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Series / Parks and Recreation

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From left to right: Andy, Ron, Donna, April, Leslie, Chris, Ann, Ben, Jerry and Tom. Not pictured: Mark and Craig.
"I hate the public. The public is stupid."
Ron Swanson

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. Co-created by The Office creator Greg Daniels and head writer Michael Schur and filmed in the same Mockumentary style, it essentially does for the public sector what its sister show does for the private.

From its gallery of main characters, the protagonist of the series is Leslie Knope, played by Amy Poehler, a Pollyannaish Workaholic who works as Deputy Director of the Parks Department. 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.

In 2020, the writers and cast put together a remote reunion special to help raise funds for COVID-19 relief.

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  • '80s Hair: Perd Hapley had a pretty spectacular fade back in 1989.
  • Aborted Arc:
    • The original overarching storyline was Leslie's struggle to turn the pit in Lot 48 into a park. After the Retool going into Season 2, the pit was filled in, but the idea to build a park was dropped almost completely by Season 3 as the show picked up other storylines. In-Universe, this is explained as the department's budget, already too small to support the project, was being drastically cut. During the camping episode, Leslie says that they can't continue turning the lot into a park because Chris wanted the next project to bring in revenue. The lot remains unmentioned for the next two years until April suggests making it into a dog park in the Season 5 episode "Leslie vs. April". An impromptu groundbreaking occurs in Ann's last episode, then the Time Skip reveals Pawnee Commons was completed shortly after the end of Season 6.
    • Through Season 4, 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, he ultimately declines the position.
    • April going to veterinary school in Season 6, which seemed like it was going to be an important part of her character arc, also gets this treatment. 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 simultaneously, especially with Rashida Jones (Ann) and Rob Lowe (Chris) leaving the show around the same time.
    • In Season 6, Tom meets a young doctor named Nadia and goes through a significant ordeal to convince her to go out on a date with him. They seem to really hit it off, and Nadia promises to call him when she returns from a three-week stint with Doctors Without Borders. She is never seen, heard from, or mentioned by anyone ever again.
    • Ben and Leslie's engagement party establishes that Ben's family is completely broken, his divorced parents loathing one another, and Ben and Leslie's only solution to them attending the wedding is to keep them apart from each other at all costs. When the impromptu wedding comes along, Ben's family is not present, and aside from a reference to his father selling the family lake house in the Season 6 episode "Flu Season 2", they aren't mentioned again.
  • 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, among many, many others that caused his company to go belly-up quickly.
  • Abuse of Return Policy: Tom Haverford reveals this is how he maintains his extravagant lifestyle despite working a low-level government job and being in massive debt. He buys expensive and luxurious goods, uses them, and then on the last day of the policy, returns them to the store pretending he never used them, and then uses the money to buy more goods. Several times, it backfires on him, with the items either getting broken or lost, and him struggling to come up with the money.
  • Accidental Misnaming:
    • Subverted when Ron calls Ann "Jenny" after she finally manages to engage both him and April in small talk by describing a gross medical story. Ron and April's talking head:
      Ron: Ann was getting a little chummy. When people get too chummy with me I like to call them by the wrong name to let them know I don't really care about them.
      April: That's a genius move.
      Ron: Thank you.
      April: You're welcome... Lester.
      (Ron smiles at the camera like a proud father)
    • Turns out that Jerry's name is actually Garry. The old Parks director accidentally called him "Jerry" on his first day and he's never had the backbone to correct anyone. When Jerry returns from retirement, he insists his coworkers start calling him by his real name. They start calling him "Larry." And during the final scene of season 6, Leslie calls him Terry. Turns out there was already a Larry in his new office at the National Park Service. Inverted in a heartwarming way in Season 7 during Donna's wedding. When he sits down, Jerry's place card says "Garry". April latches onto this as a new wrong name for him and gets everyone chanting it, while Donna gives him a wink. Cut to a talking head, where he's clearly choked up at his coworkers finally calling him by his real name.
    • In one episode, Tom goes out with Tammy Two to make Ron jealous, and she exclusively calls Tom "Glenn".
  • 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 with him.
    • Jennifer Barkley, the Washington political consultant brought in to run Bobby Newport's campaign.
  • Achievements in Ignorance: At one point, Andy somehow manages to take a model ship out of a bottle without breaking it.
  • 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 is gung-ho to burn the painting (simply removing it from the public eye would not satisfy her), to Leslie's chagrin, but Leslie manages to salvage it in the end. Marcia's husband Marshall also engages in these views and protests, despite appearing to be in a Transparent Closet.
  • Actually Pretty Funny:
    • Comes up a lot in the episode "Park Safety", as after Leslie finds out that Jerry had been mugged, she feels bad about how cruel everyone treats him, and tells the others to be nicer to him. However, when they make cracks about Jerry, she can't help but laugh. It doesn't help that he's a magnet for embarrassing things happening.
    • "Campaign Shake-Up":
      Chris: If your team keeps this up, I think we can hold off on filling the Leslie void.
      Donna: I think Ben's already filling the Leslie void. (high-fives Ann)
      Chris: ...I'll give it up for that.
  • Aerith and Bob: Donna's brothers: LeVondrias and George.
  • Aesop Amnesia:
    • Seems like Leslie needs to re-learn a lesson about Ron's principles several times per season. Ron's Aesop can roughly be summed up as "A principled person with whom you disagree is more respectable than a person who agrees with you but only for selfish or fleeting reasons." This doesn't stop Leslie from continuously falling for un-principled individuals the moment they might be persuaded to take her side, even though this backfires every single time.
    • Leslie learns the lesson that there can be such a thing as too much friendship, and not to be overbearing to the point of turning her friends away and frustrating them. And then relearns it again, and again, and again, and again.
  • Age-Gap Algebra: In "The Master Plan", 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 freshly 21 April in the "too young" range. He gets over it. It helps that Andy has the mental maturity of a 21-year-old. At best.
  • Age-Gap Romance:
    • Tammy One was a candy striper when Ron was born... and helped deliver him. She was his first wife.
    • Andy and April have at least an eight-year difference between them, which served as one barrier behind Andy's initial hesitance to ask her out.
  • 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 and hires April as an assistant so she'll keep business away from his office. Unlike similar examples, he doesn't get too chummy with the other employees, being mostly antisocial toward everyone.
  • 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 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 one of the few characters who isn't married and has no children and she makes it clear she prefers it that way when visiting Ben and Leslie at their home.
  • Alternate History: Between season six and season seven is a three year Time Skip, making the show take place in 2017 while it was airing in 2014. Instead of being arbitrary, the show delighted in introducing holographic Gryzzl tablets and making references to things like Hitch 2 and LeBron James being traded to Miami. The Grand Finale, which jumps all over the timeline from 2017 all the way to 2048, does this a lot more. However, some extra material has been made in response to real-world events after the show's end, like a letter written in Leslie's voice addressing the 2016 election and a reunion episode in 2020 responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Always a Bigger Fish: Ron's Tammys get progressively more ferocious the further back you go. Tammy Two is a raging nymphomaniac who flees in fear when Tammy One arrives. Tammy One works for the Intimidating Revenue Service, 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 Bi: April married Andy, and briefly mentioned being aroused by a topless centaur picture of Leslie.
    • Leslie constantly comments on Ann's attractiveness and sometimes speaks to her in a flirtatious way.
  • Ambiguously Brown:
    • Leslie often remarks on Ann's unclear ethnicity.
    • 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 I'm the Queen of Sheba: In "Moving Up: Part 1", Ben and Andy encounter a group of young Gryzzl employees playing The Cones of Dunshire, which Ben invented. When Ben tries to tell them the game was his brainchild, one of them mistakes it for an in-game character class and says "You're the Architect? Yeah right, and I'm the Alchemist of the Hinterlands."
  • And Starring: Rob Lowe.
  • Animal Motifs: In "Flouride", everyone in the department gets assigned a "spirit dog" with hilarious accuracy.
    • Leslie is a well-groomed, energetic border collie.
    • Tom is a silly, officious-looking Yorkshire terrier.
    • Ron is a grumpy bulldog.
    • Andy is a friendly, clueless golden retriever.
    • April is an elegant, aloof Siberian husky.
    • Jerry is a dopey-looking English sheepdog.
    • Donna is not a dog but a cat.
  • 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: [imitating 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.
    • We also see them reschedule their prediction for the apocalypse to accommodate an ice-cream social, suggesting that they care more about the gatherings than about actually believing that the world will end.
  • 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 everything he says or does" category.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: In "Harvest Festival" after Leslie mentions statistics meant to emphasize the scale of the aforementioned festival, she ends up lampshading and double subverting this.
    "Seven days, over thirty different locations, 50,000-plus visitors, and four hospitality kiosks. God, I gotta stop ending on that boring thing...clowns!"
  • The Artifact: The fundraising thermometer for the Lot 48 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 after the second season. It's still there right through the end of Season 6, even after the Pawnee Commons is well underway.
  • Artifact Title: As of Season 7, none of the main cast work in the Parks and Recreation department anymore - Leslie, April and Garry work for the National Park 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 – Cars: Ron tells Ben that he's, "...driven the same car since 1991." However, Ron's car (which is in several episodes) is a Buick Park Avenue that wasn't produced until 1997.
  • Artistic License – Gun Safety: In the episode "The Hunting Trip", so many gun safety rules are violated that it is impossible to keep track of them all. Fortunately, it's all done with the Rule of Funny in mind. Walking around with their fingers on the triggers, allowing the barrels to track across other people, firing without checking the target, the list goes on. Even Ron spends an entire scene walking through the woods and talking with Leslie with his finger firmly on the trigger. The show plays some of this for comedy, as all the random shooting damages Donna's car, and Ron gets shot in the back of the head (though it doesn't kill him).
  • Artistic License – Politics: The show started off with a focus on the Parks and Recreation department but the end of the second season placed an emphasis on their involvement and influence within the city of Pawnee, using it as a microcosm of broader political satire. It always banked on the Rule of Funny but local politics, small towns especially, are a whole different game than the federal level they were targeting. Local public access TV personalities were treated with the same influence as Oprah Winfrey and City Council elections held live debates with five candidates for one seat.
  • Artistic License – University Admissions: In Season 5, April 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).note 
  • 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 "Ron & Tammys", having been hired by Tom and Jean-Ralphio to hang out and shoot baskets at the headquarters of their new entertainment company.
    • Also 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 McCain.
    • 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. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright appears as well.
    • Christian Becksvoort, the modern master of Shaker Style, and a man Ron thought he'd never see in the flesh, is played by: Christian Becksvoort, modern master of the Shaker Style. It helps that Nick Offerman is a real woodworker.
  • Ascended Extra:
    • Jerry Gergich and Donna Meagle were basically background figures in the first season and started having more speaking roles and personality traits developed in the second season.
    • Andy was only suppose to appear in the first season, but his popularity had him promoted to series regular starting in the second season.
    • Ben Wyatt and Chris Traeger were written with the intention to appear in a series of episodes before departing, but their popularity with the audiences got them both promoted to the main cast beginning in the third season.
  • 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 vague Mockumentary 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".
  • Ax-Crazy: Tammy 2, at one point literally grabbing an axe to chase after Leslie.
  • 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 Burt 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: (to the basketball team he's coaching) Under my tutelage, you will grow from boys to men. From men into gladiators. And from gladiators into Swansons.
  • Badge Gag: When Ron is stopped by police for attempting to slaughter a pig in a public park, he claims to have a permit. The permit he produces is actually a piece of paper with the typed words "I can do what I want — Ron".
  • Bait-and-Switch: In "Doppelgangers", it seems like Tom's Eagleton counterpart is an Indian guy like him... but he's just there to set up the computer program that serves as Tom's counterpart.
  • Batman Gambit:
    • Leslie and 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 authorization, putting Pawnee at risk of a lawsuit if Andy were to sue. Leslie persuades Andy to sue the city and 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 and spend time with Andy. 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 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 make-out session... except the fight is a screaming-obscenities-in-public kind of fight, that turns (within an hour) into a maniacal sex romp with a similar disregard for privacy, spiraling 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: 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, as seen in the episode "Bowling for Votes". Leslie obsesses over getting one man's vote because he had said in a focus group that he didn't like her. After Leslie tries to befriend him, he insults her and Ben does not hesitate to punch him.
      Leslie: I'm not going to apologize. And if people won't vote for me because of that, well, there's nothing I can do about it. But you should be warned. If you do not vote for me, my boyfriend might beat you up.
    • Never hurt Andy or his feelings when April's around. Ben finds this out after he dismisses Andy's charity suggestion and gets a big What the Hell, Hero? from April for upsetting an already depressed Andy.
    • Leslie's button is pushed during the Pawnee Today interview in the Season 2 opener, "Pawnee Zoo" (causing her to behave in a way she most certainly wouldn't have in the first season).
  • Beta Couple: Mark/Ann and Andy/April with the complication that Andy is oblivious to April's feelings 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! Mark and Ann meanwhile break up at the end of the second season, with Mark being Put on a Bus for the rest of the show and Ann ultimately ends up with Chris.
  • Big Bad:
    • Bobby Newport, Leslie's main city council seat campaign rival in Season 4. Downplayed as he's really a Nice Guy that's more socially awkward due to being spoiled his whole life.
    • Councilman Jamm throughout Season 5.
    • Gryzzl in Season 7.
  • Big Eater:
    • Leslie seems to be single-handedly keeping J.J.'s Diner (known for its waffles and other breakfast foods, apparently) 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:
      • In "Lucky", Ron goes through three porterhouse steaks, then suggests going somewhere for an after-dinner omelette.
      • In "Leslie's House", when Leslie tries to persuade him to come to the dinner party she's hosting, he haggles her up to five courses and insists on bringing a plate of deviled 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.
      • In "Indianapolis", Ron was fasting the whole day in preparation for eating at his favorite steakhouse. When the restaurant is closed, he goes to a diner to fill up and tells this to his waiter:
      Ron: Just give me all of the bacon and eggs you have. Wait, wait, I'm worried 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?
      • Apparently Ron holds multiple food eating records across Pawnee. When he decides to go "off-the-grid", he has to drive around town to ask restaurant owners to take down his pictures from their respective "wall of fame". Consider than Pawnee is the 4th most obese town in America and he still managed to break multiple eating records.
    • Behind the scenes, Chris Pratt was one of these. His castmates have revealed in interviews that he never used a spit bucket in eating scenes, consuming vast amounts of food across repeated takes.
    • It's not actually shown, but Ann at one point apparently ate a whole cheesecake at a potluck to help Leslie Leslie, remarking to a surprised Ben that it was delicious and she could have downed ten if she had to. When she becomes pregnant in Season 6, she combines this with Wacky Cravings.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Councilman Jamm's "Japanese" culture-blind home has 北朝鮮 written in calligraphy on the wall, which is "North Korea" written with Chinese characters. He also translates edamame as "Tokyo beans", which is incorrect: eda is Japanese for "stem", and is unrelated to Edo, the old name of Tokyo.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing:
    • Somehow, the entire population of Eagleton when it comes to Pawnee and its less beautiful people.
    • Marcia Langman, a Pawnee example, puts on the appearance of a concerned and nice citizen, but is really an uptight and humorless stick in the mud.
    • Chip McCapp is certainly not the down-to-earth country boy that he portrays himself as in public. When Leslie and Andy try to book him for the Unity Concert, things quickly go south as they realize that he's incredibly abusive and manipulative to his employees and family; he's even offensive towards Pawnee, which sets off Leslie's Berserk Button.
  • Black Comedy: Not so much in the overall tone of the show, but the rather worrying prevalence of incompetence, corruption and public health nightmares (especially the raccoon problem) in Pawnee is usually Played for Laughs.
    • The same applies to any mention of the many historical atrocities inflicted on the Wamapoke tribe by the past citizens of Pawnee.
  • 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 Chill" 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 a few markets, offers "Google Glasses", has a company name that starts with "G" and two letters that repeat themselves, and uses the information it gets from searches to target advertising it sells.
  • 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 is the drunk man that Leslie pried out of a slide in a playgroud in the first episode. 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 Ianetta.
  • 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. Ultimately, though, his saxophone skill ends up saving the track the gang are recording when he adds the instrument to the music in secret.
    • 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 the restaurant 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 season 6 when Tom is looking for a new business to run, Ben suggests a dry cleaning chemical holding company, which Tom rejects as too dull. At the end of the season Dr. Saperstein mentions off-hand that he had gone into the same business and made a killing.
    • 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, incredulous that Ron thought it was actually a functional mine.
  • British Stuffiness: Subverted with Lord Covington in the season-six premiere "London":
    Ben: 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 Hertfordshire".
    [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 Manchild 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, know the law.
    • Mona Lisa responds with excitement when she thinks she's about to have a four-way that includes her brother.
  • Buffy Speak: Leslie calls the washroom the "whiz palace" while stressed and forgetting the word in "Practice Date", and later adopts it as an expression in future episodes.
  • 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:
    • After leaving Pawnee in "Christmas Scandal", Dave comes back in the aptly titled "Dave Returns".
    • Ann and Chris come to visit in "One Last Ride".
  • Butt-Monkey:
    • The long-suffering Jerry, who — in the workplace — 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 outside of work: he's talented, cultured, enormously endowed, and he is very happily married, with a stunningly gorgeous wife and three beautiful daughters, all of whom genuinely adore him. Plus he becomes the beloved, unchallenged mayor of Pawnee and lives 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 Beauty Standard: In "Ron and Jammy", Leslie describes Tammy 2 as "a demonic sociopath... with great cleavage."
  • Call-Back:
    • In the middle of Season 2, Leslie gets an MRI on a hilariously bad date. The MRI technician comments "if you wanted, you could go triplets right off the bat". Guess how many kids she and Ben have four seasons and one pregnancy later?
    • 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.
    • Ben's interest in board games is first explored during "Two Parties" where he mentions being a Settlers of Catan champion and gets all the office guys to play with him. Later when he's between jobs for a few weeks he designs The Cones of Dunshire in his spare time.
  • Calvinball: Ben's tabletop game, 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. As expected, when the accountants find the game, several of them call dibs on this role.
  • 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".
    • "Moving Up" also has cameos from several musicians as part of the Unity Concert; The Decemberists, Letters To Cleo and Ginuwine appear As Themselves, Jeff Tweedy appears as the lead singer of Land Ho, and Yo La Tengo as Bobby Knight Ranger.
    • The Johnny Karate Super-Awesome Musical Explosion Show manages to have John Cena as a guest.
  • Captain Obvious: Perd Hapley is some sort of superevolved mutant form of this trope.
    "And now, an update, which brings us new information."
  • Career Resurrection: Three in-universe examples.
    • Ben's political career hit the skids after he was elected mayor of his small Minnesota hometown and promptly bankrupted it with an elaborate winter sports complex project that got him recalled. From there he became an accountant who specialized in going into struggling towns and slashing their budgets to demonstrate his growth and fiscal responsibility. After doing that he runs a charity for a while before becoming the Pawnee City Planner. After a few years in that job he finally becomes a U.S. Congressman, and possibly the president (the series finale never specifies if it was him or Leslie.)
    • Leslie's political career started off rocky. She is elected to City Council and promptly recalled. From there she becomes The Midwest Regional Director for the U.S. National parks service. Her good work there gets her noticed enough to get elected as a two-term Governor of Indiana and possibly president (see previous entry).
    • Tom does this a few times.
      • He rebounds from the catastrophic failure of Entertainment 720 to open up Rent A Swag which is successful until another, weathier businessman strong arms him out.
      • From there he opens Tom's Bistro which becomes the most successful restaurant on Pawnee until a beef shortage forces it to close down.
      • Finally he becomes a best-selling author and motivational/lifestyle guru.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Celebrity Elegy: "5,000 Candles in the Wind" is an Affectionate Parody (but completely serious in-universenote ) for Pawnee's greatest celebrity, Li'l Sebastian.
    Bye bye Li'l Sebastian
    I miss you in the saddest fashion
    Bye bye Li'l Sebastian
    You're 5,000 candles in the wind
  • Character Development:
    • Leslie started off with some unpleasant Michael Scott-ish aspects to her character, but she has developed into a hypercompetent Pollyanna Determinator.
    • April Ludgate starts off as a Deadpan Snarker Ice Queen, until Andy brings out her softer side. On another note, she starts off the series as something of an apathetic Professional Slacker, but becomes involved in her work more and more when she finds things to care about, and also becomes more ambitious and caring towards her coworkers.
    • 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. His cynical personality also mellows out more as he lets go of his past failures and becomes more confident with himself.
    • Andy initially was a lazy Jerkass who exploited poor Ann (up to and including delaying getting his leg cast removed for two weeks just to keep her waiting on him), but later he became a lovable ditz. Getting together with April also helps him to become more responsible and a better, more supportive boyfriend (and later, husband).
    • 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.
  • Characterization Marches On: In the first season, the characterizations were still in their early stages of development.
    • Leslie is much less self-confident and less competent; it's implied that she only got her job through nepotism and fumbles through everything, only offset by her enthusiasm and Pollyanna streak inspiring people around her. She also shows more suspicion/defensiveness to the camera, aware of being watched, while Amy Poehler naturally started making Leslie an upfront, unashamed character to other people and the camera, which the writing accommodated.
    • Tom is more of a jerk, a Beleaguered Assistant to Leslie and his only defining trait is being a sarcastic 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, despite being more of an Emotionless Girl later on, and was characterized as more of a bored, irresponsible teen signed up for something she didn't want to do, before becoming an antisocial Deadpan Snarker Troll with a cultivated creepy side.
    • Donna and Jerry are only background characters with almost no lines and no characterization. The second season shows Leslie feeling guilty for ignoring Jerry and Donna starts up a style focused friendship with Tom.
    • Ron actually wears suits, has a different hairstyle, was a little more involved in Parks & Rec proceedings, and was even seen holding a smartphone despite being a little behind on the times technology-wise in later seasons (to the point of getting an old fashioned flip phone at one point). He later wears roughly the same polo shirt and slicked back hair, with a joke made that he hasn't changed in 20 years.
    • Andy is more of a lazy Jerkass, taking advantage of Ann's hospitality, rather than the lovable ditz he is later on. A switch can be seen later in the first season after being The Load he took the time to clean the house despite being on crutches. Once he gets together with April he becomes a friendly goofball.
    • Mark was originally a marginally decent womanizer with an "on again, off again" relationship with Leslie in the first season. After falling into the pit the show even suggested a concussion to explain him becoming a more genuine, friendly guy who starts a relationship with Ann. Notably though, both versions of the character were rather ill-defined and he was dropped after the second season.
    • Chris's first scene characterizes him as permissive and irresponsible, agreeing to all of the department's unrealistic requests and pushing the responsibility of denying them to Ben. Later episodes give him impeccable honesty and office ethics, though the Good Cop/Bad Cop dynamic is kept, with Chris lifting up the clients before Ben ruthlessly slashes their budgets. Chris had a tendency to phrase requests in rapid-fire, clipped staccato sentences. This was abandoned later on.
      Chris: I'd like you to get me some more post-its. I'd like them in multiple colors. I'd like green. I'd like yellow. Do not buy orange. I do not want orange. I have plenty of orange.
  • Chekhov's Gag:
    • The fact that Tom is married to Wendy but still flirts with every woman in sight. It's gradually revealed to be a sexless Citizenship Marriage in which he's helping Wendy out 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 an episode when he leaves it as a farewell gift to an accounting firm he started working at. It comes back a third time 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 wi-fi for Pawnee. Turns out the accountants saw the game's potential and licensed it in Ben's name.
    • On a smaller scale in "Meet 'n' Greet", at the beginning of the episode, Andy pretends to have forgotten to buy fake blood capsules when preparing for a Halloween party, only to have concealed one in his mouth. Then, near the end of the episode, Ben accidentally elbows Andy in the face, releasing a stream of fake blood. Of course, this is a Bait-and-Switch gag because Ben actually did break his nose.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Leslie's proposal to clean up the Pawnee River becomes this when, two years later, a member of the National Parks Service, Grant Larson, shows up in Pawnee to offer Leslie a job after reading it.
  • The Chew Toy: Leslie's mom's old boyfriend, Frank. There's also Kyle, a city attorney whom even Jerry picks on.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome:
    • Despite his prominence early on, after he was Put on a Bus and it turned into a Long Bus Trip when the original plan to bring him back once in a while failed to materialize, Mark was not only never spoken of again, but seemed to be erased from the series altogether. This was especially noticeable in the Season 5 episodes "Halloween Surprise" (where Ann, who Mark dated for most of Season 2, clears out some junk she had accumulated from her previous relationships to sell for charity and has a box for every other ex-boyfriend she's had except Mark) and "Pawnee Commons" (where the park design plans he drew up for the Lot 48 project and gave to Leslie before his departure are completely forgotten about). The only remnant of evidence of his existence following his departure from the series is the drawing he made in the Season 2 episode "The Camel" of a man feeding pigeons in a park still hanging in Ron's office. Furthermore, Mark was one of the few characters to not make an appearance in the last season or in the Grand Finale (which was particularly egregious considering all the other minor and recurring characters that came back), doesn't show up in any flashback clips, and doesn't appear in the 2020 Reunion Show either.
    • Nick Newport Jr. was introduced in the episode "Sweetums" as the heir to the Sweetums Company, but after Bobby Newport was introduced in Season 4, Nick was quietly retconned out of existence.
  • Church of Happyology: Reasonablism, in which folders play a significant part (and so named because you can't criticize a group that has "reasonable" in their name). 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 are an example and play with it in an ironic fashion since it is actually the white partner who is the immigrant in need of a work visa.
  • 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... since he has ended up the slave in his two marriages.
    • In "New Slogan", the former proprietor of the dinosaur-themed restaurant "Jurassic Fork" explains that they went out of business after they over-extended themselves by opening up another Steven Spielberg-themed restaurant: "Schindler's Lunch."
      Tom: ...I think you might have misunderstood what people like about this place.
    • In "Ron and Jammy", in a last-ditch effort to seduce Jamm back to her and away from Leslie and Ron, Tammy 2 goes for broke but the librarian has a peculiar set of standards:
      Tammy 2: [stripping naked] What do you say we consummate our relationship...tonight? Huh? Let's do it.
      Ron: And the last card is played.
      Leslie: [appalled] What are you doing?!
      Librarian: [to Leslie; apparently oblivious to the presence of her unclothed boss] Shh! This is a library.
  • The Comically Serious: Ron is defined largely by being grumpy and stern, using the same tone of voice talking about both how much he hates the government and how much he loves his various hobbies. April is similar, although she's more Defrosting Ice Queen.
  • 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 who sounds like Katharine Hepburn with "a terrible secret" and a cigarette holder.
    • 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."
  • Competence Porn: Definitely part of the appeal of Leslie Knope, both in-universe and for fans. And in a literal sense of the trope, there are definitely times when she and Ben get turned on by the other's excellence at their mundane government jobs. As the series goes on, more and more of the supporting ensemble also develop into these kinds of extremely talented people who it is a pleasure to watch excel in work they care about.
  • Compliment Backfire: Leslie's compliments to Ann and Ben are well-meaning but often sound bizarre and slightly insulting.
    • In "Campaign Shake-Up":
      Leslie: 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)
  • Confession Cam: Often used to provide additional narration or commentary directly from the characters.
  • 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 and their town is absorbed into Pawnee.
  • Constantly Changing Name: Andy constantly renames his band to various different things, though it is most often known as "Mouse Rat", which is a huge contributing factor to the band's lack of success, since anyone who likes their music can't find them by name.
  • 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 Burt 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 an old 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", though he continues to work at the parks department on different terms.
    • In "Ann and Chris", when Leslie and Ann finally break ground on Lot 48, they're wearing helmets labeled 'Kick-Ass', which were "finally fixed". The last time they went to work on the lot in "Ka-Boom!", the message was distributed across the two helmets, leaving Leslie labeled with "ASS" after Ann wisely chose "KICK".
  • Continuity Snarl: In the Season 4 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.
  • Cool Horse: Li'l Sebastian. Even the most cynical residents are overcome with joy when they're in his presence, except for Ben. He also has an honorary degree from Notre Dame.
  • 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".
  • Crazy-Prepared: Leslie: not only can she prepare multiple, filled thick binders overnight on any given topic, but if you try and give her a present, she already has a perfect one to give to you. Also Ron, who has a go-bag stashed away in city hall, ready for evacuation in case of either Tammy.
  • Creepy Stalker Van: In an early episode, Leslie and Tom spend the night in a van to stake out a community garden because Leslie found out that someone had been planting marijuana in there. But when Andy comes by, Leslie takes him to get something to eat, and Tom accidentally locks himself out. When he tries to break in, he's seen by Ann and Mark returning from their date, and they call the police on him. The police note that even aside from his breaking in, the fact that it's a windowless van containing cameras (to capture the pot-planter) and candy necklaces (Leslie is a sugar junkie) makes him look very suspicious.
  • 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 an ironic 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: invoked 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.
    • Not exactly a battle, but the one time Ann has to physically restrain April she's amazed at how weak April is; Ann barely has to do anything to hold her back.
  • 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 interns who had been slacking off and disrespecting him: "If you don't do it, I swear to God, I am going to murder you in your sleep. I know where you live. 14th Street, right? I will take a melon-baller and scoop your eyes out and eat them, and your Congressman uncle will have to buy you a dog to drag your eyeless face around. Do you understand me?"
  • 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-letter combination and asks Ron if he can 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 past Parks Directors to a dartboard and go to town on it in the tag of "Summer Catalog".
  • Date Peepers: Ben and Leslie in "Operation Ann". They're shocked to see that she's dating Tom Haverford.
  • Dating Service Disaster: Goes very wrong for Leslie in "Soulmates" where she gets matched up with Tom. Turns out he keeps several different accounts, each designed to match with a different type of woman.
  • December–December Romance: Ethel is revealed to be in the dating scene in "Leslie and Ben" when April and Andy go to her house to try and get her to sign Leslie and Ben's marriage license.
  • Decided by One Vote:
    • Jerry is scared that this could happen when he forgets to vote for the City Council election in "Win, Lose, or Draw". 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 gets April to slowly drop her barrier. By the third season credits, she actually smiles shyly at the camera.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: invoked 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, at one point saying Pawnee really needs "better, less offensive history".
    • "She was one of the first feminist leaders in Pawnee! She was the first to dare wearing pants on a Sunday, she spent four 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."
    • In general, the town has a level of blatant and casual sexism, racism, and homophobia that would have made Archie Bunker tell you to tune it down, despite being set in the 2010s.
  • Delusions of Local Grandeur:
    • Perd Hapley is generally one of the more pleasant media personalities in town... and then managed to get a judge show.
    • Joan Calamezzo even moreso—she's the host of the local talk show Pawnee Today, and acts like she's Oprah.
  • Demoted to Extra: Marlene Griggs-Knope, Leslie's mother who is a powerful figure in Pawnee politics, went from a recurring role in the first season to sporadic appearances in the second season to only one appearance in the third season, two in the fourth season, one in the fifth season, and then was never seen again after that. This was mostly due to the changes in Season 2, where Leslie went from bumbling and incompetent in Season 1 to hyper-talented and very good at her job thereafter. In a Q&A, Michael Schur stated that with Leslie's character more developed, there was less to do with Marlene, and while they wanted to bring her back more than they did, the opportunities didn't fit with the new direction the show was going in. She is referenced once in the Season 7 episode "Pie Mary", when Leslie mentions that she's babysitting the triplets.
  • Denser and Wackier: Compared to its predecessor. While The Office had plenty of absurd and over-the-top moments, Pawnee and its people are much more zany and cartoonish than Scranton and Dunder Mifflin overall. Parks and Rec was also less reliant on Cringe Comedy than The Office, opting for a humor style that relied more on the dynamic interactions between each unique cast member's personality.
  • 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 everyone, and a cool, interesting guy In-Universe. However, a later episode shows him as a "tourist" more interested in having a good story to tell than the actual experiences, which causes Leslie to break up with him.
  • Desk Sweep of Passion: Tom Haverford sweeps a desk in an office when he wants to seduce Ann Perkins. They only had one date before that and she really does not appreciate his tricks and his "playbook".
  • 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.
  • Distinction Without a Difference:
    • 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."
    • In "Citizen Knope", after Leslie is given a suspension from her job:
      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.
  • 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.
  • Diurnal Nocturnal Animal: Lampshaded in "Christmas Scandal". When April notes that Pawnee's raccoons are active during the day, Ron states that the local population is unusual.
  • DIY Dentistry: Certified Manly Man Ron Swanson nonchalantly yanks out a sore tooth with pliers in the middle of a meeting, prompting horrified screams from onlookers.
    Ron: [Aside Comment] The dentist pulled the tooth out yesterday, but it's always a good idea to demonstrate to your coworkers that you are capable of withstanding a tremendous amount of pain. Plus, it's always fun to see Tom faint. [Giggles]
    • Exaggerated in the 2020 reunion special. In it, a commercial for Jamm Orthodontics advertises at-home dentistry delivery in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Jamm will deliver all of the tools and medication to your home, and then you will receive virtual instructions on how to perform your own procedure on yourself.
      Jamm: Is it legal? Probably. Is it safe? That's up to you. If you eff this up, it's your own fault.
  • 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'.
    • Councilman Jamm counts, as he is a successful orthodontist in his day job.
  • 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:
    Tom: Hey, John McClane!
    Dave: Who's that?
    Tom: Die Hard.
    Dave: The battery?
  • Doppelgänger: In an episode appropriately titled "Doppelgangers", the gang at Pawnee City Hall meet their parks department 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.
  • Dream Reality Check:
    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)
  • 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.
    • 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 of a) performance, grabs the giant jug of moonshine and chugs it all down with no trouble.
  • 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: Compare the first season to the second and onward, and they almost seem like two different shows.
    • Like its parent series The Office (US), the camera crew filming the mockumentary were explicitly recognized as people and equipment existing around the characters in the Pilot Episode. Ron even asks who is paying for them to do this, incredulously wondering if they got some sort of grant. After the first episode, this was dropped, and though the mockumentary format continued — including the talking-head asides — it was just a conceit of the show and the camera crew were never interacted with as people.
    • Characterization Marches On was in effect. Leslie starts off as more of a Small Name, Big Ego who took her job way too seriously rather than a highly skilled Badass Bureaucrat. Andy is a lazy slob before being reimagined as an affable Manchild. Tom was Leslie's Beleaguered Assistant rather than the "swag" obsessed Fashionista he later becomes. It's obvious that the characters are built off the characters from The Office, where Leslie is Michael Scott, Ann is Pam Beasley, Ron is Dwight Schrute, Mark is Jim Halpert, Andy is Roy Anderson (with a little Andy Bernard thrown in), Tom is a mixture of Ryan Howard and Kelly Kapoor, April is Angela Martin, and Jerry is Kevin Malone and Toby Flenderson rolled into one. There was also a heavier focus on the government aspect of the show. Both were the result of the fact that Parks started off practically like a clone of its parent series before it found its own voice and style.
    • Twice over with Jerry - in the first season, Jerry was mostly a background entity and was actually competent compared to Leslie when she eats a poisonous plant. He gradually became more of The Klutz and the series' resident Butt-Monkey, with his original characterization having him stoically putting up with the abuse he gets because he wanted to keep his head down until he could quietly retire and collect his pension. This then changed to him being too good-hearted to be upset by the way he's being treated and having a fantastic home life to balance it out.
    • In the first season, the opening credits sequence is longer, with the theme song going on for an extra stanza.
    • Eagleton, the neighboring town whose very name is a Berserk Button for Leslie later in the show, is mentioned without any undue fuss in Season 1.
    • In early episodes, the Mayor and his immediate subordinates are treated as the real movers and shakers in town, to the point that the cast are star-struck encountering one of them in person. The mayor then goes almost completely unmentioned for the rest of the series with the town council taking the "higher authority" role, and when the office finally comes up again right at the end, it's explicitly an entirely ceremonial position with no real power. There was a reorganization with few details given in between, though.
    • Ben and Chris were introduced at the end of Season 2 as guest characters and later became core cast members and promoted to the opening credits in Season 3. Because of this, their absence earlier in the show may be disorienting whilst rewatching. Similarly, the presence of Mark Brendanawicz during the first two seasons can also be disorienting as he left the show at the same time that Ben and Chris came in.
  • 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, Marcia's husband. He acts highly flamboyant to the point of coming off as Armored Closet Gay and agrees with her that women should Stay in the Kitchen.
  • Emotionless Girl: April.
  • Employee of the Month: When Leslie gives Ron an Employee of the Month plaque, Ron dramatically gets up, grabs the plaque, and immediately disposes of it as if it were a dead body.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: Subverted in the episode titled "End of the World" where the former members of a local cult hold a gathering at a park to herald the arrival of their fire lizard god Zorp the Surveyor. Everyone contemplates their lives while April and Andy do items off his bucket list and Tom and Jean-Ralphio party like there's no tomorrow.
  • 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 happened once in a dream" and Leslie's was "I'd be lying if I said I hadn't thought about it."
  • Eskimos Aren't Real: April's job as secretary is to prevent people from meeting Ron. Unfortunately, she schedules all of his meetings for March 31st, under the mistaken belief that "March 31st" isn't a real date.
  • 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.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Ron is fine with Gryzzl's use of data mining, despite the sheer extent of the invasion of privacy, as he feels it's the customers' faults for carrying around devices that track their every move. However, Ron is livid when Gryzzl goes through Diane's Emails and learns about his four year old son, sending him a Gryzzlbox despite him not even owning a device.
  • 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: Pawnee, Indiana.
  • 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.
  • Exposed Embarrassing Purchase: A variant occurs when Leslie is forced to tangle with her worst enemies: librarians. When she goes to check out a DVD, the librarian claims she's accrued a massive fine for a book, which she loudly announces is titled "Mysteries of the Female Orgasm." Invoked, as the woman was clearly making it up to humiliate Leslie (who responds by just having her friend grab the DVD and running the hell away).
  • 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. Basically, it can be summed up as:
      • Leslie is Michael Scott.
      • Ann is Pam Beasly.
      • Ron is Dwight Schrute.
      • Mark is Jim Halpert.
      • Andy is Roy Anderson, with some Andy Bernard mixed in.
      • Tom is Ryan Howard.
      • April is Angela Martin.
      • Jerry is Kevin Malone and Toby Flenderson rolled into one.
      • Donna is Kelly Kapoor, but more refined.
    • On another note, Chris Traeger is one for Sam Seaborn (both of whom are played by Rob Lowe).
  • Face Doodling: Ann narrates the talking heads segment at the end of "Telethon", and announces that Leslie has been asleep on her couch for 22 hours (after staying awake for nearly two whole days straight). She closes the episode by announcing that "I love her so much... but I think I'm gonna draw a mustache on her face."
  • Fake Guest Star: Both Retta (Donna) and Jim O'Heir (Jerry) were upgraded to opening credits at the start of Season 6 (though were credited as "starring" from Season 3), despite the fact that both were often important characters to the plot and appeared in almost every episode. This crediting is similar to that of The Office.
  • Fancy Camping: In "Camping", the Parks and Rec team goes on a camping trip and Tom brings a luxurious tent complete with an absurd amount of accessories and electronics. When asked how he affords it all, he says he buys it from Sky Mall and then returns it the next day. He powers his electronics with the car battery, which quickly kills it and strands the group.
  • 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 Yo Self Day in "Pawnee Rangers".
  • Fast-Food Nation: Several episodes' plots revolve around the Parks and Rec team attempting to get the citizens of Pawnee to be healthier, though they themselves are constantly tempted into eating terrible fast food. The most popular restaurant in the town of Pawnee is Paunch Burger, a burger joint with comically massive portions (their small drink is essentially a bucket), whose logo is a profile silhouette of a very fat man. Even the main cast regularly comments on how salads are a terrible food item with no redeeming qualities, and they commonly find themselves tempted into eating Paunch Burger food despite their disapproval of its effects on society. Another episode focuses on "nutrition" bars with an absurdly high sugar content, and the team's attempts to prevent them from being sold at parks, though the public loves them... because they're literally addictive.
  • 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. The one case where Ron does acknowledge a crew and asks them if they have a grant for shooting a documentary happens in the pilot, so it can be chalked up to Early-Installment Weirdness.
  • Feigning Healthiness: In "Flu Season", Leslie refuses to admit she has the flu because she has to give an important presentation.
  • 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. (Beat) Slight exaggeration."
    • Tom's complaints about Ann include things like her not caring about bedsheet thread count and still using an iPad 1.
    • Ron, 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!"
    • Everything relating to the Pawnee Library Department. Those horrible, evil, well-read librarians.
  • Fictional Board Game: Ben creates his own original board game, The Cones of Dunshire in one episode.
    • Ron's "Swanson Yin-Yang of Failure" consists of salad and sharing.
  • Fidelity Test: Ann's friends pull a few lame ones on Mark at Ann's Halloween party in Season 2.
  • Final Season Casting: Ann and Chris left the show during the sixth season. That season also introduced Craig Middlebrooks, who became a main character in season 7.
  • Finger Extinguisher
    • Leslie has a blind date with a guy who tries to impress her by using this trope, but holds onto the smoldering wick until he burns his fingers (which he then puts in Leslie's water).
    • Happens again in "The Cones of Dunshire" when Ron puts out Tom's scented candle with his fingers because he prefers the natural outdoors smell to that of the candle.
  • Fire Alarm Distraction: Averted in an early episode. Leslie considers pulling the alarm when she realizes her mom has shown up to a public forum that she knows is going to be a disaster. She doesn't go through with it due to it being illegal.
    • Subverted in a later episode. Chris catches Leslie giving Tom a "Shut Up" Kiss and she instinctively pulls the nearby alarm. It doesn't go off.
      Leslie: They should fix that.
  • 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 AltaVista.
  • 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.
  • Flanderization:
    • Dave's reappearence in Season 4 takes his unusual speech patterns up a notch. Louis C.K. makes it work.
    • Leslie slowly morphs from the only competent employee in a government office to hyper-competent to a full-on work fetishist who seems baffled by the idea that other people do things other than work.
    • Ron goes from an antisocial libertarian loner to being more or less totally divorced from human society. His diet also changes from a preference for "manly" foods like steak, to full-on carnivorous.
    • Ben starts off as a Deadpan Snarker Straight Man with only occasional bouts of nerdiness to show he's Not So Above It All. As the seasons go on he becomes a lot wackier, his nerdy traits are far more prominent, and his Straight Man attitude is downplayed though he doesn't lose the snark entirely.
    • However, despite their comedic traits being played up, all of the characters and their relationships become more nuanced in a kind of reverse flanderization.
    • Andy goes through an inversion. He starts the show off as an immature, irresponsible leech with no personality traits other than being in a band and being lazy. Over the course of the series, he develops multiple interests such as his dreams of becoming a cop, shows his Hidden Depths, and becomes a more rounded person, while still being a goofy immature manchild at his core.
  • Foil: Chris, to Ron. Ben is one for Leslie.
  • 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:
    • 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.
    • The season 2 episode "The Set Up" has Dr. Chris offhandedly mention Leslie's spacious reproductive system means she could go for triplets right off the bat. Which is exactly what happens come season 6.
    • In the Season 6 premiere, Ann mentions, after finding out she's pregnant, that "Olive is a cute name". When her son's born, what's his name? Oliver.
    • Leslie's Sitcom Arch-Nemesis Jeremy Jamm first appears in Season 5's "How a Bill Becomes a Law" but his name appears on a plaque in the City Council Chamber in Season 4's "The Treaty".
  • For the Lulz: KABOOM!
  • Former Friend of Alpha Bitch: Lindsay Carlisle Shay used to be Leslie's best friend, but then got a nose job, moved to Eagleton, and became a real snob.
  • Formula-Breaking Episode: Episode "The Johnny Karate Super-Awesome Musical Explosion Show" is presented as an entire episode of the eponymous Show Within a Show.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Leslie and Donna (choleric), Ann and Jerry (phlegmatic), Tom, Andy, and Chris (sanguine), Ron, April, and Ben (melancholic), and Mark (leukine).
  • Four Is Death: The fourth floor is incredibly 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.
    • In the finale, it's revealed that Shauna Mulwae-Tweep and Bobby Newport Jr. get married after knowing each other for just five hours.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: In "Smallest Park" when Jerry shows Tom his old ID card, you can see that the name tag reads "Garry Gergich". One episode later, it's revealed that Garry is "Jerry's" real name.
  • 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' run.
    • 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 J.J.'s waffle maker (which each of them had wanted to buy her independently), 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 it with T.O.M. (Town Organizational Matrix)
  • The Fundamentalist: Marcia and Marshall Langman.
  • Funeral Cut: The Grand Finale jumps to and from different points in the future. When the time comes for showing Jean-Ralphio's future, we are instead shown his funeral...and then subverted when it turns out he faked his death to collect the insurance money and start a casino abroad.

  • Gagging on Your Words: Leslie can't say "sorry" to someone from Eagleton in "Pawnee Commons".
  • Gag Penis:
    • Li'l Sebastian has a long one that's blurred out.
    • According to Doctor Harris, Jerry has one as well. He was too distracted by it to actually check Jerry for mumps and even describes it as the biggest he's ever seen on a man.
  • Gargle Blaster:
    • The Swanson family mash liquor in "Ron and Tammys". Its only legal use is to strip varnish off speedboats. Other applications include burning warts off mules and dissolving snail shells. Leslie describes it as tasting like poison and April immediately spits it out after trying one sip.
    • Tom's personal concoction, Snake Juice, from "The Fight", which gets even Ron shitfaced. Played fairly realistically; it's quite sweet, high in caffeine, and 140 proof. The result is everybody imbibing a lot more alcohol than they think they have.
  • 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 Michele Bachmann's husband Marcus, who is rumored to be gay.
  • Geeky Turn-On: Ben and Leslie engage in sexual role play as political figures.
  • The Generic Guy: Mark. He was originally meant to be the Only Sane Man and a source of Unresolved Sexualtension with Leslie, but his low key, "realistic" personality compared to the more colorful characters made him stand out for coming off as bland. When Ann broke up with him, she said it was because she didn't have any strong feelings toward him one way or the other.
  • Genius Ditz: Andy has show signs of being this from time to time. It's either this or Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass. When he applied to the police academy, the Chief said that Andy was the only person who aced the written exam but completely failed the personality test.
  • Genki Girl:
    • Leslie does so much work it's difficult to imagine her even sleeping. She has binders for anything and everything. Her Trademark Favorite Food is waffles stacked with whipped cream, and she seems very big into junk food as well, helping to explain how hyperactive she is.
    • Male version with Chris. He's an obsessive fitness nut with a lot of high energy, a number of times he spends meetings doing exercises. This creates an especially big contrast to the more sedate and relaxed Ben, Ron and April.
  • Gentle Touch vs. Firm Hand: Chris and Ben as auditors, respectively. Chris is kind and encouraging while Ben bluntly slashes budgets with no mercy.
  • Geographic Flexibility: Pawnee is as big a town as the current story requires, and Eagleton is anywhere from a few miles away to literally across the street. The last few episodes of the last season introduced an entire abandoned warehouse district that had never been mentioned before.
  • George Washington Slept Here:
    • After Ben and Leslie have returned from their honeymoon in Hawaii:
      Leslie: We saw the bus stop where a young Barack Obama used to sit and wait for the bus... theoretically.
      Ben: That's possible.
    • While trying to find a reason for establishing a national park in Pawnee, Leslie discovers that President William Harrison once stayed in a cabin nearby. Unfortunately, all that's left is a ruin, and even Leslie realizes Harrison is a very difficult president to get excited about when visiting a local museum about him.
  • Ghetto Name: Donna's brother is named LeVondrias.
  • The Ghost
    • Chris' therapist Dr. Richard Nygaard. It's lampshaded by Leslie at one point when she recommends a clearly depressed Shawna Mulwae-Tweep to seek out his help before adding she wonders if he really exists or if it's just Chris talking to himself in a mirror. Craig mentions seeing him, too, however, proving him real.
    • Jerry's wife Gayle was initially this until the episode "Ron and Diane".
  • Giant Medical Syringe: In the episode "Bailout", April has to ask Ann for a favor and does so in her own inimitable style:
    April: I have to tell you a secret, but if you tell anyone I will kill you with a giant syringe. [brandishes giant syringe]
  • Gigantic Gulp: Pawnee restaurants sell soda by the gallon, as in a "regular" size is a gallon. A "small" is 64 ounces, and they also offer a "child" size that is literally the size of a two year old child. The prices are really good though; the child size one costs less than two dollars.
  • Gilded Cage: The Eagleton jail. The officers are extremely polite, they serve scones for breakfast, and they even give out gift bags when you leave.
  • Gilligan Cut: In "Ron and Tammy Part 2", 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.
  • Give a Man a Fish...: In "Telethon", Ron has this to say.
    Ron: Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Don't teach a man to fish, and you feed yourself. He's a grown man. Fishing's not that hard.
  • 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.
  • Good Is Dumb: The vast majority of Pawnee citizens are good natured, passionate, and want whats best for themselves and their neighbors. Unfortunately, they're also easily whipped into a frenzy, short sighted, and impulsive. It leads to a lot of situations where Leslie has to save the people from their own bad habits and corporations who want to take advantage of them.
  • A Good Name for a Rock Band:
    • Andy rattles off a Long List that his band formerly used in "Rock Show", also documented in Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America.
    • 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 Mouse Rat, though.)
  • Go-to Alias:
    • Andy uses Burt 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. He brings Burt Macklin back again in later episodes though.
    • 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. She also uses Judy Hitler on occasion.
  • 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: When he moves in with them in the episode "Jerry's Painting", Ben makes April and Andy buy important items for their house such as appliances, plates and silverware, but they pick out frivolous stuff from the "As Seen on TV" section 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 in advance like responsible adults, so they set out to try and rekindle their spontaneity by buying a creepy house that was used to store mental patients.
  • Handmade Is Better: Ron firmly believes in self-reliance to the point that he crafts all of his own furniture instead of buying mass-produced. Rather than letting Ben and Leslie buy wedding rings, he forges them a pair out of a lighting sconce.
    Ron Swanson: People who buy things are suckers.
  • Happily Married:
    • Subverted with Tom and Wendy, because it's a green-card marriage for Wendy.
    • April and Andy after their wedding in the third season.
    • 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 as of the fifth season.
    • Ron and Diane in the sixth season premiere.
    • Donna and Joe in the seventh season.
    • Subverted with Ann and Chris. They're in love, live together, and have a child together but choose to not officially marry.
  • Happy-Ending Massage: In "The Camel", Ron really likes getting his shoes shined and 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.
  • Half-Identical Twins: Jean-Ralphio and Mona Lisa Saperstein, who are both similarly wealthy, hammy, selfish, and obnoxious (although even Jean-Ralphio admits Mona Lisa is worse than he is). They're even played by actors who resemble each other.
  • Hand Wave: In season 6, to explain Andy's sudden weight loss (Chris Pratt was filming for Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) 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 Saperstein and his sister, Mona-Lisa. They're two of the worst, most obnoxious people you'll ever see, and even Tom eventually realizes this.
    • Tom has also harbored admiration for fragrance mogul Dennis Feinstein, who turns out to be a Corrupt Corporate Executive and generally a terrible human being.
  • Haute Cuisine Is Weird: Parodied with a "molecular mixology" bar where, among other things, Bud Light beer is transformed into a candy floss-like confection and a cocktail is sublimated into an "aromasphere". The working-class visitors are confused and dismayed.
    [a waiter starts massaging whiskey-infused lotion onto Ron's hands while Andy looks on in horror]
    Ron: Can I ask if this entire establishment is a practical joke of some kind?
  • 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". Regardless what you think of the real-life groups, it's pretty clear these guys have some rather petty motivations.
    • Subverted with Ron. Everything about him is manly, but he admires strong women to the point of being an Amazon Chaser. He does feel the need for the occasional all-male retreat, though.
  • 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.
    • Ron turns into this under the influence of his first wife Tammy One.
  • 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.
    • And later in the same episode when Chris offers to grill him portabello mushrooms instead of steak.
  • Heroic Fire Rescue: Parodied with the Pawneeans who celebrate a man who saved a pumpernickel recipe from a fire at the local bread factory. Around thirty people died in the fire. He wasn't a miracle worker.
  • Heteronormative Crusader: The Langman family.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners:
    • Ann and Leslie, although most of it's sentimental intenseness is one-sided from Leslie. She insists on multiple friendship anniversaries a year, which are considered as important as her romantic anniversaries. She also takes every opportunity to tell Ann how beautiful she is in ever more elaborate fashions.
    • Just about all of the male main characters (with exception of Mark) have become undeniably close friends over the course of the series. "Two Parties" only reinforces this fact, due to the entire episode focusing around the guys giving each other the bachelor parties that they never had.
  • 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 stands on his chair, removes a ceiling tile and pulls out a large, vacuum-packed slab of bacon.
      Ron: (smirking) Didn't think so.
    • 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. Tammy Two has one too!
    • "Leslie and Ron" reveals that Ron built a secret compartment for alcohol in his office on his first day at work. Despite having left his job a few years ago, the booze is still there.
  • 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".
  • Historical In-Joke: In one episode, Ben's getting set up at his Sweetums job and April, Andy and Tom are helping to look for charities. At one point, Tom picks out a firm called "Cleansheet", which Ben looks at and realizes provides legal assistance for the KKK. The Ku Klux Klan actually held much power in Indiana during the 1920's, including having a KKK member as governor.
  • 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 Crossover 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. Despite nearly wetting her pants and being sweated out by Councilman Jamm's abuse of the thermostat, she makes it.
  • Hollywood Board Games: Donna Meagle's family is so dysfunctional, they can even have a Pictionary tournament without everyone ending up in the hospital. The Meagles sure know how to hold a grudge and act on it.
  • 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 Park 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 (in which case her income tax rate is probably the maximal 39.6%) or as income from investments (in which case she is likely taxed at the capital gains rate of 20%).note  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. This does get lampshaded at the end of the storyline, when the company that bought the land instantly donates it for the tax break.
    • 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 sneaked 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 sneaked 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 this exact thing.
  • Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Parodied. The local restaurant, JJ's Diner, serves a breakfast meal called "The Four Horse-Meals of the Egg-Pork-Alypse".
  • 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 him, Andy, April, or Donna 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 over dinner bought with money they collected by putting a dollar bill in a box whenever he did something stupid.
      • Moreover, they did get invited to his really nice Christmas party, but due to filtering his emails automatically, they never saw the invitation.
    • After Leslie loses the recall election, she asks Ron for her old job back, but insists Ron give her a proper job interview and that she receives "no special treatment." As soon as Ron (jokingly) points out that Leslie and he profoundly disagree on the role of the job and that he had other candidates to interview, Leslie freaks out, breaks down, and demands special treatment.
    • "Bailout":
      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!
    • Some meta examples involving Ben Schwartz when Jean Ralphio appears.
      • Upon meeting Ben for the first time at Entertainment 720, Jean Ralphio's first words to him are "Ben, is that your real name? You can do better than that."
      • He also compares Trevor, local Pawnee lawyer, to Beaker from The Muppets; in interviews and Q&A sessions Schwartz frequently likens his own appearance to Beaker as well.
  • I Know You Know I Know: Several conversations with this pop up in "Campaign Shake-Up" involving Leslie, Ben, and Bobby Newport's new campaign manager from Washington Jennifer Barkley.
  • Idiot Ball: Despite being incredibly savvy about their public image and legal matters, Gryzzl freely admits to Leslie and Ben that they're 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.
    • In "94 Meetings", April, who is otherwise a smart, college-educated assistant for Ron, somehow didn't realize that March 31 was a real calendar date, thereby causing the titular crisis because she thought she was assigning Ron's meetings to a fictitious day.
  • 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 "Burt 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.
      Ben: Why would any of you think I would hurt Leslie? You're all my friends too.
      April: Nah.
    • In "Two Parties", Andy gives this speech to Chris about April. After Andy made up a fictional future relationship for the two of them.
  • Incredibly Lame Fun:
    • This is how an outsider like Ben Wyatt sees Li'l Sebastian, the pride of Pawnee; saying you don't see the big deal about it unleashes the anger of the people of Pawnee. Ben does try to grasp why it is so important, but just doesn't get it.
    • For his Bachelor party, Ben just asks that the guys come to his place and play board games together. Everyone assumed he was joking. They humor him though.
    • All of the accountants, who are endlessly amused by terrible accounting puns and relish in a "punishingly intricate" tabletop game.
  • Indian Burial Ground: In "Harvest Festival", the festival takes place on the site of a battle that the Wamapoke Indians lost (badly). Leslie explains to the head of the local tribe, Ken Hotate, that due to the nature of Pawnee's incredibly violent and racist history, there is no place in Pawnee that isn't the site of some horrific atrocity against the Native Americans.
  • 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:
    • Leslie successfully pulls one off in "Christmas Scandal." Leslie goes on a live talk show in order to clear her name from false accusations of an affair with the sleazy Councilman Dexhart. The talk show hosts surprises Leslie by having the councilman show up to repudiate her claim. Dexhart tries to trap her by giving "intimate details", lying about seeing a mole on her butt in hopes that she would be too modest to deny it. Leslie then drops her pants on live TV to prove there is no mole, thus clearing her name.
      Joan Callamazzo: Councilman, do you have a comment about No-Molegate?
      Councilman Dexhart: (caught off-guard) Well, I did not expect her to be willing to take off her pants on television.
    • In "Leslie's House", Leslie, in order to keep her dinner party interesting for her date Justin, invites several recreation center teachers needing her favor to her house and entertain her guests through the various subjects they teach: belly dancing, fencing, cartooning, accounting software, etc.
    • Leslie's closing statement in "The Debate".
  • 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 Garbage", 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.
    • April drowns herself with alcohol while dealing with Tom and Ann's constant arguing in "Surprise Party".
    • This is Ron's way to get through his reconciliation with Leslie in "Leslie and Ron".
  • 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. Jerry is often said to be quite ugly.
  • 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.
  • Informed Small Town: Pawnee is said to be a small Indiana town, yet it has the headquarters of a major candy corporation, its own news stations and periodicals, a zoo, an annual beauty pageant, decent nightlife, and by season 7 the headquarters of the Midwest branch of the National Parks Service.
  • Insignificant Anniversary: Leslie has many "X Days" with many people, celebrating various milestones. An issue comes up when she has "Waffle Day" with her husband and "Breakfast Day" with her best friend at about the same time and they fight over a waffle iron to get her. Eventually, they convince Leslie to just have a single week per person, as keeping track of several anniversaries per month (and getting presents for each one) was difficult for everyone but Leslie.
  • Insistent Terminology: Ben is forced to "resign in disgrace" after he is found guilty of bribery to cover up his and Leslie's relationship.
  • Inspector Javert: Chris relentlessly pursues an ethics complaint against Ben and Leslie over their relationship. He doesn't want to - Ben is his closest friend in the world and he respects the hell out of Leslie. But he believes strongly that supervisors shouldn't date their employees and he's not going to show any favoritism toward Leslie and Ben.
  • 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!:
    • Leslie's quoted the trope when lampshading an instance of this.
    • 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.
  • Irrational Hatred: The entire department have a longstanding yet inexplicable hatred of the library department.
  • Ironic Echo: Ron Swanson's statement, "Son, there's no wrong way to consume alcohol!" Later, in the pretentious science 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 to hear this.
    • 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.

  • Jerkass:
    • A lot of the Pawnee citizens. When they're not apathetic, they're ungrateful idiots who get hysterical over the smallest things.
    • April, particularly in the early seasons, has a sour attitude about everything and is unafraid to show it. She eventually evolves into a Jerk with a Heart of Gold.
    • Ben's father. His mother is at least a Stepford Smiler. Ben's dad is just a humorless asshole from the get-go.
    • Chip McCapp, teen country heartthrob, appears to be a sweet all-American kid who loves his country, the troops, and his mom. When Leslie and Andy meet him, he insults the people of Pawnee by calling them a "buncha dirty hicks" who don't use toothpaste, calls Pawnee itself a "crap town", threatens to fire his manager-dad for stacking his sandwich ingredients incorrectly, and shoots his dad in the chest at extremely close range with a paintball gun.
    • Councilman Jamm to the extreme. His first appearance has him using Leslie's private bathroom at City Hall without permission, constantly undermines her attempts to get a dog park on the lot near Ann's house so he can build a Paunch Burger on it, and got drunk at Leslie and Ben's impromptu wedding at the park fundraiser and throwing two stink bombs. He gets a well deserved punch from Ron for the last one. He later tries to sue Ron for 22 million dollars... only to be foiled when April and Tom prove able to beat him at his own game. He does become slightly better after going through a brutal Break the Haughty routine from Tammy 2 that nearly emotionally destroyed him to the point that even Leslie and Ron felt sorry for him and rescued Jamm from her.
    • Dennis Feinstein, Pawnee's wealthy cologne manufacturer, who is so obnoxious and repugnant, he even causes good natured Andy to yell "You're a dick!" at him. When J.J.'s Diner supporters protest in front of his office, he uses perfume like chemical weaponry to disperse the crowd (and then casually notes he has to disconnect his father from life-support).
    • The Venezuelans in "Sister City" are 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.
    • Mona-Lisa. While her brother Jean-Ralphio can flip-flop between straight-up jerkassery and being a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, Mona-Lisa is an Ax-Crazy Spoiled Brat with Yandere tendencies. Even Tom and Jean-Ralphio call her "the worst".
    • Tammy 2 is a self-centered and manipulative nymphomaniac who just can't let go of her ex Ron, to the point that she went after his best friend with an ax, tried to break up his family, and emotionally and physically destroyed Jamm (who may be a jerk in plenty of his own ways, but still...) in order to turn him into a clone of Ron.
    • Tammy 1 is even worse— both Ron and Tammy 2 fear her, and she turns Ron into basically a Henpecked Husband with a completely opposite personality. She also works for the IRS.
    • Greg Pikitis, a prank-loving teenager who manages to outsmart Leslie a lot. Not only that, he's the boyfriend of Allison, a girl who Leslie and Ron had been fighting over mentoring— once he's revealed, they both agree Allison's an idiot for being with him.
  • Jump Cut: The use of this sort of editing has become almost a trademark of many of the show's "talking head" interviews.
  • Just Following Orders: A non-villainous example when Chris prosecutes Ben and Leslie for their secret love affair. Chris, being Ben's best friend, doesn't want to do it, but he tells them it's a part of his job as it presents a violation of ethics. Fortunately, all parties involve remain friends after the event.
  • Karma Houdini: A lot of the antagonists the characters faced over the show's run (see Rogues Gallery) never got any solid legal repercussions.
    • Despite Ron declaring that he wants to help Leslie "take them down" for invading his son's privacy, Gryzzl actually ends up better off as a result of Leslie's actions. She persuades them to buy up Beachview Terrace and donate the Newport land to the parks department; they still get what they want — a campus HQ in Pawnee — and since they no longer have to pay for the construction of new buildings, it may even have ended up saving them money. Plus, they have the PR double-whammy of having financed both the regeneration of a run-down area of town and the creation of a new national park, which likely helped them salvage their public image. The 2020 special has the team using their services to remain in contact during lockdown.
  • Kavorka Man:
    • Female example: Donna is quite the man-eater despite her rotund figure. In the "Sister City" episode, the Venezuelan delegates call her the most attractive woman in the Parks Department.
    • Subverted by Tom. He mentions that he's married, but everyone is surprised to discover that Wendy's quite beautiful. It's eventually revealed to be a Citizenship Marriage. Not only that, but he actually developed real feelings for her, but Wendy was only in it for the green card, and Tom consistently struggles to hold a relationship, though more for his attitude than his looks.
    • Councilman Dexhart is not particularly attractive, but he's managed to bed an insane number of women and sired a lot of illegitimate children. Anytime he's mentioned, it has to do with a sex scandal.
    • Jerry is perceived by most of the cast as an ineffectual, bumbling, fat, sad loser. In truth, he has a ridiculously attractive wife, equally attractive children (Chris dates one for some time and feels he may not be attractive enough for her), and a beautiful house. He does claim however that he was a lot slimmer in his younger years (apparently resembling Chris).
  • Kinky Role-Playing: Implied. April and Andy enjoy dressing up as a rich widow with a terrible secret, Janet Snakehole, and FBI agent Burt Macklin for fun, and get extremely into character. Most of what we see is basically just two free-spirited adults playing pretend, but it's implied a few times that they also find it hot, with the characters having Foe Romance Subtext because April and Andy are extremely Happily Married.
    Andy-as-Macklin: I know you boosted those paintings.
    April-as-Janet: Maybe it was me, but I'll never tell you where they are. And you'll never have my body, either! [runs away]
  • Kitschy Themed Restaurant: The dinosaur-themed Jurassic Fork.
  • Knighting: Lord Covington reveals he has the privilege, if not the power, to do so on Andy's last Johnny Karate episode, where Andy receives the honor. Ben is offered, and is eager to take Eddie up on it, and he joins Andy.
  • Kubrick Stare: April does this to the camera as she and Andy talk about their upcoming Halloween party.
  • Landmark Declaration Gambit: During Season 7, Leslie wants to declare a large swath of untouched land outside of Pawnee a National Park, while the company Gryzzl wants to build its new college campus on it. One of the tactics she uses to try to convince the owners to give her the land is to have it declared a historical landmark since William Henry Harrison used to have a hunting cabin there, but it fails since she's obviously grasping at straws.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Tom, who's usually the most antagonistic towards Jerry, becomes the office's designated Buttmonkey in "Jerry's Retirement".
  • Last Episode, New Character: Ben and Chris are introduced in the second-to-last episode of season 2 before becoming regulars in season 3.
  • Later-Installment Weirdness:
    • Garry Gergich, who had been called "Jerry" for the first five seasons, gets renamed "Larry Gengurch" in early season 6, then "Terry" in the season finale, and finally "Garry", his real name, halfway through season 7.
    • The absence of once frequent Friendship Moments between Leslie and Ann following the latter's departure from the show are quite noticeable.
    • The final season has a Time Skip to 20 Minutes in the Future, with the result that there's holographic smartphones and such in what had been a relatively down-to-earth workcom. It also means that the show's setting has changed beyond belief, as the entire cast except Craig no longer works in the Parks Department. This meant that the iconic office goes unused for most of the season, only reappearing for any significant length once or twice.
    • End tags slowly became phased out more and more, and completely disappeared in season 7.
  • Latin Lover:
    • April briefly dates a Venezuelan Eduardo at the beginning of season 3. April herself (who's half Puerto Rican) averts this.
    • Tom invokes this with Lucy when he mentions that she's Cuban.
  • Lawful Neutral: invoked Chris invokes this when Leslie and Ben decide to confess they have been together despite the policy against co-workers being in relationships. Chris tells them how much he loves both of them (he's worked personally with Ben for years) but proceeds to launch a full and thorough investigation to make sure their relationship didn't compromise city assets. Eventually, a maintenance worker that caught them last season proves they did bribe a city employee to keep their relationship a secret, but Ben takes responsibility and resigns while Leslie is given a mild reprimand. Chris reiterates after it's done that his first responsibility is to protect the city from corruption and scandals, and that he still sees Leslie and Ben to be some of the best people he's ever worked with.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: The episode Campaign Ad has a scene where Chris asks Ron to lunch, and then cuts immediately to them at lunch. Ron's next interview segment has him very confused about the time jump, and wondering if Chris drugged him.
  • Left Hanging: Leslie's future in the final episode involves serving two terms as Governor of Indiana, with her anticipating some sort of challenge beyond that point. The farthest point in her timeline is Jerry's funeral in 2048, in which Secret Service agents guard her and Ben.
  • Like Brother and Sister:
    • The early episodes tease Leslie and Ron as a possible future couple, and Leslie even awkwardly admits that she had an Erotic Dream about him once. However, it's later made clear they are just very good friends and there will never be any romantic tension between them.
      • This is later revisited when Ron starts dating Diane. At first, she feels threatened by Leslie's closeness to him, until he explains that she literally locked herself in a room with Ax-Crazy Tammy 2 just so Diane and Ron could enjoy their date in peace, making it clear there are no romantic feelings between them.
    • When Leslie is paired up with Tom by an online 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, in that he (drunkenly) fell into the pit and hit his head on a rock at the bottom. Much like the metaphorical version, this literal version gets him to rethink his life a bit.
    • Tammy 1 is 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 plaintext.
    • In "Li'l Sebastian", Leslie asks Andy to write a song for Li'l Sebastian that's "Like 'Candle in the Wind' but 5,000 times better". Andy writes a song called "5,000 Candles in the Wind".
  • Locked in a Room: The season 7 episode "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 managed to compile a complete list of them in "Time Capsule". The list takes up its own binder.
    • A running gag; a great many episodes feature a character giving one of these during a talking head interview (these were frequently improvised, and the actor was left to run as long as they wanted).
      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, there's Mark/Ann/Andy, Ann/Andy/April, and Tom/Wendy/Ron. Played with for April, her boyfriend Ben (an aversion of the One-Steve Limit), and his boyfriend Derek, as April is only going along with it because she feels above traditional relationships. All of the above are completely done away with by season 3, with Mark and Wendy being Put on a Bus, while April breaks up with her two gay boyfriends and she and Andy end up Happily Married.
  • Love Dodecahedron: At first, Leslie was into Mark who dated Ann who is still a little hung up on her ex Andy who has Will They or Won't They? with April. Also, Tom is dating Lucy but he still has hang-ups on his ex-wife Wendy who's dating Ron. It was ultimately completely done away with in favor of focusing on just two-person couples. Andy and April get married, Ben and Leslie are in love but forced to stay apart until they decide to say "screw it", 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.
    "Catch your dream
    And shackle it to your heart
    Catch your dream
    Don't let it spread its wings and fly away"

  • Made of Indestructium: The crib that Ron builds. He tests its strength by hitting it with his truck, which is noticeably damaged afterward.
  • The Maiden Name Debate: Parodied among Tammy Two and her friends. She never dropped Ron's last name when they divorced, so 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 and Ben marry, he asks her if she would take up the name "Leslie Wyatt," and claims its incredibly important to him that she does. Ben then reveals he was only joking. Leslie Knope is quite fond, if not excessively proud, of her moniker and he well knows it.
  • Malingering Romance Ploy: Andy broke his legs falling into the abandoned Lot 48 construction site's pit outside of his girlfriend Ann's home. He delays getting the casts taken off for an additional two weeks just so that he can have her wait on him hand and foot a little bit longer. This serves as The Last Straw for Ann, who's already been questioning their relationship and realizes she's not happy, and she breaks up with him at the end of Season 1.
  • Manchild:
    • 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, and he starts off as a very Lazy Bum who mooches off of Ann. He does become far more responsible as time goes on though, especially after marrying April.
    • Tom and Jean-Ralphio also fit. They started Entertainment 720 together so they could look cool. The business tanks into bankruptcy in about 2 months because they didn't know that companies have to make money.
    • Leslie fits, too. She is cheerful, hyperactive, and a little naïve. Not to mention her fondness for candy and dislike of vegetables. She is a very competent public servant, however—indeed, very competent.
      Ann (in a deleted scene): Leslie is incredible. She has the energy of a ten-year-old. And the same taste in snacks.
    • April is a different form— she'd rather live life like an Emo Teen, being weird, creepy, and immature, but she's ultimately more responsible than Andy and tries to find ways to be adult without losing what she finds fun.
    • 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 women's studies professor. Linda ends up sleeping with Ron instead.
  • Meaningful Echo: While it's for something that chronologically happens later, Leslie's official response to the 2016 presidential election ends with "Now find your team, and get to work", the closing words of her speech at the end of the series finale.
  • Meaningful Gift: Ron spends most of "Eagleton" in dread of his upcoming birthday party, only to find that his friend Leslie has actually gotten him a nice, quiet evening to himself with his favorite foods and movies.
  • Meaningful Name: Subverted for irony with Tom and Jean-Ralphio's company, Entertainment 720. While they chose it to mean that their company will "go around the world twice" (720 degrees) for its clients, going 720 degrees means you end up where you started and haven't gone anywhere. Also counts as foreshadowing, as Entertainment 720 ultimately does nothing and has to shut down due to horrible monetary choices.
  • Meet the In-Laws:
    • Leslie hosts a party to celebrate her and Ben getting engaged. Things go swimmingly at first... until Ben's divorced parents (plus his dad's much younger new wife, who also happens to be pregnant) show up. Things get tense at many points throughout the episode, forcing the duo to put their foot down and demand that they put their differences aside until the weather is over. Later in that series, the duo just decide to get married spontaneously, citing the absence of their parents as a plus.
    • This happens when Andy meets April's parents at their wedding, although things go surprisingly well and the drama's more or less non-existent.
    • Donna's family is known to be extremely passive-aggressive, but her friends keep them under control and avoid drama...until Donna asks for some, saying it's weird having a calm family gathering.
  • Meta Casting: In part due to the documentary format and heavy amounts of improv, functionally, every cast member was very close to being doppelgangers of their characters. April's whole existence was conceived due to Aubrey Plaza responding to a casting call for another role. But Rob Lowe's actual Verbal Tic of overusing "literally" was what defined Chris, a trip to Nick Offerman's garage created Ron's love of woodworking and Aziz Ansari making Tom a big fan of swagger.
  • Metaphorgotten:
    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 is 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 thinking about what their company should actually do never crossed their minds (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.
  • Misspelling Out Loud: In the episode in which Ron and Diane first meet, we get this from Andy, though it probably says more about his inattention than intelligence:
    Andy: Ron and Diane sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I!
  • Mistaken Ethnicity: A Running Gag in the show is Leslie misidentifying Tom as being from Libya (he's actually an Indian-American born in South Carolina).
  • Mistaken for Cheating: Ann worries Chris is cheating on her, so Leslie looks for and finds evidence of cheating in his house—things like a woman's razor. It turns out though, that the items all have perfectly reasonable explanations (e.g., Chris just likes women's razors better). 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 one episode where Leslie dresses up in a pantsuit and goes to a barber for a haircut, she ends up looking like a very butch lesbian and takes Ann as her date to a party. 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 "Practice Date".
    • In "Christmas Scandal", the news anchors call Leslie and Ann lesbians for being close to each other in a photograph, and later on, Joan Callamezzo 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".
    • When Ann goes to a sperm bank with Leslie in "Ann's Decision", the receptionist mistakes them for a couple.
  • The Missus and the Ex:
    • April is not at all cordial to Andy's ex Ann but does grow to consider her a friend, or at least Vitriolic Best Buds (not that April would ever admit it), while Ann on the flip side will try anything to get April to like her.
    • Dave, Ben, and Leslie in "Dave Returns". Dave is still in love with Leslie, but she's happily in love with Ben. After trying to break them up, he ultimately accepts that Leslie's moved on with her life and lets her go.
    • Two examples in "Ron and Diane":
      • Diane and Tammy 2 are a more acrimonious version, where Tammy is determined to break Ron and Diane up to ruin Ron's life and keep him for herself while Diane considers Tammy a psychotic nuisance at best.
      • Chris' ex Millicent (also Jerry's daughter) makes a surprise appearance at the Gergich family Christmas party with a new boyfriend in tow. Chris, to Ben's surprise (as Chris had taken the break-up pretty hard), is genuinely happy for the two of them (it helps that he had gotten therapy over the past several months for deeper issues that the break-up exacerbated).
  • Mock Millionaire: The Eagleton residents really do have a lot more money than the Pawnee residents, but nowhere near what's implied by their spending habits and attitude (which would raise eyebrows in Dubai), which ends up bankrupting the whole town by Season 5. All of Eagleton ends up having to be dissolved and absorbed into Pawnee as a new district to prevent their debt crisis from dragging the rest of the region down with them.
  • 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 because they look good together. He even says "You two should be models." However, because he has insane and bizarre demands for his photography (and Ann is unable to look happy in the pictures), a more natural photo of April and Andy is used instead.
  • Moment Killer: Ethel during Leslie and Ben's spectacular kiss at the end of "The Trial of Leslie Knope".
  • Money Dumb:
    • Jean-Ralphio and Mona Lisa are a pair of siblings that descend from a rich family. Both have the terrible habit of making frivolous purchases or burning money on terrible business ideas. They eventually have to resort to faking their own deaths for insurance money. Jean-Ralphio also mentions that his parents made the (probably wise) decision to not give him access to his trust fund until he's fifty.
    • Tom, at least in the beginning and due to influence from Jean-Ralphio, has a tendency of trying to live a luxurious lifestyle without the budget for one, which includes buying things he can't afford with the full intention of returning them by pretending that those things harmed him or were defective. When he and Jean-Ralphio open a business, they burn all their money on decorations, a large warehouse, overpaying their employees (who have nothing to do), and hiring professional basketball players to just hang out with them, all to keep up appearances. He eventually gets better when his business fails and he starts another, smaller one, by himself.
  • Mortality Phobia: Chris is such a health nut that finding any indication that he's aging (or even just not at the peak of human perfection) is enough to send him into a downward spiral.
  • Mundane Made Awesome:
    • In "Harvest Festival", the entire department, if not all of Pawnee (save outsider Ben) goes gaga over Li'l Sebastian, a miniature horse who is famous for... being a miniature horse back in the '80s. Even Ron Swanson turns into a giddy child around him, and the usually bitchy and snobby Joan Calamezzo turns into a squealing fangirl by Li'l Sebastian's presence. Ben just doesn't get it.
    • "Lucky" has Donna seeming almost hypnotized by Jerry's ability to do boring, repetitive grunt work for hours on end with every sign of contentment. And then, when he's done, he realizes that he did it all wrong and starts over from the beginning again, as serenely as ever.
  • Museum of Boredom: A museum of snowglobes. Which you aren't allowed to shake.
  • 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 slight gag on The Office. In the episode "Ben Franklin", for Phyllis' bachelorette party, Jim is tasked with finding a stripper but he instead hires a Benjamin Franklin impersonator (Karen and Pam engage him in sexy talk anyway). For Leslie's bachelorette party, Ann hires an Abraham Lincoln impersonator stripper, which Leslie mentions is her fantasy come true.
  • Naked People Are Funny: Andy has a couple of these.
    • In "Kaboom", Andy shows up at Ann's door naked, thinking she wants him back.
    • At the end of "Article Two", Garth, a Pawnee history buff, is about to be thrown into the lake in honor of a town tradition as a "Ted". Then Andy comes running into the scene in the nude, yelling "I'm Ted too, guys!" before jumping into the lake and taking "Ted"'s place.
  • Near-Villain Victory: Near the end of "Partridge", it seems as if Councilman Jamm is going to win his multi-million dollar lawsuit against Ron, who socked him in the face while obnoxiously interrupting Leslie and Ben's wedding. However, April, Andy, and Tom bring him a binder with evidence of Jamm lying under oath multiple times in the past. We never even find out if the evidence exists or not since Tom fakes being attacked by Jamm as he hands him the binder with April vowing to testify for him (notably both Tom and April have lied to protect Ron previously) so Jamm ends up forced into dropping the lawsuit so April and Tom won't sue him.
  • 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 considered firing Leslie four times, but changed his mind because he was so impressed by her conviction.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Though Leslie can steamroll people if she thinks they're getting in her way, by and large, she has a reputation for great thoughtfulness and consideration even to menial workers — she even tries with Jerry! In the episode "Lucky", her kindness towards the workers at Pawnee's municipal airport (she knows them all by name) ends up paying off big time, when she gets drunk before an interview, which slips out due to her intoxication, and the predatory interviewer is delighted by the opportunity to create a scandal with the footage. Fortunately, the airport workers discard the camera bag "accidentally", saving Leslie.
    • This trope manifests directly in the episode where Ron, April, Andy, and Chris are all dining out, accompanied by Andy's Women's Studies professor. The waitress asks Chris (and has done so many times before) to please stop bringing his own dressing to the restaurant. Chris' response is to brush her off, and then hawk the dressing to Professor Lonegan, right in front of the waitress. Ron, when he orders his third steak, places his order nice and early, with a smile and a "please, and thank you." Guess which one Professor Lonegan decides to spend the night with?
  • 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 bit of an Extreme Doormat (though she does become more assertive with Leslie's help), has a bad case of Weakness Turns Her On, and as a nurse, can be prone to the Florence Nightingale Effect. Andy is a helpless idiot Manchild sometimes bordering on Too Dumb to Live. Their relationship is incredibly lopsided, with Ann essentially being The Caretaker and an unmarried example of Parenting the Husband. In "Freddy Spaghetti", when Andy is in the hospital while Ann's just ended things with Mark (on top of her feeling jealous of how Andy's becoming romantically close to April) and their old dynamic is re-established, she immediately becomes attracted to him again, but she does realize it's a mistake and ends it just as quickly.
  • No Bisexuals: Zigzagged. April claims to have a "gay boyfriend," Derek, who has his own boyfriend named Ben, showing her pronounced sense of ironic detachment. She claims that Derek is straight for her, but he only makes out with her when he's drunk. In "Galentine's Day", the gay guys give her a rather platonic peck on the cheek in greeting, and she later breaks up with them in part because she's tired of their ironic not really real relationship. The entire thing is played off as a weird generational difference. However, the trope is also averted in "Pawnee Zoo" (which introduces Derek and their pseudo-throuple situation; Ben had been introduced before in "Rock Show"), when Leslie mentions she's gotten the numbers of two bisexual guys who frequent the local gay bar.
  • 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-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. Apparently, he likes spending time outdoors since as a kid, his mom would often send him outside to play, cementing that this is a lifelong issue for him.
    • Jean-Ralphio has a habit of yelling (and singing out loud) when he gets excited, which is lampshaded by Tom in "Li'l Sebastian".
    • Craig Middlebrooks. Overlaps with Suddenly Shouting due to his high-strung personality. His loud voice did become an issue when Tom's restaurant was about to open.
  • Nominated as a Prank: In "New Slogan", the government of Pawnee decides to have its citizens vote on a new town slogan, though the citizens begin voting for the write-in option, "Pawnee: Welcome To Douche Nation". Leslie frantically tries to get them to vote for a more normal option, which backfires and the citizens vote for "Pawnee: Home To the Stick Up Leslie Knope's Butt". However, the citizens eventually agree to vote for a more respectable slogan.
  • 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.
  • Noodle Incident: "That was the second most awkward way someone has grabbed my breast."
    • From Season 7, Ron and Leslie are now enemies because of an incident referred to as "Morningstar". It's eventually revealed as a housing complex built by Ron for which Ann's old home was torn down.
      • And in "Leslie and Ron", the whiteboard Leslie uses is filled with references to things that occurred during this Time Skip, such as the "Pikitis scandal" (referencing Greg Pikitis, who apparently managed to really cause some shit), and the "Sweetums trial" (it was only a matter of time before they were in court, but they still seem to be operating even after the Time Skip, so....).
    • Donna doesn't invite her brother LeVondrias to her wedding... because they had a falling out over... something involving a microwave and popcorn.
      LeVondrias: (smashes microwave on dance floor) Now no one gets popcorn!
    • Whatever made Li'l Sebastian such a hero to Pawnee.
    • Jean-Ralphio apparently had committed felonies so bad that the "judge said I needed two house-arrest ankle bracelets" and he's the subject of a question on the Indiana state bar exam.
    • Something Andy did resulted in the fish Ann bought him being dead in a cowboy boot.
  • Noodle Implements:
    • In "Sex Education", the parks department has a sex-ed talk prepared for their elderly audience, and has the items for the typical condom-on-banana demonstration. Then the scene cuts to them about to explain some other sexual situation, and we see that, for some unknowable reason, a pineapple, a cucumber, and a bunch of three bananas have been introduced to illustrate a situation. Even more types of demonstrational produce are seen in the conference room later.
    • "Save JJ's" has Andy repeatedly suggest they use a blimp and a "decoy blimp" to try and get the Newport Land, or stop JJ's from closing; both times, Leslie shoots the idea down and Andy doesn't go into further detail.
  • 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. Supplementary material on the show's website also reveals that when she was a high school student, she was a member of the Young Republicans, Young Democrats and Young Independents (which she founded). 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 (as in the independent party, not the Republican subset) and identifies himself as such.
    • Averted in the series finale, where Leslie explicitly refers to the Democratic party wanting her to run for Governor.
  • Nostalgia Filter: Ben has this for the early Nineties. So much so that he has a themed birthday party at the roller rink.
  • No Such Thing as H.R.: It's hard to imagine any of the cast staying employed if there was. Especially given how much they bully Jerry.
  • Nothing Personal:
    • When Chris puts Leslie and Ben on trial for their relationship, he invokes this trope. In fact, he's clearly very troubled to have to prosecute people he cares about but feels that it's his duty, and he can't avoid it. In the end, no one blames him for it, and they remain friends.
    • Jennifer Barkley, Bobby Newport's campaign manager sent in from Washington D.C. While she puts on a ruthless campaign for Bobby that seriously threatens Leslie's own city council bid, she has lots of respect for Leslie and Ben and makes it clear she's only doing her job, finally offering Ben a job once the race is over, which he takes.
  • No-Tell Motel: Ron and Tammy Two rush off to one in "Ron and Tammy".
  • Not Hyperbole:
    • In one episode, J.J. (owner of J.J.'s Diner) 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.
    • In "Indianapolis", a very hungry and distraught Ron goes to a diner and tells the waiter to bring him all their eggs and bacon. He then immediately calls the waiter 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 hyperbolically in situations where something is not literally true, and often reusing his statements when they should only apply to one subject (he has many "literally most favorite people in the world"). Occasionally, however, he uses it correctly, making it count as such, like when he states that a harassed Ann's inbox is "literally filled with penises".
    • 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.
    • In The Treaty Ron says he'd "rather sand down his toenails" than participate. He isn't being emphatic, his personal grooming is just weird.
  • Not Really a Birth Scene: This happens when Ben gets kidney stones. When Leslie and his sister ask what's wrong, he says that he's giving birth.
  • Not-So-Innocent Whistle: In "Bowling for Votes", Millicent shows up to break up with Chris and Andy starts whistling the moment he sees her.
  • Number Two:
    • Technically Leslie is Ron's deputy, she is usually the leader of the Parks office because he's intentionally an Obstructive Bureaucrat protesting the government from the inside.
    • Tom is Leslie's own number 2 as her secretary.
  • Nutritional Nightmare: The distressingly popular fast food chain Paunch Burger boasts of its fattening effects.
    • Also the Nutri-Yum Bar. Despite it being advertised as a health food, Ann describes it as "basically a block of sugar".
  • Obsessive Hobby Episode: One episode has Ben become obsessed with stop-motion pictures and calzone baking.
  • 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. People begin to see her this way when she's a city councilwoman, as her attempts to act in Pawnee's best interest are completely against the people's personal interests. She gets voted out of office.
    • Her foil is Ron, who doesn't believe that government should meddle in private affairs (which in his view means that they should do nothing at all), and tries to sabotage the government from the inside by refusing to do anything. 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.
  • Odd Friendship: Leslie and Ron are diametrically opposed in every way. Leslie is energetic, well organized, loves working with people and has political ambitions. Ron is sedate, prefers minimal work, hates people and only wishes to become a City Manager so he can work to privatize all government programs. But they have an extreme amount of respect for each other, and because they have such different personalities their friendship brings out each other's better qualities.
  • 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 Tammy Two to shout "Oh, shit!" and flee in terror. It's also an example of The Worf Effect, as Tammy One demonstrates her status as The Dreaded 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.
    • Ben has one when Leslie's mother Marlene makes a pass at him at a meeting where Ben and Leslie were trying to make him look like a good potential son-in-law.
    • Every guest at Leslie and Ben's wedding knows what's going to happen when Jamm punches Ron in the shoulder.
  • On Second Thought: When Leslie and Ben try to call for a recount of her city council seat votes:
    Jennifer Barkley: Hold on, we can make a deal...
    Leslie: There is no deal you could make that we would accept!
    Barkley: I'll get you Joe Biden's home phone number.
    Leslie: Now hold on, that's interesting...
  • Once Done, Never Forgotten: Ben bankrupted his hometown as its mayor when he was 18 years old with his Ice Town project. Every person in the town still bears an intense grudge over it nearly two decades later. Their current mayor even mentions that bashing him is the easiest way to gain approval in the city since everyone still hates him.
  • One Drink Will Kill the Baby: 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 being in the room) way worse.
  • One-Hit KO: Ron scores one on Jamm at Leslie and Ben's first attempted wedding.
  • 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. However she apparently continues to work at the hospital though as she's shown treating Ron there in a later episode.
  • 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" before making a proper appearance soon after. Ron's mother is named 'Tamara', though she goes by 'Tammy'. It's even teased when he marries Diane and she offhandedly mentions that her middle name is Tammy much to his horror. It's not true however, she was just teasing him.
    • 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. It's possible Burly goes by his last name so as not to be confused with the band frontman, Andy.
    • Averted for comedy with Ron Swanson and Ron Dunn, the Pawnee and Eagleton parks directors. While they initially seem like two peas in a pod, spiritual hippie Ron Dunn would be more likely to get along with Chris Traeger than the manly meat-lover Ron Swanson.
    • The name Joe is repeated with the sleazy sanitation worker and Donna's inhumanly nice ex-boyfriend. And Joe Biden, who cameos in one episode and is repeatedly mentioned by Leslie.
  • Only in Florida:
    • The Season Six episode "New Slogan": Leslie mentions Glenwater, Florida, a town that has the distinction of being the "Home of America's Most Violent Walmart Parking Lot". The real-world Port Richey, Florida not only likely holds the same title as the fictional Glenwater, but the lot in question is where half of all crime committed in the small town takes place.
  • Only Sane Man: Ann, Ben, and Ron usually take this role, especially with Leslie. However, they all still have their own quirks and sometimes freak out even the weirdos of Pawnee (such as Ann mirroring her boyfriends' personalities, Ron and his Unabomber tendencies, and Ben and his weird hobbies, among others) which goes to show they're Not So Above It All.
    • During his stint on the show, Mark played this role quite straight.
    • Councilman Howser counts as this for Pawnee's city council. His other council members include the senile and racist Councilman Milton, the generally terrible Councilman Jamm, the perverted Councilman Dexhart, and Leslie. Notably, in "Filibuster", he's just as annoyed with Jamm's antics as Leslie, who is forced to talk for hours to prevent an underhanded vote.
  • 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". The episode in which Leslie tries to find a boyfriend for Ann is called "Operation: Ann".
  • 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 to see which management style works best.
  • 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. They found common ground in their childish zany schemes.
  • 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".
    • Ben lists an extremely narrow review ranking for "The Cones of Dunshire" in "One Last Ride".

  • Papa Wolf: When Gryzzylbox starts sending out drones fully of promotions mined from users' private communications, Leslie is furious at the invasion of privacy, but Ron shrugs it off as technology addicts getting what's coming to them. Then, one night, he shows up at Leslie's house in a thunderstorm with a disabled drone in one hand and a shotgun in the other.
    "It was addressed to my son!"
  • Parallel Porn Titles
  • Paranoia Gambit: Ron does this to himself when he thinks Leslie is going to throw him a surprise party, compounded by Ann's description of one of her own surprise parties, and April's obvious planning for a similarly repellent party (to Ron, at least). Turns out Leslie knew not to give Ron an Ann party, and she arranges a private steak dinner with his favorite movies instead. April was just messing with Ron on Leslie's orders.
  • Parental Substitute:
    • Even though April has two very loving, affectionate parents, she feels a kinship to Ron (and vice versa) because of a shared stoicism and aversion to interacting socially with other people. They even have what is akin to a father-daughter dance at her wedding. She also admires Ron's first wife Tammy One, a stern woman who intimidates everyone around her.
      April: She's the cold, distant mother I never had. I love her.
    • Ron and Andy also have a bit of a father-son relationship, made clearer by Ron's referring to him almost exclusively as "Andrew".
    • Invoked. After Ann tells Chris that she wants him to be her sperm-donor, he is worried that he won't be a good father. So he decides to try fathering Tom for a while, and gets a bit too obvious.
  • 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 to City Council in the third season finale, she gets so excited that she blurts out "Absotutely!" and then apologizes for it.
  • 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.
    • In the first few episodes Andy was Ann's slacker boyfriend with two broken legs and initially came across as The Load mooching off her. Later in the season, coinciding with Andy's popularity, Ann goes off for a very long shift at work and Andy spends the day cleaning the house and himself as a surprise, specifically because he recognizes how lucky he is to have her.
    • Bobby Newport may be an entitled manchild, is part of the worst family in Pawnee and is Leslie's personal nemesis, but he still votes for Leslie as councilwoman, never treats her poorly or rudely and is genuinely happy for her when she wins.
  • Pitbull Dates Puppy:
    • April hates everyone and Andy is a lovable goofball.
    • Leslie is a hyperactive go-getter who doesn't take "No" for an answer, while Ben is something of an Extreme Doormat and not very good in interviews.
  • Pocket Dial: Ben pocket-dials Ron while Leslie is making out with him. At the time, they are in a Secret Relationship because Ben's role as a state government employee working on Pawnee's finances presents a conflict of interest. Leslie's boss Ron later plays back the recording for an embarrassed Leslie.
  • 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. The boys at their rotating bachelor party run 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. Season 7's "Ms. Ludgate-Dwyer Goes to Washington" has Senator Boxer show up again along with Madeleine Albright.
  • Politically Correct History: Inverted hard In-Universe- City Hall has many graphic (but thankfully blurred out) murals depicting various atrocities commited by the settlers of Pawnee towards the Wamapoke tribe.
  • Popcultural Osmosis Failure:
    • Tom calls Dave Officer John McClane, a reference the latter doesn't get.
    • In "Anniversaries", when Leslie gets Ben the Iron Throne as an anniversary gift, as he is geeking out and quoting the show, Leslie shouts to Ben that "the starship is in trouble". Similarly, Ben's online handle is a reference to Tyrion Lannister, which flies over Ann's head (and she needs Donna to explain that reference). Later when Ann and Ben talk she seems to be under the impression that Tyrion uses magic just because he's in a medieval fantasy show, which annoys Ben.
    • Ron has this twice, although it's justified as he doesn't follow much media.
      • In "Tom's Divorce", when Tom realizes he actually does like Wendy and now regrets divorcing her, Ron (who thinks Tom's still faking being sad) tells him to ease up, adding, "You've already won your Oscar, DiCaprio", the joke being that DiCaprio at the time still hadn't won a Best Actor award. That particular line would go on to be Hilarious in Hindsight in 2016 when DiCaprio finally won the award for The Revenant.
      • In "Gryzzlbox", when Ben realizes the Gryzzl company coincided a new contract that allowed them to datamine customers with the release of the last Star Wars movie, Ron asks, "Is Star Wars the one with the little wizard boy?"
  • Portmanteau Couple Name: invoked 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. In a later episode, Donna comes up with "Haverkins" for Tom Haverford and Ann Perkins.
  • Potty Dance: Leslie does this in "Filibuster" because the filibuster prevents her from going to the bathroom.
  • Practical Currency: According to the Pawnee town charter, buffalo meat is acceptable currency.
  • Prank Gone Too Far: Ben was planning one of these in response to Donna, April, and Andy pranking him. First, fake criminals would pretend to shoot him, complete with blood packets. Second, they would kidnap Donna, April, and Andy and put them in van. Finally, the criminals would pretend to drive them into a river to let them drown. Even Andy, who had encouraged Ben pull a prank in the first place, is quite disturbed by it. Ben has a nervous breakdown and confesses before it starts.
  • 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, of all people, in "Soulmates," when Ann sticks her with a needle for a blood test. She's so terrified of it that she shouts in pain several times before the actual prick, so when it happens. it's a startling knee-jerk reaction.
    • 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."
  • Product Placement: Ron sure loves fine whiskey, so you'll see bottles of Lagavulin on his desk a lot. Eventually, he even makes a trip to Islay and later buys a share of the distillery.
  • 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 HoosierMate.
  • 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.
      Jennifer: 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.
      Leslie: How do you know all th—
      Jennifer: It's my job to know.
    • Inverted with Dr. Saperstein. He gets quite nasty with Tom, yet on the clock he's nothing but a caring and 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.
  • Pursue the Dream Job:
    • Leslie Knope works for Pawnee's Parks and Recreation Department, which is almost an ideal job for her because she was practically born for public service and politics. In season 4, she successfully campaigns to become a member of the city council — she referred to this position as her dream job. She wants to improve her town and advance her career, possibly aiming to become the City Manager. Her ultimate goal is to become the first female President of the United States.
    • Tom Haverford's ultimate dream in life is to become a mogul, and it does not matter to him very much which branch of business. He tries to use his job at Parks and Recreation Department to his advantage and tries to secure favours from local contractors. Tom has shown his passion for entrepreneurship when he co-founded Entertainment 720 (this one failed spectacularly), Rent-A-Swag (a great success, but was undermined by his partner and his rich father), and Tom's Bistro (a successful local restaurant).
  • Push Polling: Leslie tries to get public support for building a park, by presenting the question to the public as "Wouldn't you rather have a park than a storage facility for nuclear waste?"
  • Put on a Bus:
    • Dave leaves in "Christmas Scandal" after being called into duty for his Army Reserve unit in San Diego. He comes back in the aptly titled episode "Dave Returns".
    • Mark left the show at the end of the second season to pursue a new job in the private sector following the government shutdown and Ann breaking up with him. Although the door was left open for Mark to make a reappearance once in a while, it became a Long Bus Trip due to the writers just being unable to work him back in and Paul Schneider having no desire or interest in returning.
    • Wendy left early in Season 3 to go back home to Canada to help her old ailing parents.
    • 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 and moving for a job in Michigan.
  • Putting the Band Back Together: In the opening of the season 3 premiere, the Pawnee government 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: Parks is this to The Office (US), sharing 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.
  • Rascally Raccoon: Pawnee raccoon infestations are not only common but humans are often harmed by the raccoons.
  • 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.
  • Realpolitik: After Leslie acquires a city council seat, she spends much of her time defending her policies against the noted downsides and outright misinformation and would have to resolve the issue with her own trickery, which gradually diminished the public opinion of her despite the fact she was much more community-minded and moral than the other council members. A recall vote started gaining steam, but she felt confident in retaining her position because she was the frontrunner to the Eagleton/Pawnee merge that resolved the Eagleton financial problems and thus would be on her side. She comes to learn that despite their respect for her, a recall vote gives them an opportunity to bring in a council member that actually represents their community. The recall and Eagleton council member went down exactly that way, and Leslie just has to accept that process.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Chris and Ben in the beginning.
    • Andy and April.
    • Leslie and Ann/Ron/Ben.
  • Recycled Title: There are two episodes named "Galentine's Day", one in Season 2 and one in Season 6. Same for "Flu Season", with one in Season 3 and one in Season 6.
  • 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.
  • Retool: The second season deemphasizes the pit storyline, tweaks some of the characterizations, and adds some of the supporting characters into the mix. The third season picks up after Mark leaves for the private sector and Ben and Chris (introduced in the last two episodes of Season 2) stay around as Pawnee has to deal with a financial crisis, which gradually made the show less reliant on the mockumentary style or the focus on the Parks Department and more about the general politics in Pawnee, as well as solidifying its core cast.
  • 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 main cast ever figure it out. Dr. Harris might have an idea, though...
  • Ripped from the Headlines: Given the show satirizes politics, this is par for the course.
    • "Born and Raised" has the citizens of Pawnee overly concerned with whether Leslie was actually born in Pawnee and demanding her birth certificate, in reference to the Birther movement.
    • "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 is more Lovecraftian rather than Christian based.
    • The "Filibuster" that Leslie finds herself forced into doing, and especially the strict "three strikes" 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.
    • In "Second Chunce", Councilman Dexhart returns with yet another sex scandal based on the Anthony Weiner scandal in which he sexted women under the name "Carlos Danger".
  • The Roast: "Correspondents' Lunch" has the titular event as an opportunity for Pawnee's government and media associates to roast each other.
  • Robot Buddy: Tom's DJ Roomba in "Sweetums".
  • Rogues Gallery: Surprisingly for a show that initially seems like a Workcom, the Parks Department do battle with many recurring arch foes on a regular basis, including, but not limited to, other governmental workers (Tammy 2, Councilman Jamm), the media (Joan Callamezzo, Crazy Ira and the Douche), and various others (the Langmans, the Sapersteins, the Newports and Jessica Wicks, Tammy 1, Kathryn Pinewood, Greg Pikitis, Dennis Feinstein, Gryzzl) who they run up against in their efforts to improve their town, or resolve personal problems.
  • 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.
  • Romantic False Lead:
    • Mark was this for both Leslie and Ann.
      • Mark and Leslie had hooked up years before the start of the series, and Leslie still harbored a big crush on him while he actually forgot about that night when it gets brought up. They almost rekindled it in the first season finale but Leslie backed off because they were both tipsy, and she ultimately moves on from it in the second season, first through a brief relationship with a police officer named Dave, then briefly goes out with Ann's lawyer friend Justin, and ultimately gets together officially with Ben.
      • In the case of Ann, Mark was her second serious boyfriend after she left Andy, and although she liked Mark's stability and maturity, she ultimately broke it off with him after realizing the relationship just didn't have the right chemistry or excitement for her. After various ups and downs, she officially gets together with Chris.
    • April's Venezuelan boyfriend in Season 3, Eduardo, was this, as she was mainly using him to make Andy jealous.
    • Pawnee Journal reporter Shauna Mulwae-Tweep's other usual role besides doing news reports on the Parks Department's projects involved her having some friendly rapport with a male character, making his actual Love Interest have a Green-Eyed Epiphany. This happens with Andy, Ben, and Chris in that order.
  • Romantic Rain: Tom relies on this trope to win Ann back. He waits for her in the rain for an unknown amount of time even though Ann hadn't shown any sign of leaving, and comes back inside, annoyed that his big gesture had gone to waste.
  • 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, you..." before lavishing praising descriptions on her, though often it's unintentionally condescending, or really weird sounding.
    • Leslie being ambushed on camera by Joan Callamezzo.
    • Jerry being a loser at everything.
    • People ignoring that Ann doesn't work at the Parks and Recreation Department.
      • This gets 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, Burt Macklin. The line "Macklin... you sonuvabitch..." is usually involved.
    • It seems there is not a single chapter in Pawnee history that isn't completely, yet hilariously 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 goth friend Orin, who just stares at everyone and makes cryptic comments.
    • Ben's love of calzones and everyone else's virulent hatred for them.
    • Ben's 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.
    • DJ Roomba, Tom's iPod hooked up to a cleaning robot.
    • Andy attempting to vault a counter and failing.
    • Andy destroying a flat-screened computer monitor or TV.
    • 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 full names.
    • Leslie doing something that, though justifiable, seems juvenile without context, and running into Councilman Howser while doing so.
    • Ben's complete bafflement over how Jerry got Gayle to marry him.
    • Apparently, all accountants love puns. And lawyers hate them.
    • Ben taking an accounting job from Barney and immediately quitting after he realizes a more appealing prospect is available.
    • Andy's songs always contain one or both of the lyrics " "Spread your wings and fly" and/or "You deserve to be a champion."
    • Ben's off-work casual wear seems to consist entirely of a single Letters to Cleo t-shirt.
    • Leslie's hatred of libraries, climaxing when the University of Indiana names their Poli-Sci library after her, and she is visibly annoyed.
    • Leslie referring to the bathroom as the "whiz palace", seemingly adopting it after saying it by mistake while stressed.
    • One Pawnee citizen repeatedly tries to get a chant started during meetings, only to be brushed off (nearly) every time.

  • Sadistic Choice: In "Filibuster", Leslie ends up having to choose between completing it and allowing the former Eagletonians to vote in the recall election, in which case they'll likely vote in an Eagletonian, or yielding and losing the recall vote among Pawneeans only. She chooses the former, and gains a lot of respect and momentum from Eagletonians for holding off the irritating Jamm for so long. This might've been All for Nothing, though, as the Eagletonian opponent in question is Ingrid de Forest.
  • 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.
  • Scandalgate:
    • 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 on 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:
  • Scary Science Words: Exploited in "Fluoride". Leslie is leading a campaign to put fluoride in the town's drinking water to improve dental hygiene. However, Councilman Jeremy Jam takes advantage of the fact that the majority of citizens of Pawne are ignorant and suspicious people who have no idea what fluoride is, using blatant fearmongering to turn against the idea of putting chemicals in their drinking water (even going as far as declaring that Hitler used chemicals). Leslie later turns the tables on him ruining his chances of instead replacing drinking water with "Drink-ems" a Sweetums high sugar solution (and thus costing him the massive payout he would have gotten for getting them the contract, as well as the extra business as a dentist from all those cavities), by getting Tom to describe it in "cool" and "hip" terms (and then convincing them to include fluoride by letting Tom rebrand it so that doesn't mention any science).
  • Scary Stinging Swarm: Everyone finds out the hard way that the Pawnee-Eagleton fence is full of bees.
  • Scavenger Hunt: Leslie sets one up for Ben in "Operation Ann". Ron offers to help and secretly loves it, and wants Leslie to make one for his birthday.
  • Scenery Porn:
    • In "Camping", it is revealed that the pollution from the Sweetums factory makes some beautiful sunsets. 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 all-girls (later becoming co-ed) Pawnee Goddesses are a bit more fun-centered. When the Rangers collapse, Leslie helps Ron start up a new, tougher group called the "Swansons".
  • 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.
  • Secretly Wealthy: Ron is revealed to be absurdly rich, the only reason they find out is that Ben insists on knowing so that his will is properly managed (for both his new family and so the government can't take it all). He apparently has buried gold at secret spots around town. Ben advises him to invest and diversify, which he eventually takes to heart.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Chris and Ron.
    • Ben and Dave have this dynamic when they're compared as love interests for Leslie in "Dave Returns", with bookish campaign manager Ben spending much of the episode nervous around tough, plain-speaking cop Dave.
      Dave: I guess I'm just surprised that's the guy you fell in love with. He's very... well, he's shrimpy and he's small.
      Leslie: Shrimpy or not, he's smart and he's cute and he's kind and he's funny and he's got a great face with nice hair and...
  • 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, this happened several times in the series' run due to its shaky ratings. The writers were worried that since Parks was a midseason replacement in Season 3, it would be canceled 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.
    • It was averted with the final episode of Season 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 having a Grand Finale vibe (with cameos from several famous performers, and closing 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 semi-Distant Finale, showing Leslie, Ben, April, and Andy three years after the events of the Unity Concert—which, when Season 7 was approved, was used as a springboard to that season (set primarily in 2017).
  • Sequel Episode: "Ron & Tammy: Part II". The trilogy is completed with "Ron & Tammys" and revived in the final season with "Ron & Jammy".
  • 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 Entertainment 720. 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!"
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Across the board. April dumps her cynical, moody boyfriend (and his boyfriend) because she likes the good-natured Andy, Ann chooses Chris to be the father of her baby because he can be paternal and encouraging, and later develops feelings for him again, Donna - after some resistance due to difference in lifestyle - gets together with Joe, an almost-inhumanly nice schoolteacher, and of course, Leslie, after getting over Mark, falls for the sweet, devoted Ben. This is also likely the basis of Garry and Gayle Gergich's marriage.
  • 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:
    • Leslie is this for April and Andy, and only tried to stop their sudden wedding for fear they would ruin their relationship by marrying so soon.
    • Ann supports Leslie/Ben wholeheartedly, sneaking some romantic music into Leslie's deliberately unsexy mixtape for a potentially-awkward road trip.
      Ann: I want them to get together. Sue me!
    • Ann and Leslie start shipping their children in the series finale, even noting that they, as parents, have to disapprove for the relationship to start and/or succeed.
  • 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.
  • Shout-Out:
    • A high school Model United Nations event is featured in "The Treaty".
    • 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.
    • In "Telethon", Leslie becomes desperate to fill the entertainment slots on her shift, and at one point begins describing her favorite episodes of Friends. Apparently, her second favorite is "The One With Chandler In A Box".
    • Basketball:
      • 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, basketball really is Serious Business among Hoosiers.
    • A surprising one from the meathead that Ann hooked up with during "Harvest Festival": He calls Ann "Hot Lips" after she patches him up in the medical tent.
    • Ben uses a Bill Watterson quote against Marlene 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 (2011) 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.
    • In the episode "Swing Vote", when Leslie apologizes for using a gorilla mini-golf statue to guilt-trip Ron, she says, "Twas Leslie that killed the beast."
    • 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.
    • Donna mentions being attracted to the Earl of Grantham, and expresses surprise that nobody else knows about the show. In a later episode, she also insists that the show is her "favorite book" when asked such by April in a get-to-know-you session.
  • Show Within a Show: Several, most prominently Pawnee Today and Ya' Heard? with Perd, on which the main characters often appear as guests.
    • On Season 7, Andy gets his own kids show (with the rest of the mains having bit parts), The Johnny Karate Super-Awesome Musical Explosion Show. The episode of the same name consists entirely of this show's finale, complete with in-universe ads.
  • 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 and manages to get lucid for just enough time to deliver a vital pitch speech.
  • Singing Telegram: Appears twice, both as ill-advised efforts to boost someone's spirits.
    • In "Tom's Divorce", Leslie tries to cheer up Tom by sending him a "divorce horse" singing telegram.
    • In "Second Chunce", Ben calls the singing telegram company and asks if they can perform something sad for Leslie, who just lost her job. He gets as far as asking if they know the Requiem for a Dream soundtrack before realizing it's a terrible idea and hanging up.
  • 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.
    • April and Ann become this to each other after April starts falling for Andy.
  • 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
  • Skewed Priorities: A librarian chastises Leslie for raising her voice...completely ignoring that Tammy has stripped naked in the middle of the library and is loudly offering to have sex with Jeremy.
  • Sleazy Politician: Councilman Bill Dexhart. Later on, Councilman Jamm.
  • Sleep Cute: Leslie and Jerry, accidentally, 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.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Nearly everyone who works for the government is shown to be incompetent or outright jerkasses, and the solutions to problems mostly boils down to "things would be easier if we broke the law." Despite this, Leslie more often than not finds a way to solve problems lawfully, and while having a optimistic attitude about it.
  • Slobs Versus Snobs: Pawnee is the slob while Eagleton is the snob.
  • 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 Snack Is More Interesting: In the "Greg Pikitis" episode, Greg Pikitis on multiple occasions gets bored and starts casually eating a peach. The peach pit left behind at the scene of the department's vandalism convinces Leslie that he's behind it.
  • Snooty Sports: The town of Eagleton in the show is shown to be full of rich snobs, who tend to have such expensive hobbies as equestrian sports. This causes a rift when Eagleton merges with the less-affluent town of Pawnee.
    Leslie: There are two Eagleton departments Pawnee does not have: The Department of Infinity Pool Design and the Department of Dressage, which I'm told is a fancy horse-riding thing.
    Eagleton Resident: It is horse dancing, madam!
  • Snow Means Love:
    • "The Trial of Leslie Knope": Leslie and Ben are on trial for ethical violation of superior dating subordinate. Ben declares his love for Leslie and resigns. Leslie tracks Ben down in the snowy night, and tells him she loves him too. She also drags there Ethel who is a court stenographer so that Ben knows it's on official record.
    • "Leslie and Ben": Leslie and Ben spontaneously decide to get married three months earlier than their original plan. It starts snowing when they become unsure whether it's a really good idea and doable.
      Leslie: But, truth be told, we just really wanted to get married. When you're in love, everything seems like a sign.
  • So Beautiful, It's a Curse: Applies to Ann, who is so pretty that she's never been dumped, and apparently, isn't funny because she's never needed to rely on anything but her looks. After Chris breaks up with her (so nicely that it took her a full week to notice), she 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:
    • While Ann is So Beautiful, It's a Curse and gets hit on by multiple men, she has trouble with Ron and April and is frequently shown to lack skills, particularly coming off as a Butt-Monkey in the Pawnee Goddess scouts. She does find ways to connect to and understand Ron and April, however.
    • 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.
  • Sommelier Speak: Tom takes most of the department to a sommelier competition in the "Flu Season 2" episode so he can recruit the winner for his new restaurant. Craig joins the competition after revealing that he has a passion for wine tasting and April joins to Troll the judges.
    Craig: Pumpkin, undertones of lavender. Medium-plus body. It's mostly pumpkin. There's so much pumpkin, it's like a Charlie Brown Halloween special!
    April: I'm getting notes of dried robin's blood, old dirty cashews, and just a hint of a robot's bathwater.
  • 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 ***."
  • Soup Is Medicine: When Leslie is sick with the flu, Ben brings her soup made from a family recipe along with waffles from JJ's Diner. Leslie is only interested in the waffles.
  • 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 in April.
    • Ron does this when Wendy suggests he move to Canada with her.
    • Chris does it in "Bailout" when Mona-Lisa, who just started working for Tom at Rent-A-Swag, asks Tom if she can borrow some money for her to Wax her B.
  • 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). Jerry misunderstands and thinks it's a happy occasion.
  • Stalker Shrine: Early in the second season, Andy set up one of these to Ann in his shoeshine station.
  • Standard Office Setting: Leslie Knope works as Deputy Director of the Parks Department. She and her boss have their own office, while the other employees share a bullpen. They work in the public sector so their offices and bullpens are considerably less glamorous than is usual in fiction.
  • Start My Own: Leslie starts her own girl's outdoor group when the Pawnee Rangers refuse to allow girls to join, decrying the policy as sexist. When one of the boys tries to defect she tries to refuse using almost the exact same arguments; her girls call her out on her hypocrisy and force her to change the policy. The two groups end up merging into her fun-focused version with a new (also coed) group acting as a successor to Ron's all-practical-skills version of the Rangers.
  • Status Quo Is God: Circumvented when Leslie decides to run for city council, she makes it clear that being a Councilwoman is a part-time job (the bulk of the work lies in weekly meetings) and she would retain her job at Parks and Recreation at the same time. This turns out to be a lie; it is a full-time job, and when she loses it she has to ask for her old position back. (Ron is perfectly happy to give it to her, no questions asked, but her insistence on a formal application and interview gives him pause.)
  • 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.
  • Stood Up: In the seventh season episode "Leslie and Ron" this trope applies straight, because the former did not attend a meeting for breakfast with the latter due to an urgent trip she had to do to Washington; this incident contributed to the estrangement and animosity between the two characters over the Time Skip.
  • 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 "racism" and "women's vaginas."
    • The Pawnee Men's Rights Activists seem to mostly complain about petty personal issues and stuff like Ben's apparent nature as a Henpecked Husband. Given what we've seen of other activist groups in Pawnee, it's not terribly surprising.
      • In the same episode, the Women Against Feminism group is led by a woman who just sits there and gives up every point to the Men's Rights Activist leader.
  • 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.""
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • After Leslie wins her Council seat by the narrowest of margins, she proceeds to force a series of extremely unpopular measures through, often through backroom dealing. Unsurprisingly, the citizens hate her ideas even though they're helpful, and Councilman Jamm opposes her strategy, and she is recalled from office.
    • On Andy's bucket list is for him to hold $1,000 in his hands, expecting to hold large stacks of cash. Unfortunately, he didn't account for the bank teller to simply give him ten $100 bills.
    • During one of his paranoid "off the grid" bits, Ron assumes he can simply use gold coins to buy an RV. He quickly learns that no modern local dealer is equipped to take gold as a payable currency and also refuses to hand over a vehicle to someone who won't show an ID or sign a single piece of paperwork.
    • In the middle of this, Ron's wife Diane comes up and berates him for this lunacy. She openly snaps that he's now a husband and father and can't just vanish because of his insane paranoias but has to be available to them. She also points out that in this day and age, refusing to have your own personal phone is just idiotic (evidenced by how she couldn't get help for her car breaking down because of his attempts to "erase his tracks.")
    • While visiting London, Ron attempts to use dollars to pay for a postcard. His logic being that the dollar is the worldwide trading currency. That doesn't mean that a random store attendant will agree to take them.
    • Ben spends three weeks obsessively working on a Stop Motion short in his downtime, only to find out well after the fact that it doesn't even get through the opening line of the song it's set to ("Stand" by R.E.M.), as animating even a short film takes a lot more work than that.
    • Throughout the show, Eagleton's status as an utopia has been a joke. Giving away smartphones in goodie baskets, holding cells that are more like high-end hotel rooms, using a several-thousand-dollar crystal piece as a simple basketball trophy, etc. are just some of their more amusing traits. However, "The Pawnee-Eagleton Tip Off Classic" has this bite them back hard. Because of their ridiculous and frivolous spending, Eagleton's financial state is atrocious, and the only solution to fixing their monumental debts is to dissolve the town entirely and merge it with Pawnee.
    • In season 4, Tom and Jean Ralphio start running their own business but spends alot of their money on expensive and unimportant things and barely do any business despite being warned several times by their friend and employees, this leads them to going completely bankrupt a few episodes later.
  • 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:
    Leslie: 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)
  • Sweet Tooth: The only thing that Leslie loves more than binders full of paperwork is sweets. Her favorite food is waffles with gallons of whipped cream and syrup. In spite of this, she's still morally disgusted by Sweetums' effect on public health.
  • 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 (really bad) 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' herb belt actually tastes like a belt.
  • Tear Jerker: Invoked.
    • Chris cries at Li'l Sebastian's funeral, mostly because he's freaking out over his own mortality.
    • Ron Swanson has only ever cried twice in his life: 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 Leslie got him a remote control that quickly shuts the doors of his office for Christmas and when he visited the Scottish highlands and his favorite whiskey distillery, but there were no witnesses.
  • Teens Are Monsters: Greg Pikitis. 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! (Beat) 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: Tammy Two put it like this -
    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.
  • 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, because the audience probably fails to see it as well.
  • Those Two Guys:
    • April's gay boyfriend Derek is never seen without his boyfriend Ben (it's not that complicated), and they mostly exist to comment on April's life.
    • 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 Park Service 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 minorities who wind up with a Caucasian lover are dark-skinned Ann and half-Latina April.
  • 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". Then she says that Joe Biden is her celebrity sex list. You can guess Ben's reaction.
    • Also from "Campaign Shake-Up":
      Leslie: 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)
    • 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. He briefly denounces calzones, however, when a potential wedding caterer's calzones gave him, Chris, and Ron food poisoning.
  • Transparent Tech: Season six ended with a three year-time jump. When a seventh season was approved, the new time skip was shown partially by Gryzzl's new technology which included transparent tech.
  • 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.
    • An early episode reveals that Leslie has a bit of a hoarding problem. Her junk-filled house is mentioned a few times after this.
  • True Art Is Angstyinvoked: In-Universe, Andy thinks the opposite is true.
    Andy: (to April) 'Cause your music is sad, and depressing, and weird, and art is supposed to be happy, and fun, and everyone knows that.
  • True Art Is Incomprehensibleinvoked: April's submission for the "mural" includes a flat-screen TV looping clips of knee surgeries and a fat man forced to run in a giant mouse wheel for a piece of raw meat. 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.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: Season 7, after a three year time skip. Gryzzl, a tech company in Pawnee, is 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' misguided changes:
    April: So Jerry is like basically my boss now, which means 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 three very beautiful daughters. Chris dated one (Millicent) for a short while.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Unapologetic: Jean-Ralphio, in addition to being an obnoxious Jerkass, seems completely immune to shame, and even kind of proud of his spectacular failures.
    Jean-Ralphio: Check it out: two ankle monitors! Judge says it's the first time he's ever had to do that. Ya boy's a question on the state bar exam!
  • Ungrateful Bastards:
    • 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 so an Eagletonian can join the city council.
  • 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".
  • Unreliable Expositor: Early in the show, Ron frequently references his "ex-wife", Tammy Swanson. What Ron doesn't initially reveal, is that he has 2 ex-wives both named Tammy Swanson!
  • Unseen No More:
    • Both of Ron's ex-wives eventually appear in the series, after being referenced earlier in the show's run. In Season 2, Tammy Swansons 2 makes her official debut and is played by Megan Mullally. In Season 4, Tammy Swanson 1 finally appears and is played by Patricia Clarkson.
    • Jerry's wife Gayle was occasionally mentioned throughout earlier seasons before making a proper appearance in the Season 5 episode "Ron and Diane".
    • Mayor Gunderson didn't make any appearances until the final season, and even then, he's dead.
  • Unsuspectingly Soused: In "The Fight", Tom pushes a proprietary coffee liqueur called Snake Juice on everyone and, because of its abnormal combination of high alcohol and 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.
    • Invoked during "The Debate": 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.
    • An actual British example in Lord Covington (Peter Serafinowicz) in "London" part 1 and 2, who is as dense as Andy. He says that he's so rich that he can almost do anything he wants such as knight people (only the Queen of England can do that).
    • Jean-Ralphio and his twin sister Mona Lisa. Their father spoiled them absolutely rotten their whole lives, and it shows.

  • Valley Girl: April's Eagleton Doppelganger, Tynnyfer. Also invoked by April who mirrors her, all for one big practical joke to send her to Dwayne Wade's house, presented as April's vacation home.
  • The Vamp: Tammy Two, Ron's ex-wife and deputy director of the rival Library Dept. She has no problem with using her feminine wiles to get her way.
  • 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.
  • Vanity License Plate: In "Ann's Decision", we find out that The Douche's car's license plate reads "8008IES"
  • 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.
  • Wacky Startup Workplace:
    • Exaggerated with Entertainment 720, a business which doesn't seem to ever actually do anything and exists primarily so Tom and Jean-Ralphio can fill an office with cool fun stuff and have a good time. Deconstructed as well, as it becomes clear that Tom and Jean-Ralphio have no idea how to run a business and care more about having the appearance of a cool company. Due to their pointless excessive spending, the company ends up hemorrhaging money at an alarming rate. Between them focusing more on having a fun business over a functioning one, and their refusal to listen to anyone's warnings, the two quickly go bankrupt and are forced to closed down.
    • Gryzzl, an actually successful tech company, has fewer useless amenities than Entertainment 720, but still cultivates this vibe. Its employees dress in hoodies and graphic tees, there are brightly colored murals of vaguely inspirational quotes, and the staff hangs around playing the board game Cones of Dunshire.
  • 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 successfully creates a business of renting out his wardrobe to fashion-conscious high-schoolers.
  • Waxing Lyrical: Fairly common, usually from Leslie.
    • In a Cold Open, Ron unintentionally sets one up by coming into the room and announcing "okay, here's the situation!", causing Leslie to follow up with "My parents went away on a week's vacation" and start to rap most of a verse of "Parents Just Don't Understand". When she finally finishes, it turns out Ron was trying to say there was a medical emergency that required everyone's immediate attention.
  • 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 Episode:
    • In "April and Andy's Fancy Party" 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 ahead of schedule in Season 5.
    • Season 7 has "Donna's Wedding".
  • Weird Currency: According to the Pawnee town charter, buffalo meat is acceptable currency.
  • "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!: The ridiculously shallow Tom is defined by his love of empty flash and expensive status symbols. This attitude doesn't make for good business strategy, so naturally he ran his first company into the ground. 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:
    • "Kaboom": Leslie manages to fill up The Pit, finally finishing what Ann had wanted to do since the very first episode.
    • "The Master Plan": Ben and Chris make their first appearances and decide to shut down the Parks department to save money for Pawnee.
    • "Li'l Sebastian": This was probably one of the most eventful finales in the series, as Leslie is offered a seat at city council, Ron's first wife is set to appear for the first time in the series, Tom leaves the Parks department, and Li'l Sebastian dies.
    • "Smallest Park": Leslie and Ben decide to get back together and face the consequences of their relationship.
    • "Win, Lose, Or Draw": Leslie wins the election, getting a job as city councilor, but Ben decides to leave to help out with another election in Washington DC.
    • "Halloween Surprise": Ben quits his job in Washington DC and returns home to propose to Leslie. She says yes.
    • 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 out of Pawnee.
    • "Recall Vote": Leslie gets kicked off of city council.
    • 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 Park Service, and a sudden three year time skip at the end, going from Leslie in her first trimester to her three children as toddlers!
    • The aptly-titled season 7 episode, "Leslie and Ron", reveals why the two titular characters had drifted apart and become hostile to one another over the past three years. It turns out that Leslie was mad at Ron for building the "Morningstar" apartment complex right over Ann's old house. Ron, in turn, was mad at Leslie because she took away Jerry, April, and Andy and blew him off without even telling him when he invited her out to lunch so that he could ask for a job in the federal government; he missed his friends so much that he was willing to work for the federal government. It's the episode that really puts the time skip into perspective.
  • Wham Line: In the series finale, Leslie and Ben decide to leave Garry's funeral when a man in a black suit and sunglasses whispers in their ears that it's "time to leave". The implication is that he's a Secret Service agent and either Leslie or Ben has become President of the United States.
    • Earlier in the season, from the end of "Gryzzlbox", courtesy of Ron Swanson. "The package was addressed to my son... who is four years old." It firmly cements Leslie and Ron's rekindled friendship and puts them on the same side of the major conflict of the season.
  • Wham Shot: The first episode of Season 7 shows Leslie hyping up a hated enemy and rival, whose name Ben is forbidden to say. She then nervously says that he's approaching, and the camera reveals that it's Ron.
  • What Does She See in Him?:
    • Ann and Andy in the first season. Several episodes have implied that Ann did enjoy his sense of humor at first, and later on, it seems that part of why Andy was such a lazy jerk to her was because she inadvertently enabled it. Case in point: Andy (barely) 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 than ever. It ultimately becomes a moot point when Ann permanently breaks up with him and Andy eventually undergoes Character Development.
    • It's a running joke that Jerry has an implausibly hot wife (played by Christie Brinkley), and everyone who meets her is flummoxed. In truth, though, Jerry is an incredibly nice guy, a devoted family man, artistic and cultured, and appears to be much more confident and self-assured away from the office, completely lacking his screwup side. Add in the fact that he was slimmer in his younger years, (apparently resembling a young Chris Traeger) and is said to be shockingly well endowed, and his appeal seems less mysterious. Ben genuinely spends a good part of Season 5 asking this, though most seem to have given up trying to answer for the sake of their sanity.
  • What Do You Mean, It's Not Didactic?: This mindset is derided by Ron, who says that in art, "anything means anything". invoked
  • What Do You Mean, It's Not Symbolic?: Inverted and played for laughs In-Universe with Ron, whose favorite book is Moby-Dick precisely because he believes that it isn't symbolic, being just "a good, simple tale about a man who hates an animal." He later considers the idea that the whale is a metaphor, but rejects it.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • In "Rock Show", Ron brings Tammy 2's sister Beth to the concert, saying that the two of them are dating (and share a similar hatred for Tammy 2). Beth is neither seen nor mentioned ever again.
    • In Season 6, Tom and Nadia go out on one date before she leaves for her Doctors Without Borders mission in Rwanda. She's never mentioned again, and whether they ever resumed their relationship or if the worst possible scenario occurred is never brought up.
  • 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 Parks 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.
  • What Were You Thinking?: The "Hunting Trip" episode, where Tom accidentally shoots Ron in the back of the head. (Don't worry, he lives. The gun was loaded with birdshot and caused only superficial damage.) While Mark, Jerry, Leslie, and Ron are all shown to be experienced hunters, it's clear the other members of the group have never handled firearms before and they should have never given them weapons in the first place without close and constant supervision.
  • 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".
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: Invoked in "Ms. Knope Goes to Washington" when Leslie tells the proposal clerk that she lives in Pawnee. The clerk asks which Pawnee as the camera cuts to her monitor, showing Pawnees in 8 states in a drop down menu.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Ben's worst fear is cops. Guess what Leslie's ex-boyfriend is? Exaggerated when Dave ambushes Ben in the bathroom and chains him to the urinal to get Leslie back. Not the best day for Ben.
  • 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.
    Jamm: Hm. On one hand, I love cutting government programs. On the other hand, mini golf rules. And on the third hand, 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?:
    • April and Andy in Season 2. After a somewhat rocky start, they ultimately get together in Season 3 and then get married on a whim.
    • Leslie and Ben in Season 3. They eventually admit their feelings but then they're forced to break up and go into this again in Season 4. Justified as both desperately wanted to get together, but Chris forbade their relationship and being together could destroy their careers and Leslie's political campaign. In the end, Leslie and Ben realize that being with each other is more important, and Ben resigns so that they can finally start dating openly.
    • Ann and Chris have this with a little Relationship Revolving Door, They eventually do in Season 6.
  • Women Are Wiser: Played with. There are men on both ends of the sensible scale, with Tom and Andy at the bottom, Chris and Jerry in the middle, Mark and Ben at the top and Ron vacillates depending on the situation. With the women, there aren't really any of them at the bottom of the scale but Donna and April hang in the middle, Ann is at the top and Leslie bounces between the two extremes. So it's fairly even all around.
  • Worm in an Apple: In "The Pawnee-Eagleton Tip-Off Classic", the snooty Ingrid de Forest is disgusted by Pawnee apples, claiming that they're full of pesticides. Leslie attempts a rebuttal:
    Leslie: Oh no, these are pesticide-free. I ate one of these for breakfast this morning and I found a worm in it, so...I bet somebody feels really stupid right now.
  • 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". It's a creepy and disturbing place that's home to the divorce courts, criminal proceedings, drug tests, and the DMV. It also has a room where they keep the knives that were confiscated from people who went up there to stab someone. Naturally, April thinks it's the coolest place ever.
  • Write Who You Know: In-universe example. Tom's self-help book in the series finale outlines seven types of successful personality types who are all based on his friends (The Leslie, The Ron, The Donna, The Ann, The April, The Andy, The Ben) and the one type of person nobody wants to be (The Jerry).
  • Xtreme Kool Letterz: Tom remarks that he likes to call air conditioners "Cool Blasterz" (he specifies the use of a z there).
  • Yandere: Apparently, more than one of Donna's past admirers have threatened arson in order to gain her favor.
    Donna: It gets old.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: In Season 6, Leslie is voted out of office after just over a year of being on the city council. She got the ire of the community by being the one to propose the reintegration of Eagleton and Pawnee to prevent Eagleton's bankruptcy from dragging the whole county down with it, and while she earned the appreciation of the Eagletonians, they don't vote to keep her on the board, wanting one of their own representing them on the council.
  • Yarling: Andy, whose singing voice can "hunger dunger dang" with the best of them. This is most pronounced during his original song, "The Pit."
  • 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).
  • Your Approval Fills Me with Shame:
    • In "The Master Plan", Andy seeks Tom's advice about dating April and how much of an age gap is too wide to be appropriate. After crunching the numbers, Tom says that it would be okay for Andy to date April, which initially excites Andy, only for him to very quickly realize that Tom's approval is not something he should want.
      Andy: Tom says it's okay! (Beat) That probably means it's not okay.
    • Expect this reaction from Leslie every time Brandi Maxxxx shows up.

Alternative Title(s): Parks And Rec


Jerry & Gayle

Ben is obsessed with figuring out Jerry's (or Larry's) marriage to the gorgeous Gayle.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / UglyGuyHotWife

Media sources: