In the earlier seasons, Tom's South Asian background was the subject of much japery, and even Leslie couldn't seem to get it through her head that he's a US-born citizen. This could be another instance of the Early Installment Weirdness the series went through, as these jokes became more phased out as time went on and Leslie developed into a character who wouldn't make insensitive "Michael Scott"-type remarks about someone's race.
Many fans have issues accepting that Aubrey Plaza and Chris Pratt aren't actually dating. Plaza is on board with this, as she mentioned in an interview that remembering Pratt isn't her real husband depresses her.
Some fans also have admitted they wish Adam Scott and Amy Poehler were an actual couple.
Probably even more think Poehler and Rashida Jones would make an excellent couple.
The politics in seasons five and six, ultimately culminating in Leslie being recalled from the city council in a landslide vote is generally regarded as an emotional low point that sets up Leslie to leave the Pawnee city government and go on to brighter and better things. But it's also possible to interpret it as a natural consequence of Leslie repeatedly pushing through legislation the people loudly and clearly didn't want, sometimes resorting to backroom deals to get her proposed legislation through. Ultimately, the aesop could've just as well have been about not forcing people to do what you want them to do, even if you think you're in the right. And let's not forget she won by 21 votes - a politician who wins in a race that contested would do well not to immediately rock the boat, force through unpopular legislation, or otherwise get involved in a scandal.
The show also has several instances of Conspicuous Consumption coming back to bite the perpetrators in the ass, showing how important it is for people to be fiscally responsible.
Amy Poehler was never able to win an Emmy for her work as Leslie Knope, despite earning 6 nominations for every season but the first. It even started to become a running joke during ceremonies that she could never take home a prize, but this outcry was never enough to see her actually emerge victorious.
One of the few times that she did win a major industry award was at the Golden Globes, which left her so elated and shocked that she exclaimed how she never wins.
Nick Offerman received zero Emmy nominations for his portrayal of Ron Swanson, who many critics have called the best sitcom character since Cosmo Kramer. Ty Burrell, who won the Emmy for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy in 2014, went on record saying that not only should Offerman have been nominated that same year, he should have won.
The show itself had zero wins for its final season, despite the season receiving universal acclaim.
April Ludgate. Some fans love her for her Snark Knight personality and being a Jerk with a Heart of Gold capable of true acts of kindness. Others hate her and think she's just a Jerk Ass that gets away with being lazy and mean with no repercussions. They also hate Aubrey Plaza's monotone delivery.
Jeremy Jamm's reception could sometimes vary in the eyes of fans. Several saw him as so audacious in his unrepentant buffoonery that he was set firmly in Love to Hate territory, while others found him to be a little too sleazy a character who took up way too much time ardently antagonizing Leslie in Seasons 5 and 6.
Craig is divisive for some fans, given his propensity for shouting and taking his aggressive nature out on others. This made him seem comparatively animated even when taking normal Pawnee residents into account. Some fans liked that (and Billy Eichner's delivery), while others found it grating after a while. Seemed to calm down in Season 7, where Craig was less front and center. It also probably helps that Craig went through therapy in the Time Skip.
Ann. Some people appreciate her for being effective as Leslie's Straight Woman and supportive best friend, while others find her boring and her continued presence into the later seasons unnecessary, especially since it's clear that the writers had trouble finding plots for her so most of her storylines revolve around her various love woes.
Season 7. While still well-received by most of the fandom for being a sweet and touching sendoff to the series, some found it a little toosappy. There's also debate between fans who find the jokes and storylines a return to form after the relative weakness and meandering of Season 6, while others found it pointless, especially since the previous season concluded on such a strong note.
The fanbase is divided between those who find Jerry's Butt-Monkey status amusing and those who think it's too mean-spirited and overdone.
Critical Research Failure: Andy asking for Power Rangers to be brought back - at the time, the show was brought back from cancellation and was airing on Nickelodeon. In fact, it'd only been off the air for one year before that, and even that was 3 or 4 years earlier. Then again, this does fit nicely with Andy's characterization.
Anytime one of city hall's murals is shown, or past atrocities committed by Pawneeans against the Wamapoke Indians are brought up, you can guarantee they're going for this trope.
In "Ms. Knope Goes to Washington", Ron brings a pig to slaughter for meat. To a public annual BBQ with children and families attending. It becomes funny when he starts asking kids to join in on the slaughter, and even more when he gives the sheriff his "authorized documents" (a piece of paper with only the words "I can do what I want. Ron."). Oh, and the pig's name is Tom.
Andy stalking his ex-girlfriend Ann? Not funny. Andy living in a tent in the giant pit behind her house like a gopher? Hilarious.
Ron and Andy are probably the most popular members of the main cast due to being a Memetic Badass and Chris Pratt's hilarious performance respectively. Chris and Ben were originally going to be guest characters for eight episodes but were so beloved by fans during their brief appearance that they were elevated to main character status.
Amongst the minor characters there's DJ Roomba, Lil' Sebastian, Jean-Ralphio, and Ken Hotate.
Perd Hapley is also a popular supporting character that is very popular with the fanbase in regards to supporting characters.
Orin (April's strange friend), Harris and Brett (the animal control guys), Mel (the red-faced guy at town hall meetings), and the woman at town hall meetings (who made sun tea out of sprinkler water) are also quite popular.
Fanon Discontinuity: Many fans just kind of ignore the first season, as its humor is generally considered weaker, and the characters don't act anything like they do later on. Posting "I don't like Parks & Rec" on a message board will almost assuredly be responded to by at least one person instructing the complainer to skip season 1 altogether. It rises to Memetic Mutation levels given its acknowledgement by the cast and creators; during a panel between the cast, Greg Daniels mentioned a moment between April and Andy in "Rock Show", which he mentioned was in season 1, then gave a knowing pause at what he just said, causing everyone in the audience to laugh and Aziz Ansari to yell, "Don't bring up those shitty episodes, man!"
Fountain of Memes: At least ninety percent of what Ron, Andy and April have said or done has resulted in a popular joke or meme about their characters.
Also extends to The Office (US) and Modern Family. Parks & Rec shares creators, writers and cast members from former, and Parks & Rec and the latter both stared in 2009. All three are mockumentaries with very relatable characters and a heartwarming comedy style.
In "Pie-Mary", Harris and Brett are trying to squeeze Harris's head, as Harris puts it, enough to make his eyes bulge out a little bit, but not so much that he dies. Harris Wittels died from an overdose nine days after this episode aired.
The events of "Pawnee Zoo", where Leslie faces an uproar from the local Moral Guardians for inadvertently holding a marriage ceremony for a pair of penguins that turned out to both be male, becomes way less funny after the state of Indiana passed a "religious freedom" bill that critics said would make it easier for businesses to refuse serving LGBT clients.
Growing the Beard: Parks is generally regarded as having come into its own in Season 2, when it stopped trying to be a clone of The Office (US) and started finding its own voice, and by the end of the season, had outgrown its Early Installment Weirdness and come into its own identity. This is remarkably similar to The Office itself, where it too grew the beard in its second season by establishing a distinct identity and brand of humor away from its inspiration and found an audience. Fitting enough, when the show aired in Germany, the entire first season was cut out. It grew the beard further in Season 3 with the introductions of Ben and Chris, adding some more variety and chemistry to the cast after getting rid of the bland and uninteresting Mark at the end of the second season.
In the Season 2 episode "Summer Catalog", Leslie and Ron vow they will never grow to hate each other the way the four former directors do. In Season 7, they're embroiled in a petty feud, though they do reconcile later.
In "Gryzzlbox", it's mentioned that Gryzzl used the premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens to distract Ben while they quietly changed their user agreements to allow them to legally datamine people. This is Played for Laughs. A couple years later, the real-life FCC attempted to use the premiere of Star Wars The Last Jedi to distract people from their decision to repeal net neutrality.
In the season 2 episode "Stakeout", after Dave (played by Louis C.K.) arrests Tom for trying to crawl into a parked van, he tells Leslie he thinks Tom (played by Aziz Ansari) might be a pervert. In 2017, both Louis C.K. and Aziz Ansari were accused of sexual misconduct.
Heartwarming in Hindsight: Tom marrying Lucy at the end of the series is made sweeter when one remembers that the image used for Aziz Ansari in the opening credits for Seasons 3-7 is Tom's ecstatic reaction to Lucy accepting a date with him for the first time at the end of Season 2.
After a heart attack scare in "Halloween Surprise", Jerry wants at least another 30 years to be with his family. The series finale confirms that his wish has been granted.
One episode where Andy and April go on a shopping spree of buying useless junk, one of the things Andy grabs is a pull-up bar, exclaiming "I'm gonna get so ripped!" Hewasn'tkidding.◊
On an MCU-related note, in the season five episode of Leslie and Ben's wedding, Donna hires local Indianans to impersonate as celebrities. She also scores a Li'l Sebastian impersonating horse named Bucky. Come the MCU's Captain America: The Winter Soldier a short time later and it might be funny to some viewers that there is a Bucky played by a Sebastian.
One episode notes Ann's taste for terrible Lifetime movies, and has her describe a stereotypical plot of one. This becomes funnier given that co-star Rob Lowe was cast in a Lifetime movie as Drew Peterson.
Thanks to the US federal government shutdown in 2013, the Pawnee shutdown between Season 2 and 3 becomes a lot more realistic (though the government had shutdown before).
Andy's asking the government to bring back the Power Rangers is now making rounds with the announcement of a third movie for the franchise. Thank You, Star-Lord!
An alternate take of the date between Leslie and Chris the radiologist shows the former in the MRI room saying on camera: "I'm just trying to think this is an adventure, you know, just get ride back on that horse, even if that horse is crazy and wants to peer inside my body". Oh boy, Will Arnett (then husband of Amy Poehler) plays Chris, and would be starring later in a series with an equine protagonist with many, many issues.
And in the original take of that scene, Chris the radiologist also tells her that she could have "triplets right off the bat". Guess how many kids she and Ben end up having in season 6?
In the season 5 episode "Jerry's Retirement", Leslie tells Ben (as they are in a graveyard visiting a previous mayor), "In a few short years, we will be visiting Jerry here and he will have achieved nothing. Is that what you want?" Cue the series finale where we find out Jerry becomes the unopposed mayor of Pawnee for the rest of his life and lives to be 100.
In the season 5 episode "Bailout", Leslie is trying to keep a local video store from going out of business. She suggests that they might offer more family-friendly movies instead - say, something by Pixar - of their usual art-house/foreign/documentary stuff that just depressed people or puts them to sleep. Two years later, Amy Poehler voiced the lead role in a Pixar film.
Season 6 has an episode called "Doppelgangers", in where the gang meets their Eagleton equivalents. One episode later, Tatiana Maslanyshows up.
A Season 2 episode has Tom pretend to be Don Draper. In Season 6, Jon Hamm made a few guest appearances.
Claims that Mark is a bland copy of Jim from The Office (US) are funnier when we found that Paul Schneider and John Krasinski appear as brothers in the 2009 film Away We Go, and even there Krasinski's character (the protagonist, by the way) is getting a better life than Schneider's character.
Season Two's "Galentine's Day" has Leslie saying that Jennifer Aniston deserves to have romantic happiness. The fact that Jennifer would get remarried isn't enough to be Hilarious in Hindsight, but her husband being Justin Theroux, who played Leslie's boyfriend in the episode, is.
In his last TV show as Johnny Karate, Andy plays his old and awesome action-man character, whose full name is Burt Tyrannosaurus Macklin.
In the season two episode "Woman of the Year", Ron gets a "women's only" award from a woman's organization, who chose him to earn some publicity and because of Leslie's Camp Athena project. Ron teases Leslie for getting so upset over it, deliberately misnaming Camp Athena as Camp Xena. Come season five, Ron ends up dating Diane, played by Xena herself - Lucy Lawless.
In "Ron and Jammy", Lucy mentions that everyone in 2017 Chicago is so happy due to the Cubs winning the World Series. Which actually happened in 2016.
In "Tom's Divorce", when Tom realizes he actually did like Wendy and becomes saddened over their divorce, Ron (who doesn't realize it's the real deal) tells Tom, "you've already won your Oscar, DiCaprio," with the joke being that Ron has Pop-Cultural Osmosis Failure (and the Memetic Mutation of how DiCaprio still hadn't won one). Come 2016, and DiCaprio finally wins one for The Revenant.
In "The Fight", one of Tom's business ideas includes "contact lenses that display text messages". And along comes the episode "The Entire History of You".
In "Second Chunce", Larry complains about getting a check made out to "Lenny", and April sarcastically says to, "tell it to the bank, Lenny". Both Jim O'Heir and Aubrey Plaza played a character named Lenny in projects released in 2017: O'Heir in the film Middle Man and Plaza in the FX series Legion.
Chris Pratt and Jonathan Joss both appear in The Magnificent Seven. Though they don't share any screentime, their characters are on opposing sides, which technically makes it a continuation of the feud between the Pawneeans and the Wamapoke.
Magnificent Bastard: Greg Pikitis, who manages to not successfully vandalize the park statue every year, makes Leslie look like a lunatic, sneaks into the office and trashes the place using a disguise, breaks Andy into tears without even saying anything, and always gets himself out of trouble by hiring an woman off Craigslist to pretend to be his mom. Andy even relents that the kid is pretty impressive. The only way he gets caught is when Leslie goes the extra mile and vandalizes his house, which leads to her meeting his mom and finding out he really is the spectacularly conniving prankster Leslie suspected. When he does make a reappearance several years later in "Prom" although only appearing for thirty seconds at the end, he manages to successfully destroy Leslie's interest in the girl she hoped to recruit as a new intern (by being her boyfriend) and somehow staple Leslie's dress to the table cloth without anyone noticing until Leslie tried to walk away.
The "codenames" scene is one of the show's most quoted; in the same vein as Brooklyn Nine-Nine, fans seem to love mapping it onto other characters (i.e. the gang from The Magic School Bus in one fanfic).
The Afraid to Ask Andy: "I don't know what X is... and at this point I'm too afraid to ask."
Andy gasping at the end of the Season 5 finale.
"I have done nothing wrong in my life. Ever." "I know this, and I love you."
Mexicans Love Speedy Gonzales: Despite being a deliberately unflattering (or at least a lighthearted jab) portrayal of them, many libertarians love Ron Swanson.
Moe: Leslie. She's just so happy and sparkly all the time!
Misaimed Fandom: More than a few viewers have remarked on how they love Ron's political stances and how "it's about time someone spoke for us on TV." Naturally, this completely ignores how Ron is meant to parody libertarian views on how you can never trust government and refuse federal aid and he's not meant to be emulated. It is muddled when the writers frequently show him as a mutual foil with Leslie; when her more hair-brained ideas fail it's usually well after he called out exactly why they would. He's also a staunch feminist, not remotely racist, and a low-key LGBT ally instead of being a generic Conservative straw-man who just hates paying taxes like most Libertarians on TV.
Replacement Scrappy: Completely inverted with Ben, who played the role of the Only Sane Man of the cast much like Mark did, but Ben had enough quirks to his character to stand out on his own. Meanwhile, Mark was considered the main cast's weakest link, even moreso as the rest of the characters came intotheir own throughout his second and last season.
Andy, who went from an insufferable Jerk Ass who took advantage of Ann's generosity to an adorable but earnest Manchild who fully supports April's dreams.
To a lesser extent, Chris. He goes from a rather flat, Innocently Insensitive fitness nut to a well rounded fitness nut with a load of personal problems.
Craig went through therapy in the Time Skip between Seasons 6 and 7, so his shouting and anger issues are toned down drastically.
Romantic Plot Tumor: While the show never pretended it was a serious thing, the Ann/Tom romance storyline was not well received by most fans and critics for being considered a general waste of time that made the two characters act insufferably.
Mark. The character was meant to be a Straight Man, but his lack of quirks and comedic chemistry with the other characters made the fans dub him the weakest link of the cast, to the point some considered him a bland Jim Halpert clone. Eventually, he was Put on a Bus and the fans didn't really miss him when he left, nor did they clamor for his return when it became a Long Bus Trip. Other fans also disliked Mark for being an underwhelming love interest for Leslie and Ann.
It's hard to find someone who's actually a genuine fan of Jeremy Jamm since he's an unrepentant asshole who is often annoyingly grating, and rarely ever gets his comeuppance... until Season 7 that is.
Many of the citizens of Pawnee fall into this category if you don't find them funny. Although they are almost always Played for Laughs, they are also very whiny, selfish, often borderline Too Dumb to Live, nonsensical, can be real Ungrateful Bastards, and refuse to listen to common sense.
Seasonal Rot: Downplayed. The later seasons are mostly considered to be still funny and solid on the whole, though not as good as seasons 2-4 due to having weaker overarching stories, recycling storylines and gags, and exaggerating some of the characters' traits over time. Season 6 is generally considered the worst offender, particularly because of Leslie suffering from bad bouts of Aesop Amnesia.
Special Effects Failure: The epic aerial shot of the Harvest Festival in season 3 is marred by some obvious CGI choices, including one quarter of the park being a photo shot in perspective, meaning that the buildings stretch as the shot rotates.
Straw Character: A consistent means of ridiculing political viewpoints throughout the whole run of the show. Some of them are recurring characters. The show rarely delves into the moral ambiguity or multiple conflicting viewpoints in the political issues it discusses, such as soda taxes, health mandates, government budgets, the role of government, men's rights, censorship, et cetera.
In the "Soda Tax" episode, if the Paunch Burger executives weren't so outlandishly double-speaking, they'd probably come off sympathetic. They quite reasonably point out that they're merely selling what the Pawnee market wants to buy, even if it's unhealthy. Seasons earlier, Ron agrees that being allowed to stuff your face with unhealthy crap and die in your 40s if you really want to do so is a facet of American freedom.
In "Bailout", Leslie saves a failing video store (a video store, remember those?) with a government bailout because she arbitrarily decided the business was a Pawnee institution. Ron objects to this, saying that the government shouldn't be spending taxpayer money to prop up a failing business, especially one that is failing because a) most people just stream movies online now, and b) the owner refused to stock anything other than obscure art house films. After the motion is passed, she is promptly buried in other Pawnee businesses and citizens who also want government investment, which is portrayed as ridiculous and simple-minded of them... but from their perspective, it makes perfect sense to ask why one business gets special treatment on their tax dime and why they can't be treated the same.
Ron points this trope out in "Gryzzlbox". While he highly values privacy, he defends Gryzzl collecting information on its customers by pointing out its customers voluntarily entrust its services with their personal information. He only comes around when Gryzzl collects information on his son, who doesn't own a Gryzzl device (thus evoking an entirely separate controversy from the subject of the episode).
The premise of "Partridge" is about Ben going back to his hometown to confront personal demons which have haunted him for much of his life and his time on the series. However, he spends most of the actual episode either in the hospital or heavily drugged while Leslie confronts the angry crowd in his place, and at the end of the episode he decides after a brief chat with Leslie that the whole thing just doesn't matter anymore.
We don't get to see much of what life is like for Leslie and Ben as parents, or what it's like juggling the responsibilities of their jobs with raising three children. The triplets, only one of which is named onscreen, only appear as cameos in a few scenes without any dialogue.
April's decision to go to veterinary school in seasons 5 and 6. After a few episodes it's dropped and never brought up again. Likely because it would mean having to remove April from the main cast, especially considering Ann and Chris's departure, but it's not followed through in the ending either, since she decides to get a job as a career consultant.
It might've been interesting to see somebody else play the Butt-Monkey in "Jerry's Retirement", like April, Ron, or Donna. However, it ends up being Tom, who's already had a lot of Butt-Monkey moments throughout the series.
Tom is always very Easily Forgiven for his blatantly selfish and unethical actions. For one thing, he tried to blackmail his ex-wife Wendy into getting back together with him by suing her for alimony. In "Meet and Greet" he turned a campaign event for Leslie into a flamboyant advertising party for Entertainment 720, almost jeopardizing her reputation with many important business owners in Pawnee, and only restored part of the damage at the last minute. And, in "Jerry's Retirement", he becomes the new "Jerry" of the department and is clearly miserable about it, but given how mercilessly he mocked Jerry throughout the series, it's simply impossible to ignore the hypocrisy of what he is saying.
To a lesser extent, Leslie after she gets recalled from the city council. It's supposed to be a low point for the character, but during her entire tenure as a councilwoman, she kept on pushing through legislation that the townspeople clearly and vocally did not want and often resorted to backroom politics to do so. Most of the time, instead of trying to explain to the people why they would benefit from it or simply asking the people in her district what kind of legislation they do want passed, she would just dismiss their complaints and pass the laws anyway.
Unpopular Popular Character: The only person who can stand Jean-Ralphio in-universe is Tom (and even he has admitted he could use better friends). Out-of-universe, he's one of the most celebrated recurring characters on the strength of Ben Schwartz's gloriously obnoxious performance.
Wangst: April in the first few episodes of season 7, where she whines about not being able to act like a creepy, childish weirdo anymore. Played for Laughs of course.
Ben whenever his past as an impeached mayor comes up. In "Media Blitz" he's a total wreck when questioned about it. In "Harvest Festival", he's convinced he's cursed and it's all his fault that Li'l Sebastian ran away and the power went out. It's even stronger in "Partridge", where Ben's eponymous hometown invites him back to reconcile years after the Ice Town collapse but it's actually a set up to humiliate him and all the residents still hate him. Thankfully Leslie is there to provide him support so he doesn't have to face it alone, but his bitter realization that his hometown still sees him as much of a failure as ever despite everything he's done to fix his mistakes is painful to watch.
He gets even more woobie-ish for a different reason when he and Leslie break up and he's left heartbroken. While Leslie at least has her city council campaign and Parks and Rec work to keep her busy, Ben is still fairly new in town and all his friends are connected to Leslie who he finds too painful to hang out with. Even the usually self-centered Tom and Donna feel sorry for him when they see him eating lunch alone. He even tells Leslie that he can't stand to be around her because it just hurts too much.
Leslie in Season 6, who seems to be getting hit with Finagle's Law on anything she tries to do for the town in addition to being recalled from city council.
Chris in late season 4 and early season 5. He loses his girlfriend, and rapidly finds his life empty and miserable, tries for Ann again and gets rejected, all of this culminating in his body breaking down in the second episode of season 5 after he realizes he has "nothing and no one". Even April (who has hated Chris up until that point) feels sorry for him and even starts to become considerably nicer to him during this period.
Andy becomes this in season 2 and becomes a bigger woobie as the show goes on. He spends most of season 2 living in a pit and desperately trying to fix things with his ex-girlfriend (which he fails to do) and in general he's such a socially-awkwardmess that it's near-impossible to not pity him. Nevertheless, he doesn't let it get him down.
Councilman Jamm, of all people, in "Ron and Jammy". His relationship with Tammy 2 has utterly stripped him of his identity due to her trying to turn him into Ron. It's also taken a severe toll on his health and turned him into a rather broken shell of a man, to the point Leslie feels sorry for him and Ron is willing to temporarily forgo his feud with Leslie, and the easy win for his construction company their relationship would bring, to save him.
Ron in "Leslie and Ron", especially when we learn why he left the Parks Department and why he stopped being friends with Leslie during the Time Skip. Ron reveals that after Leslie left for her new job, eventually taking April, Andy, and Terry with her, and Tom and Donna left to run their businesses, he rapidly began to grow lonely, until one day he didn't recognize anyone in the Parks Department. It eventually gets to the point that Ron is willing to do the unthinkable and ask Leslie for a job in the federal government just to be close to some of his friends again, only to be inadvertently stood up for lunch at J.J's diner the next day by a busy Leslie, the fact that you can hear his voice crack as he reveals this really sells it.