and he immediately starts talking about his suggestions for the new J. J. Abrams directed Star Wars movie, saying that it should be a Cross Over between Star Wars and the Marvel universe. It's worth noting that this was entirely ad-libbed by Patton Oswalt, and there is a total of 8 minutes, most of which was cut, but can be seen in its entirety here.
- Guess what the plot of "Filibuster" is? This time Leslie is trying to stop a city council motion that will prevent residents of the former Eagleton from voting in the Pawnee recall election.
- Hollywood Law:
- A lot of the drama in the first part of Season 7 revolves around the fact that the National Park Service can only drum up about $3 million to buy the plot of land Jessica Wicks Newport is selling. In reality, tax law would be a major consideration that would vastly increase Leslie's firepower. If the land were donated to the Parks Service, the IRS could offer her a deduction on her federal income tax of up to the full fair market value of the land (presumably, $90 million). The value of a $90 million deduction to Mrs. Newport is variable, depending on how high her income is and whether she receives it as salary from the Sweetums Foundation or as income from investments. Also factoring in is the fact that if she sold it to a private party (like Gryzzl), she would have to pay income tax on it, and the amount would depend on whether she inherited the land when her husband died or if he transferred it to her during his lifetime, the value of the land when she recieved it, and whether her husband died before or after the recent Pawnee property boom; depending, she could end up paying millions or even tens of millions in taxes on the sale (or spending lower but still-astronomical sums paying tax lawyers to reduce it). Of course, an extensive discourse on tax law is not funny and having the Parks Service relatively evenly matched with the private sector isn't dramatic, so naturally this doesn't come up.
- Comes up again in "GryzzlBox," where the company is found to be data mining in an extremely intrusive manner. It turns out that the free Wi-Fi contract supposedly OK'd this, as Gryzzl's lawyers had snuck in the relevant provision in an addendum to an addendum on the day Star Wars Episode VII came out, knowing Ben would be distracted. In reality, (1) the privacy rights involved are almost certainly not the city's to give up, but the citizens', and (2) there is statutory law out there that would make a lot of this illegal even if it is in a contract. Additionally, there are laws to prevent unusual and extremely important changes being snuck into obscure parts of contracts, especially if the contract was previously negotiated or is a standard form or "boilerplate" contract - these laws are in place to prevent pretty much this exact thing.
- Horsemen of the Apocalypse: A local restaurant, JJ's Diner, serves a breakfast meal called the Four Horsemeals of the Eggporkalypse.
- Hot Scoop: Shauna Malwae-Tweep.
- Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Andy looms over April.
- Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: In "Citizen Knope", the perfumer Dennis Feinstein justifies his deplorable treatment of an employee by saying that the employee should be treated like you'd pay $25,000 to hunt someone in another country. He then makes an aside comment about how much he loved that vacation.
- Hypocritical Humor:
- Leslie has fun TPing a house on Halloween in season 2, but doesn't condone it.
- In "94 Meetings":
Jessica Wicks: You were a stick in the mud when we judged that pageant and you're being a stick in the mud now.
Leslie: I am not a stick in the mud. I just want to stop a party from happening.
- Ron Swanson: "One thing I promised myself when I buried gold in my backyard was that I wouldn't be a hoarder or a miser about it."
- In "Ron and Diane," Tom complains that Jerry didn't invite them to his Christmas party - which they only discovered when Donna had an attack of conscience about their annual "Jerry Dinner" where they make fun of him behind his back.
Liberty or Die Party member: These government handouts are deplorable. You're just handing out blank checks! I was on food stamps, I was on welfare, and nobody ever helped me!
- I Ate WHAT?: "Go throw up." (Andy and the spray-painted M&Ms.)
- Idiot Ball: Despite being incredibly savvy about their public image and legal matters, Gryzzl freely admits to Leslie and Ben that they're doing data-mining (which only came up because they sent personalized packages to everyone in the town). Naturally, this results in a huge backlash against them.
- I Lied: In "Two Parties" Councilman Jamm admits that he reneged on a promise to Leslie then says "Here's the deal: I don't care."
- I Never Said It Was Poison: Andy, having brought back his "Bert Macklin, FBI" persona in order to deduce which woman in the office is pregnant, tries to pull this on Donna, to trick her into revealing that she is pregnant without ever actually mentioning pregnancy (he asks her whether he's speaking to one person or "one and one-ninth" people). As expected, it doesn't work too well.
- If You Ever Do Anything to Hurt Her...: Tom asks Chris if the latter is about to give him this speech regarding Ann in "Dave Returns".
- In "Ben's Parents," everyone in the department gives this speech to an increasingly bewildered Ben.
- In "Two Parties," Andy gives this speech to Chris about April. After Andy made up a fictional future relationship for the two of them.
- Indianapolis: A stand in for "the big city", visited occasionally for local color. "Two Parties" is set in Indy's famous St. Elmo's Steakhouse.
- Indirect Kiss: Occurs between Ann and Tom in "Dave Returns". Jerry points it out, revealing to Ann that Tom blabbed about their date.
- Indy Ploy:
- I Need a Freaking Drink: Leslie, in "Dave Returns", says she will "endorse ten beers into [her] mouth" because of how stressful the day has been.
- In "Women In Charge," Ron assents to looking after Diane's kids one more day, saying, "I'd be delighted." Smash Cut to him at his desk chugging a glass of Scotch.
- Informed Attractiveness: Very common. The winning beauty contest contestant is stated by everyone to be the most attractive. People constantly describe Ann as beautiful. Tom's ex-wife and Jerry's daughter are also stated to be surprisingly hot.
- Informed Flaw: It's mentioned in numerous episodes that Pawnee is the fourth most obese city in the entire United States, but this isn't reflected in the cast (sans Jerry and Donna) or the extras who appear as locals.
- Insistent Terminology: Ben is forced to "resign in disgrace" after he is found guilty of bribery to cover up his and Leslie's relationship.
- Insult Backfire: In "Greg Pikitis":
Leslie: Check this out. These are all the possible routes from Greg Pikitis’ house to the statue.
Ann: That looks like something you would find on the wall of a serial killer.
Leslie: In a way, that’s a compliment. It shows dedication.
- Intentionally Awkward Title: The library has a habit of fabricating late fees for books with mortifying titles as a means of social attack.
- Intimidating Revenue Service: Tammy One is so ferocious that the mere invocation of her name causes Tammy Two to flee in terror. Naturally, she works in the IRS.
- I Resemble That Remark:
- In "Bowling for Votes", a guy in Leslie's focus group comments that she seems uptight, not the sort of person you'd go bowling with. She gets really uptight about trying to seem laidback and good at bowling.
- In "Operation Ann", Ron states that he hates riddles before solving the current clue in a heartbeat and enthusiastically coming up with a game plan to find the rest.
- Ironic Echo: Ron Swanson's statement, "Son, there's no wrong way to consume alcohol!" Later, in the bar, he exclaims that "this is the wrong way to consume alcohol."
- Ironic Nickname: Old Gus, the shoeshiner before Andy took the job. It's fitting enough when he's a crotchety old man, but apparently they called him "Old Gus" back when he got the job in his 20s, too.
- Irony:Meta example. In the episode about censoring a painting, the painting was censored.
- It's Quiet... Too Quiet: Invoked by April when beginning a new Burt Macklin, FBI adventure in "Pawnee Commons".
- I Was Quite a Looker: Marlene claims this in a deleted scene.
- In "London, Part 1 and 2" Jerry states that he used to resemble Chris until he started putting on sympathy weight with each of Gayle's pregnancies, Chris is not pleased.
- In the finale, the scene at Garry's 2048 funeral have shown the boyishly handsome Ben and the cute Leslie haven't aged as well as the much older (and barely aged a day save for white streaks in her hair) Gayle.
- Jerk Ass:
- A whole lot of Pawnee citizens.
- April, particularly in the early seasons, has a sour attitude about everything and is unafraid to show it.
- Ben's father. His mother is at least a Stepford Smiler. Ben's dad is just a humorless asshole from the get-go.
- Councilman Jamm to the extreme. Basically starts out by using Leslie's private bathroom at City Hall without permission, through undermining her attempts to get a dog park on the lot near Ann's house so he can build a "Paunch Burger" on it culminating in him getting drunk at Leslie's makeshift wedding at the park fundraiser and throwing two stink bombs. He gets a well deserved punch from Ron.
- He later tries to sue Ron for 22 million dollars.
- Dennis Feinstein, Pawnee's wealthy cologne manufacturer, who is so obnoxious and repugnant, he even causes good natured Andy to yell "Your a dick!" at him.
- The Venezuelans in "Sister City" are pretty much kings of jerkbaggery... and the end of the episode reveals they're doing it deliberately because they're part of a Chavez-sponsored committee to make America look bad.
- Jump Cut: The use of this sort of editing has become almost a trademark of many of the show's "talking head" interviews.
- Karma Houdini: Greg Pikitis. A young jerkass who never gets any repercussions for any of his actions. In fact, he's dating the girl that both Leslie and Ron adore and want to mentor, and the association makes Leslie decide the girl is an idiot.
- Kavorka Man:
- Donna is quite the man-eater. In the sister cities episode, she is chosen much more often than Leslie, April, and lovely Ann.
- Subverted by Tom. He mentions that he's married, but everyone is surprised to discover that she's quite beautiful. It's eventually revealed to be a Citizenship Marriage. He's got a huge crush on her, but she's not interested.
- Kent Brockman News: Pawnee Today.
- Kubrick Stare: April does this to camera as she and Andy talk about their upcoming Halloween party.
- Laser-Guided Karma: Tom in “Jerry’s Retirement”
- Latin Lover:
- April briefly dates a Venezuelan Eduardo at the beginning of season 3.
- Tom invokes this with Lucy when he mentions that she's Cuban.
- Like Brother and Sister:
- The early episodes tease Leslie and Ron as a possible future couple given the number of times Leslie awkwardly admits that she had a single sexual dream about him. However, they are just very good friends and there will never be any romantic tension between them.
- When Leslie is set up with Tom by a dating service, she balks at the idea, stating that he's like a little sister to her.
- Literal Metaphor:
- Mark notes at the beginning of the second season that he literally hit rock bottom: he fell into a pit and hit a rock.
- Tammy One turned out to be a literal gold digger, trying to get into Ron's good graces so she could find the gold he had buried throughout town.
- In the Season 3 opener, Leslie puts in a request to buy fertilizer, and it gets denied. They literally can't buy shit.
- Literal-Minded: In "Sweet Sixteen", Leslie puts a link to a JPEG on a form at a sign printing shop. The shopkeeper prints signs of the URL.
- In "Li'l Sebastian", Leslie asks Andy to write a song for Li'l Sebastian that's "Like 'Candle in the Wind' but 5000 times better". Andy writes a song called "5000 Candles in the Wind".
- Locked in a Room: "Leslie and Ron" has the two title characters locked in the Parks and Recreation offices until morning so they can resolve their feud.
- Long List:
- Andy lists all of Mouse Rat's previous names in "Rock Show".
- Pawnee has gone through so many town slogans that even April is impressed that Leslie manages to compile a complete list of them in "Time Capsule". The list takes up its own binder.
- Pretty much a running gag; a great many episodes feature a character giving one of these during a talking head interview.
Andy: I want to treat April like a queen. And queens deserve flowers and massages, chocolate, booze, diamonds, rubies, emeralds, them treasure chests full of scarves, different kinds of lubes that warm up when you rub them on stuff, I'm gonna give her all that stuff and more!
- Loony Fan: Kelly Larson (played by Poehler's old SNL castmate Will Forte) is a Twilight loon who chains himself to a pipe in Leslie's office in "Time Capsule." Except that he isn't actually a Twilight fan, he's just trying to reconnect with his daughter.
- Lots of Luggage: Tom brings a ridiculous amount of state-of-the-art electronics to the department camping trip. Hooking them all up to the van drains the battery, leaving them all stranded.
- Love Triangle: In season 2, Mark/Ann/Andy, Ann/Andy/April, Tom/Wendy/Ron. A bit subverted with April, her boyfriend, and his boyfriend, as April is only along because she feels above traditional relationships. All of the above are completely done away with by season 3, with Mark and Wendy Put On A Bus, and April and Andy Happily Married.
- Love Dodecahedron:
- Leslie was into Mark who dated Ann who is still a little a hung up on her ex Andy who has Will They or Won't They? with April. Tom is dating Lucy who seemed to eye Ron who is sleeping with Tom's ex-wife Wendy.
- Completely done away with in favor of focusing on just two person couples. Andy and April are married, Ben and Leslie are in love but forced to stay apart, and Chris and Ann have Unresolved Sexual Tension.
- A legitimate triangle presented itself in season 4 with Chris/Ann/Tom; however, the Opposites Attract angle for Ann and Tom gets to be too big a divide and they part amicably, with Ann eventually winding back up with Chris for good and having a child with him.
- Lyrical Dissonance: In "Dave Returns", Andy is put in charge of writing Leslie's city council campaign "anthem". It's intended to sound upbeat and inspirational, but Andy has never been eloquent.
- The Maiden Name Debate: Parodied among Tammy Two and her friends. When she and Ron get married again, one of the other librarians gives her a gag gift of a library card reading "Tammy Swanson-Swanson".
- Just before Leslie & Ben marry, he asks her if she would take up the name "Leslie Wyatt," and claims its incredibly important to her that she does. Ben reveals he was only teasing her moments later, Leslie Knope is quite fond, if not excessively proud of her moniker and he well knows it.
- Man Child:
- Bobby Newport, Leslie's opponent in the City Council election, has the mental capacity and personality of a child. At first he seems like an entitled jerk, but it becomes increasingly clear that he's too stupid to be mean.
- Andy behaves like a teenager even though he's about 30. The characterization was flanderized starting in the second season to make him more sympathetic.
- Lord Covington from the season 6 premiere "London" quickly proves to be this in a subversion of British Stuffiness.
- Manipulative Bitch: Tammy One, to truly terrifying degrees. Her mere word is enough to make Leslie scramble to do anything she says, and a week of living with Ron turns him into a brightly dressed, personable, clean-shaven, pro-government dork. In a deleted scene, Ron describes Tammy Two as (among other things) "the manipulative bitch by which all other manipulative bitches should be judged."
- The Match Maker: April is the one who pairs up Tom and Ann, much to her regret as they annoy her later with their relationship problems. She also tries to set up Chris, still sad from breaking up with Jerry's daughter, with Andy's female studies professor. Linda ends up sleeping with Ron instead.
- May-December Romance:
- In "Rock Show", Leslie's mother set her up on a date with a 62-year-old man. ("And this is my youngest. He's about your age.")
- Tammy One was a candy striper when Ron was born...and helped deliver him.
Leslie: I'm like that light bulb. Weak, flickering. Barely giving off any light. Unable to make out with the light bulb I wanna make out with.
- Mic Drop: Ben Wyatt after condemning Denmark in the Model United Nations.
- Misplaced Accent: In "Pawnee Commons", April plays "Judy Hitler" with an accent that sounds more Russian than German ("Fine! I vill tell you vhere it is, dammit!")
- Missing Steps Plan: Tom and Jean-Ralphio's Entertainment 720 company. The two created an extremely elaborate office, filled with people who had no other purpose than to entertain them and (potential) business partners and began to hand out expensive gifts and merchandise in high quantities. Their idea apparently being that a successful company should have all such things and that having such things would result in a successful company. The fact they didn't even spend a single second on what their company should actually DO never crossed their mind (Tom had a vague idea that it would be an event organizing/promoting company, which is actually a legit business model, especially if you're as good as Tom at throwing a party, but could never quite stick to that). Needless to say everyone but them quickly realized their company was doomed.
- Mistaken for Cheating: Ann worries Chris is cheating on her, so Leslie looks for and finds evidence of cheating in his house. It turns out though, that the items all have perfectly reasonable explanations. Also, Chris couldn't have cheated on her anyway, as he had dumped her a week earlier.
- Mistaken for Gay : Leslie and Ann, to Ann's discomfort. Examples include:
- In episode five where Leslie dresses up in a suit and ties her hair back, looking like a very butch lesbian and takes Ann as her date. A former councilman comes up to them and says that he thinks what they are doing is so brave. Ann even says that she feels like she is Leslie's trophy wife.
- The entire episode of "The Practice Date".
- In episode 12 the news anchors call Leslie and Ann lesbians for being close to each other in a photograph and later on the news anchor says to Leslie "It's nice to see you brought your girlfriend for support".
- The Douche comments to Crazy Ira about how long Ann and Leslie were in the bathroom during "The Fight".
- The Missus and the Ex: Dave and Leslie in "Dave Returns".
- Model Couple: Invoked by Tom in "Summer Catalog" with respect to Ann and Mark: He wants to get a picture of the two of them for the cover of the Parks Department's summer catalog basically because they look good together. He even says "You two should be models."
- Model United Nations: A high school model UN event is featured in "The Treaty".
- Moment Killer: Ethel during Leslie and Ben's spectacular kiss at the end of "The Trial of Leslie Knope".
- Mundane Made Awesome: The entire department (save outsider Ben) goes totally ape over Li'l Sebastian, a miniature horse who is famous for... being a miniature horse back in the '80s. Even Ron Fucking Swanson turns into a giddy child around him, and the hostile Pawnee Today host is nearly turned around by Li'l Sebastian's presence. Ben just doesn't get it.
- Museum of Boredom: A museum of snowglobes.
- My Friends... and Zoidberg:
Tom: Friends, former lovers, acquaintances, Jerry.
- One of Leslie's jokes in "Correspondents' Lunch": "There are so many wonderful, talented journalists here. Also here are some reporters from the Pawnee Sun."
- Mythology Gag: A slant gag on The Office. For Phyllis' bachelor party, Jim is tasked with finding a stripper but he instead hires a Ben Franklin impersonator (Karen and Pam engage him in sexy talk anyway). For Leslie's bachelor party, Ann hires an Abraham Lincoln impersonator stripper.
- Negative Continuity: In the episode "Rock Show" (from season 1), Leslie unwillingly enters a date with a government worker from Eagleton. Her season 3-and-up personality would have abandoned the date immediately.
- Never a Self-Made Woman: Subverted. In the episode "Soda Tax", Leslie said that her position as councilwoman wouldn't be possible without Ron, because he hired and supported her as Deputy Director. Ron then reveals that he's tried to fire Leslie four times, but changed his mind because he was so impressed by her conviction.
- Never Live It Down: In-universe. Ben bankrupted his town as an 18 year old mayor with his Icetown project. Random passers-by that recognize him are quick to bring it up.
- Nice Hat: Tom borrows Ron's coonskin hat and hangs out in the hallway, hoping that it will be a conversation starter with women. It fails, even after he resorts to shouting, "I'm wearing a crazy hat! I'm interesting!" at them as they pass. The moment Ron puts it on, he gets complimented.
- Nipple and Dimed: The Double Standard of this trope even existing is discussed in "Jerry's Painting", where a topless female centaur painting is considered offensive, so Leslie has it repainted as a topless male and gloats that no one would find it offensive now.
- No Accounting for Taste: Ann is a nurse, and therefore predisposed toward wanting to take care of people. Andy is a helpless idiot bordering on Too Dumb to Live. As soon as he's back in the hospital and their old dynamic is re-established, she immediately becomes attracted to him again.
- No Bisexuals: April claims to have a "gay boyfriend," Derek, who has his own boyfriend, showing her pronounced sense of ironic detachment. She claims that he's straight for her, but he only makes out with her when he's drunk. In one episode, the gay guys give her a rather platonic peck on the cheek in greeting, and she later breaks up with them in an apparent desire to have a real relationship. The entire thing is played off as entirely ironic. The trope is averted in another episode when Leslie gets the numbers of two bisexual guys.
- No, Except Yes:
- In "The Trial of Leslie Knope", Leslie tells Ron to silence Chris's decisive witness, then corrects herself—"Don't silence him, just make sure he can't talk."
- "Citizen Knope":
Leslie: Oh, I'm not gonna do my job. I'm just gonna oversee the department, check in on the parks, and attend any meetings that are required of the Deputy Director.
- No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Tom is on the receiving end of one from Tammy Two at the end of "Ron and Tammy: II".
- No Indoor Voice:
- One-shot character Carl Lorthner, played by Andy Samberg. He was made a park ranger specifically because he was insufferable in an office job.
- Jean-Ralphio has a habit of yelling when he gets excited, which is lampshaded by Tom in "Li'l Sebastian".
- Craig Middlebrooks. His loud voice did become an issue when Tom's restaurant was about to open.
- Non Sequitur Distraction: In one episode, the gang is auditioning mural ideas. Jerry starts to give a touching speech about how his idea was influenced by his mother, but he accidentally calls the mural a "murinal." Seeing as how he's the Butt Monkey, nobody lets him live it down.
- No Party Given: The main characters all seem to be in non-partisan career civil service positions, so the lack of explicit party identification isn't surprising. Although Leslie Knope comes across strongly as a Democrat, she expresses admiration for headstrong female politicians regardless of their politics. The parties of local politicians are also never given, though Indiana politicians are required by law to divulge the information. The trope is averted by Ron, who is emphatically a Libertarian and identifies himself as such.
- Averted in the series finale, where Leslie explicitly refers to the Democratic party wanting her to run for Governor.
- Noodle Incident: "That was the second most awkward way someone has grabbed my breast."
- Nostalgia Filter : Ben has this for the early Nineties. So much so that he has a themed birthday party at the roller rink.
- Nothing Personal: When Chris puts Leslie and Ben on trial for their relationship, he invokes this trope. Luckily, nobody got angry at him.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: In "Flu Season 2", Chip McCapp is a parody of country singer Hunter Hayes with a little bit of Justin Bieber thrown in.
- No Tell Motel: Ron and Tammy Two rush off to one in "Ron and Tammy".
- Not Hyperbole:
- In one episode, the owner of J.J.'s refers to Leslie as being his best customer. She initially thinks he's flattering her, but then he notes she is literally his best customer, spending over $1000 on waffles each year.
- A distraught Ron goes to a diner and tells the waiter to bring him all their eggs and bacon. He immediately calls him back to explain that he doesn't mean, "Bring me a lot of bacon and eggs." He literally wants all of the eggs and bacon contained in the restaurant.
- Chris' catchphrase is misusing the term "literally", using it hyberbolically in situations where something is not literally true. So, it stands out in one instance where he tells Ann that her inbox is literally filled with [pictures of] penises" that for once he's using literally correctly and it is Not Hyperbole.
- This trope comes up with Ron's description of Tammy Two in her introductory episode. Normally, when a character (especially a macho one like Ron) refers to an ex-wife as evil, a bitch, etc., they are exaggerating. The audience (and Leslie) finds out that he's not.
- Not-So-Innocent Whistle: In "Bowling for Votes", Milicent shows up to break up with Chris and Andy starts whistling the moment he sees her.
- Number Two: Leslie to Ron.
- Obstructive Bureaucrat:
- Subverted with Leslie, who tries to help everyone as much as she can. Initial plans and characterization had her closer to this trope (hence her last name of Knope), but Characterization Marches On and she's highly effective, and tries to do as much as she can for as many people as she can.
- Her foil is Ron, who doesn't believe that government should do anything, and tries to make it so. He hires April specifically so she can block any attempts to get him to do something. Ben is also forced into this role due to his job slashing budgets.
- Most bureaucrats on the show fall under this trope. The only ones who don't are usually those aligned with Leslie.
- Offscreen Breakup: Most breakups occur offscreen, and are only revealed when one of the parties has a talking head saying that they've broken up.
- Oh, Crap:
- At the end of season 3, Ron's first wife, Tammy One, shows up. The news causes the Tammy Two to shout "Oh, shit!" and flee in terror. Also an example of The Worf Effect, as it's demonstrated how bad Tammy One is by showing that even Tammy Two is scared of her.
- In "Operation Ann", Leslie has sent Ben on a scavenger hunt for clues about their date. Upon the discovery that there's a third clue, Ron asks, "Just how many clues are there?" Ben shoots a wide-eyed Aside Glance.
- One-Hour Work Week: Despite being a time intensive job in reality, Ann's nursing profession is this on the show, bordering on The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything, as she hangs out in the Parks and Recreation department just as frequently as the people who actually work there/are supposed to work there. The cast discussed this in an interview, with Rashida Jones commenting that Ann doesn't work at all, and Aziz Ansari joking that there would be an episode revealing that Ann wasn't actually a nurse and had just picked up a pair of scrubs. The show eventually justifies Ann's constant presence at City Hall by having her take a job in the health department.
- One of Us: In-universe. Ben has been revealed to have a strong interest in Star Trek and Game of Thrones. He also owns a Batman costume.
- One Steve Limit: Averted.
- Ron has two ex-wives named Tammy. We see Tammy Two in a couple episodes, and Tammy One shows up as The Ghost at the end of "Li'l Sebastian". Ron's mother is named 'Tamara', though she goes by 'Tammy'.
- There have been at least two Bens and two Chrises.
- There are at least two Stevens (three if you count when Ron called Chris "Steve").
- Both Andy and Burly have the first name Andrew, but both go by nicknames/diminutives. The fact they share a name is never commented on, despite Burly only ever appearing in Andy's plots. Possibly, Andy just hasn't realized they share a name.
- Only Sane Man: There are three: Ann, Ben and Ron.
- Operation Blank: In "Ron and the Tammys" Leslie goes through a variety of code names for her plans to save Ron from Tammy One, "Operation: Rescue Ron", "Operation: Golden Dove", "Operation: Soaring Falcon"
- Operation Jealousy:
- April tries to pull this on Andy a few times. When Ann starts drunkenly flirting with him, April counters by flirting with Jean-Ralphio. When Ann kisses Andy, she shacks up with a new Venezuelan boyfriend, Eduardo. Both attempts backfire on her, as Andy's so nice he backs off because he wants April to be happy.
- When she's first trying to get Andy's attention, she persuades him that her giving him a bunch of hickies will make Ann jealous. "What's weird about one friend sucking on another friend's neck?"
- Opposed Mentors:
- In general, Ron and Leslie for April.
- Both Invoked and Defied simultaneously, if that's possible — when Chris decides to train April to be a manager, she sets him and Ron against each other and goes for a pizza with Andy while they're competing with each other.
- Opposites Attract:
- Who'd have thought that a liberal feminist vegetarian community college professor would be hot for the libertarian man's-man carnivore Ron Swanson?
- April is dour, cynical and doesn't want to do anything. Andy is chipper, naive and full of energy.
- Over and Under the Top: Jean-Ralphio is an exaggeration of all of Tom's wasteful, image-focused ways turned Up to Eleven.
- Overly Narrow Superlative:
- In a first season episode, Tom asks April if she thinks he's one of the top five best-looking guys in Pawnee.
- Leslie suggests that she and Ron see Indiana's second-largest rocking chair on the way to Indianapolis in "Indianapolis".
- Parallel Porn Titles
- Paranoia Gambit: Ron did this to himself when he thought Leslie was going to throw him a surprise party when she had totally forgotten about it.
- To the point where he never left his office
- Parental Substitute:
- Pass the Popcorn: Ron takes great glee in watching the government stall to the extent of uselessness and loves to "grab a few donuts and enjoy the show".
- Perfectly Cromulent Word: When Leslie is informed of her potential to be elected mayor in the third season finale, she gets so excited that she blurts out "Absotutely!"
- Person as Verb: In "Ron and Tammy: Part II", Leslie refers to (what she perceives as) an embarrassing mistake by Ben as "being a Jerry".
- Pet the Dog : April loves animals. She thinks they should be rewarded for not being people.
- Pinch Me:
Chris: April! You are too valuable to just be Ron's assistant, so from now on, you are a multitasking executive aide—assisting the entire office.
April: Is this a nightmare? (smacks herself in the forehead with her pen) April, wake up. (slaps herself on the cheek)
- Pitbull Dates Puppy: April and Andy.
- Politician Guest Star: Season 5 premiere “Ms. Knope Goes To Washington” features Senators Olympia Snowe, Barbara Boxer, and John McCain. "Leslie vs. April" beats that by having Vice President of the United States Joe Biden. Leslie runs into Newt Gingrich at a restaurant in "Two Parties". Michelle Obama shows up in the season six finale to briefly name-drop her youth activity and diet programs.
- Popcultural Osmosis Failure: Tom calls Dave Officer John McClane, a reference the latter doesn't get.
- Portmanteau Couple Name: When discussing the relationship between Mark Brendanawicz and Ann Perkins, Tom chooses to go with the name "Ann-danawicz", dismissing the alternative "Merkins" as soon as he says it out loud.
- Potty Dance: Leslie does this in "Filibuster" because the filibuster prevents her from going to the bathroom.
- Precision F-Strike:
- When April is hospitalized with the flu, she spends an entire day abusing Ann in revenge for kissing Andy. Ann, being a good nurse, endures April's behavior ... until: "3, 2, 1 ... my shift is over. What the fuck is wrong with you?!"
- Fuck you, Ann! from Leslie Knope, of all people, in "Soulmates," when Ann sticks her with a needle for a blood test.
- Stricken with a severe hernia, Ron enlists April to get him into the hospital. When she asks him if he's ready to go, he makes this statement, sitting motionless in his office chair, in absolute pain: "I was born ready. I'm Ron fucking Swanson."
- Promotion to Opening Titles: Jim O'Heir (Jerry/Larry) and Retta (Donna Meagle) were promoted to opening credits halfway through season 6 after the departure of Rashida Jones (Ann) and Rob Lowe (Chris).
- Pun: In "Soulmates", Leslie uses a presumably Indiana-specific online dating service called Hoosier Match.
- Punch Clock Villain: Jennifer Barkley, Bobby Newport's campaign manager, is genuinely friendly toward Leslie and Ben. Being a campaign manager is just her job, so she sees no reason why she can't share a social breakfast with her political opponents. This throws Leslie and Ben for a loop, who take the campaign much more personally and have difficulty separating Jennifer's ruthless political tactics with her off-the-clock behavior.
I don't care about any of this; I'm just trying to win. Look, it's not personal—I like
you! But my job
is to beat you. So have a seat. I'll get you some of those waffles that you love
How do you know all th— Jennifer:
It's my job to know.
- Inverted in Dr. Saperstein, he gest quite nasty with Tom, yet on the clock he's nothing but a caring professional doctor even to the closest of Tom's friends
- Punny Name: Ron's last name was going to be "Knope" to go with his obstructive personality. After Amy Poehler was cast it was made Leslie's last name as an ironic counterpoint to her positive personality.
- Put on a Bus:
- Mark left the show at the end of the second season to pursue a private sector job, and hasn't returned since.
- Sewage Joe was put on a bus after Ben fired him for texting pictures of his penis. The Bus Came Back (appropriately) in "Bus Tour" where he turns out to be the mysterious assailant who threw a pie that almost hits Leslie. He was aiming at Ben to get revenge and succeeds at the end of the episode.
- Ann and Chris in season 6, after conceiving a child & moving for a job in Michigan.
- Putting the Band Back Together: In the opening of the season 3 premiere, the Parks and Rec dept. reopens after being closed down for the summer and Leslie goes to each of her old co-workers who either have new jobs or relaxing and gets them back to work with her.
- Another example arises during season 6, wherein Andy literally reunites the band Land Ho for a performance at the Pawnee-Eagleton Unity Concert.
- Quietly Performing Sister Show: The show's similarities to The Office are no coincidence; it shared the same executive producers and some writers, and was originally pitched as a spinoff. While The Office got much more attention and higher ratings, Parks quietly built up a loyal following and became a critical darling, with most critics considering it equal to, and in some cases better than, The Office.
- Quirky Town: Pawnee.
- The Quisling: The town has changed its slogan several times. These include slogans that welcome German, Vietnamese, and Taliban soldiers.
- Racist Grandpa: Councilman Milton, the elderly long serving councilman elected to office as a member of the Dixiecrat Party, a real life party broken off from the Democratic Party in search of a stronger pro-segregation platform. Despite this, Councilman Milton seems to be a pleasant, harmless old man who just doesn't realize his old fashioned beliefs are now deemed offensive, falling into this trope. It also speaks to Pawnee's unfortunate past of racial injustices- and the fact that he is still holding office after this long suggests that many older citizens of Pawnee also qualify as Racist Grandpas.
- Rated M for Manly: The Ron Swanson Pyramid of Greatness◊.
- A Real Man Is a Killer: Leslie tries to prove she's one of the guys by joining Ron's annual bird hunting trip in "Hunting Trip." She claims to be a good hunter, though we never really see much evidence one way or the other.
- Real Men Eat Meat: Ron Swanson, inventor of the "Turf 'n' Turf", a 24oz T-bone steak served with a 16oz porterhouse steak on the side.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Chris and Ben in the beginning.
- Relationship Revolving Door: Ann and Tom in the fourth season. They date for about half the season, but it's impressive when they go 24 hours without breaking up.
- Re Tool: The second season deemphasizes the pit storyline, changes some of the characterizations and adds some of the supporting characters into the mix.
- Riddle for the Ages: How did Jerry get married to someone as hot as Gayle? As much as they try to make sense of it, none of the cast ever figure it out.
- Ripped from the Headlines:
- "Born Raised" has the citizens of Pawnee overly concerned with whether Leslie was actually born in Pawnee and demanding her birth certificate, aping the whole Birther farce.
- "End of the World" reveals that every few years since the '70s, a local cult claims that the end of the world is coming, likely a reference to the antics of Harold Camping and Family Radio. However, the group in Pawnee are Lovecraftian rather than Christian.
- The "Filibuster" that Leslie finds herself forced into doing, and especially the "three strikes" strict rules (no sitting down, no one allowed to help) was inspired by the Wendy Davis filibuster in the Texas legislature on June 25, 2013. So says the showrunners.
- Rogue Juror: Leslie in "Beauty Pageant". She wants to give the award to a talented girl who does a lot of charity work, while everyone else wants to give it to a super-hot giggling moron.
- Rogues Gallery: Surprisingly for a show that initially seems like a Workplace Comedy, the Parks Department do battle with many recurring arch foes on a regular basis, including but not limited to Pawnee's other departments, the media and their Eagleton counterparts.
- Robot Buddy: Tom's DJ Roomba in Sweetums.
- Romance-Inducing Smudge: A mild variation is invoked between Leslie and Ben after the latter has dust thrown in his face at a fake Native American curse-lifting ritual.
- Running Gag:
- Tom proclaiming, "This is my wife, Wendy. She's a surgeon, and she's super-hot!"
- Leslie calling Ann beautiful or saying, "Oh Ann..." before lavishing praises on her, though often it's unintentionally condescending.
- Leslie being ambushed on camera by Joan Callamazzo.
- Jerry being a loser at everything.
- People ignoring that Ann doesn't work at the Parks and Recreation Department.
- There was a lot of Lampshade Hanging, to the point where Ann actually gets a job at City Hall.
- Andy's rogue F.B.I. agent alter-ego, Bert Macklin. The line "Macklin...you sonuvabitch..." is usually involved.
- It seems there is not a single chapter in Pawnee history that isn't completely horrifying.
- The hilariously graphic murals depicting historical atrocities.
- Places in Pawnee being overrun by raccoons and the courtyard overrun with pigeons.
- Leslie offering Shauna Malwae-Tweep headline suggestions whenever she's interviewed. They're usually very long and try too hard to force a pun.
- April's creepy friend Orin who just stares at everyone and makes cryptic comments.
- Ben's love of calzones and everyone else's hatred for them.
- Ben inability to understand everyone else's love for Li'l Sebastian.
- Leslie's odd understandings of what Ann's work as a nurse involves.
- Tom buying clothing/accessories sized for a woman. Or a child. Or a pet.
- Tom reusing a photo of himself holding a tiny cup.
- Andy attempting to vault a counter and failing.
- Perd Hapley's long winded interview questions and tendency to speak in obvious, redundant sentences.
- Chris greeting people by pointing at them and saying their name.
- Leslie doing something that, though justifiable, seems juvenile without context, and Councilman Howser catching her.
- Ben's complete bafflement over how Jerry got Gayle to marry him.
- More recently we've been introduced to the interesting fact that all accountants love puns. And lawyers hate them.
- Ben taking an accounting job from Barney and immediately quitting.
- Andy's songs usually contain one or both of the lyrics " "Spread your wings and fly" and/or "You deserve to be a champion."
- Sand In My Eyes: Andy is allergic to jerks.
- Sarcastic Confession: April takes this trope to heart.
April: Whatever, the truth is stupid. I only tell the truth when it makes me sound like I'm lying.
- Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl: Gender Flipped with Andy and April, played straight with Leslie and Ben.
- In the second season, Dexhart invented a sex scandal with Leslie in order to divert attention from the far more embarrassing sex scandal which he was actually involved in. Eventually, Leslie challenges him to provide proof of their affair on TV and he claims she has a mole in her buttocks. After a very fed-up Leslie shows her butt to Joan Callamezzo, she terms it "no mole-gate."
- Spoofed in "Gin It Up!", when Perd Hapley decides to refer to a Twitter scandal as "Twitter Watergate", "until we can come up with a snappier name for it".
- Scary Librarian: The entire Pawnee Library department. Examples:
- Scavenger Hunt: Leslie sets one up for Ben in "Operation Ann".
- Scenery Porn:
- In "Camping", it is revealed that the pollution from the Sweetums factory makes a beautiful sky. But is it worth the asthma?
- In "End of the World", Andy and April run off on a road trip to the Grand Canyon. April struggles to find some reason to be annoyed by the staggering vista, but comes up empty.
- "Sweet Sixteen" features the department going to Donna's lake cabin. The view is beautiful.
- Scout Out: The Pawnee Rangers in "Pawnee Rangers" are classic outdoors scouts, while Leslie's Goddesses are a bit more modern. When the Rangers collapse, the Swansons come into being.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: When Ron hears that his ex-wife Tammy One is in the building, he strides down the corridor, unscrews an air vent and pulls out a stashed bug-out bag before going on the run.
- Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Chris and Ron.
- Series Continuity Error: At the end of Season 2, in his last scene, Mark Brendanawicz gives Leslie the blueprints for her park on Lot 48. In "Pawnee Commons" Leslie is desperate because she doesn't have a decent plan for the proposed park.
- Series Fauxnale: According to co-creator Mike Schur, the show has done this several times, due to the its shaky ratings. The writers were worried that, since Parks was a midseason replacement in season 3, that it would be cancelled soon after. So they wrote the season 3 finale, "Lil Sebastian", as a possible series finale. This happened again with the season 4 finale, "Win, Lose or Draw". The season 5 episode "Leslie and Ben" was also written as a series finale because it was the last episode of the front 13 produced.
- Averted with the final season of Series 5 as the writers were confident the show would be renewed.
- Done yet again in Season 6 with the season finale "Moving Up" which takes place largely during the Unity Concert, thus has a Grand Finale vibe (with cameos from several famous performers, and closes most characters' story arcs). Leslie even gets her name added to a statue listing the founders of Pawnee as she orchestrated the merger between Pawnee and Eagleton. It even has a Distant Finale, showing Leslie, Ben, April, and Andy 3 years after the events of the Unity Concert.
- Sequel Episode: "Ron & Tammy: Part II".
- Serious Business: Li'l Sebastian. Everyone in Pawnee thinks he's the most important thing, which Ben simply doesn't get.
- Sexy Secretary: The brunette receptionist at Tom and Jean-Ralphio's company e720. She's not even sure she's the receptionist there but she's hot. Ben asks her how much she's getting paid and she says: "A hundred thousand dollars a year with full medical!"
- Ship Tease: April/Andy, Chris/Ann, and Leslie/Ben are all teased and taken to completion. Chris and Ann break up, but after dating other people, they still have the strongest feelings for each other and end up an Official Couple like the other two pairings.
- Shipper on Deck: Ann supports Leslie/Ben wholeheartedly.
- Shoe Shine, Mister?: Andy gets the job of shoeshine boy at Pawnee City Hall after a season and a half of being essentially homeless and unemployed.
- Ann and Andy's names. If it wasn't enough that they were introduced as a couple, Ann actually dresses up like Raggedy Ann for Halloween.
- Tom's pitch for the cover photo in "Summer Catalog" is a big Shout-Out to Mad Men, with Tom in the role of Don Draper. Tom fails; the advertising techniques needed to sell things are rather different from what's needed for a parks department.
- Ron throwing a chair across the court at the basketball game in "Go Big Or Go Home" references the incident where Bob Knight did the same thing at a 1985 game against Purdue University. Ron's team even had the same colors (red and white) as Knight's Indiana University Hoosiers. Possibly an in-universe shout-out, as Ron in Season 1 had a poster of Bobby Knight up in his office.
- The existence of the basketball league is itself a kind of Shout-Out: Ben mentions that he restored the league because in Indiana "people throw things at you" if you cancel their youth basketball. This might be a bit of an exaggeration, but yes, Hoosiers really do get really worked up about basketball.
- A surprising one from the meathead that Ann hooked up with in "Harvest Festival": He calls Ann "Hot Lips" after she patches him up in the medical tent.
- Ben uses a Bill Watterson quote against Margaret in "The Bubble".
- Leslie tries to recruit Tammy Two in the fight against Tammy One by comparing One to Godzilla, and Two to Mothra.
- After Leslie discovers she was born in hated Eagleton: "I wonder who else was born in Eagleton? Voldemort, probably!"
- When Ben's upset, Donna asks him if Game of Thrones was canceled. He launches into a rant about why that wouldn't make any sense.
- There's a Call Back in season 5 where Donna chides Ann over failing to recognize the name "Tyrion Lannister." Donna's interest in the show is likely a bit different from Ben's, though:
Donna: Them Dothraki dudes can get it. Everybody on that show can get it.
- Tom wearing Ryan Gosling's satin scorpion jacket from Drive in "Bowling for Votes".
- In the Harvest Festival episode, Tom is watching Li'l Sebastian for Jerry and lets him escape. Ron has two or three lines in which he yells at Tom and Jerry, including one where he says, 'Tom and Jerry, just get along!'
- When Bradley Whitford guest-starred as Councilman Pillner, he had a framed "Pillner for Pawnee" napkin in his office that was identical to the "Bartlet for America" napkin from another show in which Whitford appeared.
- In the election episode Ben says he wrote "Two speeches. A speech if you win, a speech if you lose." echoing a line delivered on that same show to Rob Lowe's character.
- Leslie describes Ann's brief man-eater phase as "Ann Vs. Wild".
- Tom re-does the Parks and Recreation logo using the "handguns as R's" font from The Sopranos.
- The Time Skip scene that closes out Season 6 is deliberately filmed like a similar scene from Battlestar Galactica.
- Fans of creator Michael Schur and friends' blog Fire Joe Morgan were particularly snickering at the name of the law offices of Babip, Pecota, Vorp, and Eckstein. The first three names are actually acronyms of sabermetric baseball stats. The last one is a shoutout to David Eckstein, a former Angels and Cardinals shortstop whom always ended up the topic of endless praise by the baseball writers that the folks at Fire Joe Morgan would lambast.
- Chris and Ann take a test to see if they'll be a good parenting match. In a blink-and-you'll-miss-it gag, it's called the "Incandenza-Pemulis Parenting Compatibility Test" (after two characters from David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest). Also, in the same episode ("Partridge") Councilman Jamm's law firm is Gately, Wayne, Kittenplan, & Troeltsch—and all of these are also characters in Infinite Jest.
- Craig's last name (Middlebrooks) is presumably a shoutout to Red Sox 3B Will Middlebrooks.
- Show Within a Show: Several, most prominently Pawnee Today and Ya' Herd? with Perd, on which the main characters often appear as guests.
- On Season 7, Andy gets his own kids show, The Johnny Karate Super-Awesome Musical Explosion Show.
- Shrine to Self: Pawnee Today host Joan Callamazzo's house is full of paintings of herself, some of them nude.
- Sick Episode: "Flu Season" when April, Chris and Leslie get the flu and are admitted in the hospital. Leslie sneaks out to speak at an important town meeting even while feverish and delirious.
- Sitcom Arch-Nemesis: There is an extremely bitter rivalry between the parks department and the library department. Pawnee as a whole is bitter enemies with the neighboring (and much richer) town Eagleton. On a personal level, Leslie forms a rivalry with fellow Councilman Jamm in season 5.
- Sitcom Character Archetypes: Most of the cast fits into at least one of them. Oddly, Leslie isn't really a clear example of any single one of these, but is probably closest to a (paradoxical) combination of The Square and The Goofball.
- The Square- Ann, Ben
- The Wisecracker- Tom, April (in a good mood)
- The Bully- Tom (when Jerry's involved), April
- The Dork- Ben
- The Goofball- Andy, Chris
- The Sage- Ron
- The Bigmouth- Tom, Jean-Ralphio
- Sleazy Politician: Councilman Bill Dexhart.
- Later on, Councilman Jamm.
- Sleep Cute: Leslie and Jerry in "Sweet Sixteen".
- Sleuth Dates Cop: Subverted in Season 2's "Greg Pikitis," in which Leslie plays detective while trying to prove that the titular teenage delinquent is responsible for vandalizing a statute. She tries to get Dave, her boyfriend at the time, to help out, but it turns out that small-town police departments simply can't swing that.
- Small Town Rivalry: Pawnee vs. Eagleton.
- Smug Snake: Raul Alejandro Bastilla Pedro de Veloso de Maldonado, the Venezuelan delegate from the season 2 episode "Sister City".
- The Snark Knight: The sisters Ludgate, April and Natalie.
- Snow Means Love: "The Trial of Leslie Knope".
- So Beautiful, It's a Curse: Applies to Ann, who is so pretty that she's never been dumped. After Chris breaks up with her, she pretty much goes off the deep end. Specifically invoked in "Hunting Trip:"
Leslie: Oh, Ann. I always forget that because you're so pretty, you're not used to rejection.
- Somebody Doesn't Love Raymond:
- This is shown as a character trait of Ann's who is So Beautiful, It's a Curse. It plays out in her efforts to win the friendship of Ron and April, who don't like her. April and Ann come to something of an understanding late in season 5.
- In "Bowling for Votes", Leslie becomes obsessed with winning the friendship and vote of one focus group participant who stated that he didn't like her.
- Something Completely Different: "The Johnny Karate Super-Awesome Musical Explosion Show" is presented as an episode of the eponymous Show Within a Show.
- Sophisticated as Hell: A male government employee tries to clarify the appropriate time to send Ann pictures of his penis:
Man: If I may. What if, based on empirical evidence, I truly believed there was a grave and immediate medical emergency? Were that the case, could I then show you my dong?
- In a Season 2 episode, Tom wants to name a restaurant "Tom's Bistro", because "The word 'bistro' is classy as ***."
- Spin-Off: When the show was announced it was merely titled "Untitled Office Spin Off" and then "Untitled Greg Daniels Project". After it was announced that Rashida Jones would be in the cast, some thought that the then-untitled project would involve Karen Filippelli, her character from The Office. Later on, it was confirmed that the show has no relationship with The Office, but it's still entirely possible that the shows take place in the same fictional universe. Of course, the fact that Ann Perkins and Karen Filippelli look exactly alike would have to be resolved somehow.
- In a blink and you'll miss it moment in one of the early episodes, the distinctive Dunder Mifflin logo can be seen on a box of paper on a background shelf.
- Spit Take:
- April and Andy practice the trope to kill time in "Hunting Trip." Andy is completely unable to come up with a line that could induce a spit-take.
- Ron does this when Wendy suggests he move to Canada with her.
- Staging an Intervention: The rest of the cast stages an intervention for Ron after he again comes under the control of his vampy ex-wife, Tammy II (whenever this happens, he turns into a weird sex freak).
- Stalker Shrine: Early in the second season, Andy set up one of these to Ann in his shoe shine station.
- Stealth Pun: The show has never explicitly made a comment on a pairing of Ben and Jerry (as in the ice cream company) or Tom and Jerry, although it does get close to the latter when it's commented that the two should try to get along.
- Strange Minds Think Alike:
- In "The Stakeout", Leslie and Andy both mistake marijuana plants for the stems and leaves of carrots. Probably because they are carrots.
- In this web-exclusive "announcement" video by the cast, Amy Poehler, Nick Offerman, and Aziz Ansari are all independently under the belief that Seinfeld was broadcast in IMAX theaters.
- In the episode where Tammy I shows up, she tells April to stop slouching because it doesn't do her breasts any favors, and April complies. Shortly afterward, Andy walks in and compliments April on her breasts.
- In "Operation Ann", both Ron and Andy guess that the answer to a clue about what Ben and Leslie did on a date is "fuck". Or rather, "fucks," because the cryptex requires a five letter word.
- In "Ben's Parents", Ben suggests they have Twizzlers instead of Red Vines at their party. Leslie tells him that, "We're a Red Vines family. You're going to have to get used to that." Later, at the party, Leslie offers Red Vines to Ben's dad. He earnestly replies, "We're a Twizzlers family."
- Strawman News Media: Pawnee Today checks off a lot of the boxes for this, being vapid and with ridiculous attempts at "balance" that play out as bias against Leslie.
- Straw Misogynist:
- Clarence, the oldest of the former Parks Directors Leslie brings together for a photoshoot. He believes, for example, that women shouldn't be in leadership positions because their "lady-parts" divert blood from the brain.
- In the episode "Soda Tax," Leslie holds a town hall meeting about the eponymous tax she's proposing. One of Pawnee's nutcase citizens is in favor of taxing soda along with all other evil things. The examples he gives are "cancer" and "women's vaginas."
- Stupid Evil: Some of the obstacles the Parks and Rec department faces seem to do for no reason other than to make life difficult, as there's not a lot of ways they can genuinely help them.
- Subverted Rhyme Every Occasion: Jean-Ralphio's raps about the various Parks Department employees sort of play with this trope—instead of out-and-out subverting the rhyme, he just goes one word too far. Tom keeps calling him out on this.
Jean-Ralphio: "R to the O to the N-N-N
"I said, Swanson's got swagger the size of Big Ben...clock.""
- Surrounded by Idiots: The employees of the Parks and Rec department are surrounded by the idiot people of Pawnee, as Leslie eventually and ruefully accepts. Random example: at the farmer's market, a woman picks up a head of broccoli:
Woman: [fascinated] Look at this little tree! Can you eat it?
Man: [holding up a cauliflower] Oh, this one's died.
- Suspiciously Specific Denial:
: I'm gonna go see a man about some porcelain. You know what I mean? I'm not buying cocaine
, I'm going to the bathroom. Whiz palace, as I like to call it, and I'm not calling Ann
. So. (leaves unceremoniously)
- Take That: Affectionate in both cases.
- To NPR in "Born & Raised". The Wamapoke Public Radio station that Leslie is interviewed on has her introduce the next song, by a lesbian Afro-Norwegian funk duo, called "Nefertiti's Fjord". The song is actually a remixed version of Norway's national anthem, "Ja, Vi Elsker".
- We see the station again in "Pawnee Commons". This time, the song is two jazz records played on top of each other: "Research shows that our listeners love jazz."
- To Phish in "Operation Ann."
- Delivered by actual Phish fan and show writer, Harris Wittels.
- Talk Show: Pawnee Today and Ya Heard? With Perd.
- Tastes Like Feet: Andy thinks April's vegetarian muffins taste like rug. Ben comments in a later episode that a shake made with everything stored in Chris's herb belt actually tastes like a belt.
- Tear Jerker:
- Chris cries at Li'l Sebastian's funeral, mostly because he's overreacting about his own mortality.
- Ron Swanson has only ever cried twice: at 7 years old, when a bus ran into him, and when he found out that Li'l Sebastian had died. There was also that time when he visited the Scottish highlands and his favorite whiskey distillery, but there were no witnesses. . .
- Teens Are Monsters: In a deleted scene:
Leslie: Teenagers are the scourge of public parks. They're like raccoons, only worse, 'cause they smoke and backtalk.
- Telethon: In an episode named "Telethon".
- Tempting Fate: "Son, there is no wrong way to consume alcohol."
- Thanks for the Mammary: In "Camping" the city manager has a (non-fatal) heart attack, and he grabs Leslie's breast on the way down.
- That Came Out Wrong:
- Ann's talking heads segment in "Pawnee Rangers":
I bought this Mackerel at the Supermarket. I've been standing in the water with the fish on my hook for 30 minutes. I saw it on an episode of I Love Lucy
. Pathetic? Maybe, but it feels pretty good to have a bunch of little boys be super into me. That Came Out Wrong
- Leslie in "Smallest Park":
"The current title [for world's smallest park] is held by Martin Luther King, Jr. Park in Terryville. Well, you know what? Terryville sucks old car tires and so does Martin Luth... oh wait.
No. No, he does not suck old car tires. He was one of the greatest men in history. Sorry. Sometimes I get competitive.”
- Leslie in "The Comeback Kid":
It's true. I no longer have highly trained, professional campaign managers. So what? Are most murders committed by highly trained, professional assassins? No, they're committed by friends and coworkers!... That analogy was way better in my head.
- The Cake Is a Lie: When April and Andy ask their guests to bring something to their dinner party Chris is asked to bring a cake. Instead he brings a vegetable loaf because "it's healthier."
Ron: So, not only does this thing exist but you have also deprived everyone of cake!
- There Are Two Kinds of People in the World: See The Vamp below.
- They Just Dont Get It: In "Harvest Festival", Ben fails to see what's so great about Li'l Sebastian, the tiny horse that everyone in Pawnee loves so much. Inverted, due to the fact that the audience probably fails to see it as well.
- Those Two Guys: Brett and Harris, the two stoner animal control guys.
- Throwing Out The Script: Tom does this in 2017 when Ben is receiving an award in favor of extolling his own virtues, he relents later and reads Ben the speech in private. Cue Manly Tears.
- Time Skip: The end of the season 6 finale jumps ahead 3 years when Leslie's National Parks empty office on the third floor of Pawnee City Hall is full of employees and she and Ben have had their triplets and they're now toddlers.
- Toilet Paper Prank:
- In "Greg Pikitis," Leslie explains that the titular character is a teen who always TPs a statue in one of the parks on Halloween and she is determined to catch him in the act. In that episode, however, he turns that obsession against her and TPs the Parks department! Leslie decides to retaliate by going the extra mile and TPs Greg's house.
- Andy TPs Feinstein's office in "Save JJ's".
- Token Minority Couple: Donna winds up with a black man, and Indian Tom winds up with Latina Lucy. The only visible minority that winds up with a Caucasian lover is Ambiguously Brown Ann.
- Too Dumb to Live: Pawnee has some pretty dumb citizens, and they will thrust the blame for it on the local government. A woman who appears in "The Bubble" brewed tea with sprinkler water from a park knowing full well that the water was unsanitary and actually comes to the Parks Department to complain about it.
- Too Much Information:
- When Chris starts dating Jerry's daughter, Chris insists on giving him full disclosure. This includes telling him that she spent the night. Jerry's reaction is to freeze in horror.
- In "Campaign Shake-Up", Leslie reveals that Joe Biden is on her "celebrity sex list". You can guess Ben's reaction.
- Whenever Ron gets back together with Tammy Two, he will not shut up about their sex life.
- Totally Radical: Ben has a very bad case of this in "Soda Tax."
- Trademark Favorite Food:
- Leslie loves waffles from J.J.'s, especially with whipped cream, as well as anything sweet in general.
- Ron loves meat in general and also shares Leslie's love of breakfast food (geared toward breakfast meats in his case).
- Ben really loves calzones. Initially this seemed like a one-off joke, as the people of Pawnee have an irrational hatred of them, and Ben stating that he likes them marks him as a Fish out of Water. However, in a later episode, Ben has a calzone when he and Leslie order Italian, and in another episode, a depressed Ben becomes obsessed with learning to make calzones and opening up a fast food calzone restaurant.
- Trash of the Titans: When Ben comes into move in with April and Andy he is appalled by how filled with trash their house is. He teaches them how to clean up.
- True Art Is Angsty: Andy thinks the opposite is true.
: 'Cause your music
is sad, and depressing, and weird, and art...is supposed to happy, and fun, and everyone knows that.
- True Art Is Incomprehensible: April's submission for the "mural" includes a flat screen TV looping film of knee surgery and a fat man trapped in a giant mouse wheel. When told it will make someone vomit, she considers it a compliment. Mark also plays it from the opposite direction, painting a pleasant picture of a suburban park and saying that it's just the kind of banal garbage that people with no taste enjoy.
- True Companions: The Pawnee Parks Department is one of these. In fact, it could be argued the entire message of the show is that a group of very different people can get together and change the world.
- Twenty Minutes into the Future: Season Seven, after a three year timeskip. Gryzzl, a tech company is in Pawnee making holographic tablets and are the new social media giant, and jokes are made about future movies and events, like Elton John becoming a shareholder of Chick fil a.
- Tyrant Takes the Helm: April sums up Chris' changes:
: So Jerry is like basically my boss now, which I'm never going to work for him. Ron's trapped in this weird desk prison
and I now work at this traveling IV station.
- The Ugly Guy's Hot Daughter: Everyone is surprised to learn that overweight Butt Monkey Jerry has beautiful daughters.
- Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Jerry's wife Gayle is played by the lovely Christie Brinkley. This is one of the many examples of Jerry having a great life outside of the office.
Ben: So Gayle and Jerry...
Chris: I've thought about it a lot, there's no logical explanation.
- Exaggerated to the extreme in the finale, where we see Jerry's funeral in the far future, he got older and fatter while she didn't get a single wrinkle nor a single gram of fat in the decades since show's present.
- Unaccustomed as I Am to Public Speaking...: Hilariously averted in "Go Big or Go Home".
Ron: "I am not usually one for speeches — so goodbye."
- Ungrateful Bastard: The citizens of Pawnee. No matter how hard Leslie Knope works to improve the town with her programs and events, the same citizens always show up at her public forums to complain and berate her about the tiniest problems; real or imagined. This culminates in season 6, where her political rivals and local business owners manipulate them into voting her out of her job as city councilwoman by a landslide. Leslie, for her part, has started to recognize this trend, and is focusing more on the nationwide parks department, where she can do more good, instead of the corrupt local government.
- The entire town of Eagleton is this when they spend themselves into bankruptcy and their only option is to merge with Pawnee.
- And then proceed to repay to Leslie for saving their town and right to vote by voting her out of office.
- Unnecessary Combat Roll: Andy pulls one over a small table when he and April decide to return all the tip money they hustled from the bar in "Indianapolis".
- Unsuspectingly Soused: In "The Fight", Tom pushes a proprietary coffee liqueur called Snakejuice on everyone and, because of the caffeine, everyone gets much, much drunker than they intend to.
- Upper-Class Twit:
- Bobby Newport. When Leslie runs a mildly-negative ad against him, he asks her to stop so he can win. She of course says no. This doesn't make him angry—it makes him confused.
- Being about as serious about Leslie's fundraiser dinner as anything else, April and Andy affect posh New England accents in front of Leslie's campaign contributors in "The Debate".
- An actual British example in Lord Covington(Peter Serafinowicz) in "London" part 1 and 2, who is as dense as Andy.
- Jean-Ralphio and his twin Mona Lisa are also portrayed as this in "London". It is revealed that their dad finances everything they do.
- Valley Girl: April's Eagleton Doppelganger, Tynnyfer. Also invoked by April who impersonates her, all for one big practical joke involving Dwyane Wade's house.
- The Vamp: Tammy Two, Ron's ex-wife and deputy director of the rival Library Dept.
Tammy: Les, there are two kinds of women in the world. There are women who work hard and stress out about doing the right thing, and then there are women who are cool.
- Vandalism Backfire: Leslie smashes her phone when she finds out the Pawnee Sun hacked her emails. Donna points out that that makes no sense... and then Jerry says it was his phone, anyway.
- Verbal Tic: Chris and his use of Literally.
- Video Wills: Ron leaves something along these lines to be shown to himself in the event he wound up yet again in Tammy Two's claws.
- Wardrobe Flaw Of Characterization:
- For the first few seasons, Andy wears very casual clothing such as sweats, jeans, and T-shirts. In later seasons when he gets a better job and begins wearing button-up shirts and ties, his ties are always tied improperly short, showing that although he is making an effort, he is still unused to dressing up. (A man's tie should always touch his belt buckle; Andy's leave a one-to-two-inch gap.) He also tends to wear ties with short-sleeved shirts, usually considered a fashion no-no. Contrast this with characters like Ben, whose suits always fit impeccably and with a slight nod to current style (narrow lapels, skinny ties).
- Jean-Ralphio attempts to dress in a very stylish and fashion-forward manner, but tries too hard and winds up looking clownish. Compare and contrast with Tom, whose trendy dress becomes a plot point when he rents out his wardrobe to fashion-conscious high schoolers.
- Waxing Lyrical: Fairly common, usually from Leslie.
- Webisode: A short series of them to show the details of April and Andy's trip to the Grand Canyon in "End of the World".
- Wedding Day:
- In "Fancy Dinner" April and Andy invite family and friends to their house for a dinner party and surprise them by having their wedding ceremony.
- "Leslie and Ben" features the titular couple getting married in Season 5.
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Bobby Newport tells Leslie that he only ran for election because wanted his dad's approval, though he didn't care much.
- We Named the Monkey Jack: The pig named Tom from "Ms. Knope Goes to Washington".
- We Want Our Jerk Back: Tom ran his first company into the ground because of his natural inclination towards overspending and image over substance. Determined not to make the same mistakes with his next venture, he reinvents himself as a stern, tight-fisted businessman; unfortunately, this makes both him and his clothing store no fun at all, eventually prompting Ann to nudge him back in the direction of his old self.
- Wham Episode: Both "Kaboom" and "The Master Plan" are big turning points for the show.
- The season five finale ends with the reveal that Ron's girlfriend Diane is pregnant.
- "The Pawnee-Eagleton Tip-off Classic:" Pawnee annexes Eagleton and Ann and Chris decide to move to Bloomington.
- The season six finale "Moving Up" covers a lot of ground, culminating in Leslie leaving the parks and recreation department to run an entire region of the National Parks Service, and a sudden three year time skip at the end, going from Leslie in her second trimester to her three children as toddlers!
- What Does She See in Him?: Ann and Andy.
- Moot in the late second season on now that Andy has matured.
- Also several episodes have implied that not only did Ann enjoy his sense of humor at first but that part of why Andy is such a jerk to her is that she accidentally encourages it. Case in point: Andy injures himself learning self defense and Ann immediately starts coddling him, even offering to make him pancakes. April and the others meanwhile get him to shake it off and he's back to normal and more eager to learn then ever.
- No one understands how schlumpy Jerry landed his super-hot wife Gayle (played by super-hot Christie Brinkley).
- What Do You Mean, It's Not Didactic?: This mindset is derided by Ron, who says that in art, "anything means anything".
- What Do You Mean It's Not Heinous?: Ron again, when he decides he likes Diane so much that he's willing to visit Europe with her.
- Ron's horror story in the camping episode.
"And when she looked in the back of her car, she saw that even though it was her own private property, she would be forced to take it in... FOR A STATE INSPECTION!"
- What's He Got That I Ain't Got?!: When Ann leaves Andy and starts dating Mark, Andy asks her this. Keep in mind that Andy was jobless and homeless at the time. Ann's reply was a devastatingly accurate "everything."
- What the Hell, Hero?: When a little girl comes to the Park department looking for an interviewee for her report on why government matters, Ron takes the chance to indoctrinate her on libertarian values. This lecture includes him eating her lunch (a metaphor on taxes) and giving her a Claymore landmine to protect her property. Her mother shows up the next day to chew him out on it.
- Where Everybody Knows Your Flame: In "Pawnee Zoo", Leslie accidentally weds two male penguins in a playful ceremony and is honored with a night of drinking and dancing at a popular Pawnee gay bar: "The Bulge".
- Wife Husbandry: Gender inverted with Ron and Tammy I, who both delivered him and was his school teacher as a child.
- Wild Card: In "Swing Vote", Councilman Jamm says that he could go either way on this one and then Leslie and Ron try to get his vote.
: "Hm. On one hand, I love cutting government programs. On the other hand, mini golf rules. And on the third hard, I hate both [Leslie] and Ron Swanson. This one could go either way. I'm kind of a bad ass wild card
- Will They or Won't They?:
- "The Master Plan" started this with April and Andy. After a somewhat rocky relationship, they suddenly get married.
- Leslie and Ben for a while until Ben kisses her at the end of "The Road Trip".
- Justified with Leslie and Ben: Both wanted to do it earlier, but Chris could fire them for having a relationship.
- Women Are Wiser: Played with. There are men on both ends of the sensible scale, with Jerry, Tom and Andy at the bottom and Mark and Ben at the top, Donna and April hang in the middle with Leslie and Ann constantly bouncing between the two extremes.
- Worst News Judgment Ever:
- The headline of the Pawnee Journal in "The Reporter" is "Spring arrives!" Below it is a sub-headline reading, "Most residents welcome the new season."
- A 24-hour news cycle and lack of any actual news are the main reasons for the blowing up of Leslie's nonexistent sex scandal in "Christmas Scandal". As she explains the situation in a talking head segment, Leslie refers to the Pawnee media reporting for an entire year on a local child going to the Olympics—not competing, just going to watch the Olympics.
- Wretched Hive: The fourth floor of Pawnee City Hall as seen in the episodes "Tom's Divorce" and "The Bubble".
Tom: "I hate the 4th floor! Last time I was up there I saw someone buy crystal meth from a vending machine! It's a bad place!"
- The fourth floor has a room where they keep the knives confiscated from people who go to the fourth floor to stab someone.
- Xtreme Kool Letterz: Tom remarks that he likes to call air conditioners "Cool Blasterz" (he specifies the use of a z).
- Yiddish as a Second Language:
Ron: David Meyers, the Jewish guy who works at City Hall, once told me something. A schlemiel is the guy who spills soup at a fancy party. A schlemazel is the guy he spills it on. [smiling] Jerry is both the schlemiel and schlemazel of our office.
- Tom is once shown going to a sauna with some rich old men (he's their Indian Best Friend) and refers to going for a shitz (he means shvitz)
- You Have to Have Jews: Dennis Feinstein was born Dante Fiero, but changed his name because Dennis Feinstein is (as Tom puts it) "way more exotic in Pawnee".
- Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: Played with in "Ann and Chris", when Larry/Jerry says goodbye to Ann: he tells her in a warm and heartfelt way about much she'll be missed, what a wonderful person she is, and how happy he hopes she'll be, and the best she can muster in response is a polite but cool thank-you. Then Ron comes over.
Ron: Goodbye, Ann. I have enjoyed parts of our time together.
Ann: [bursts into tears of gratitude and hugs him]