“Parks & Recreation” is still a young show, and has been remarkably strong for much of its run, but who can resist the chance to pick favorites? Certain indelible moments jump out from the crown, unmistakably demanding recognition and it would be an injustice to not provide it.
10. Season 3, Episode 16: “Li’l Sebastian.” Li’l Sebastian dies, and everyone bands together to put on the best funeral ever. Andy Dwyer writes “5,000 Candles in the Wind,” Ron Swanson burns his mustache off (but not before uncovering Ben and Leslie’s relationship), and Jean-Ralphio and Tom have the worst idea ever. Everyone gets involved, and everything works.
9. Season 3, Episode 13: “The Fight.” Another big party, once again coupled with breakthroughs for several characters, most notably Ann and Leslie. Plus: Jean-Ralphio, Tom at his grandiose best, Ron Swanson wasted out of his mind (along with everyone else), and more Burt Macklin.
8. Season 3, Episode 7: “Harvest Festival.” A big Pawnee event, Li’l Sebastian, plus a vintage Pawnee media firestorm, featuring Perd Hapley and Joan Callamezzo. April and Andy get a little realer, Ron lays down the law on the ferris wheel, and as Jerry gets lost in the corn maze. Perfection.
7. Season 3, Episode 6: “Indianapolis.” Ron Swanson’s tragically doomed quest to Charlie Mulligan’s Steak House would be enough to merit serious consideration, but adding the launch of Tommy Fresh and Ann coming to terms with the end of her relationship with Chris, and you have all you need.
6. Season 3, Episode 4: “Ron & Tammy: Part Two.” While this is not the first time we meet Tammy Two, this episode is easily the best. The Ron Swanson onion gets peeled, and what is revealed is a far more vulnerable than you’d imagine. Oh yeah, and the cornrows were awesome.
5. Season 3, Episode 2: “Flu Season.” This is the episode where Ben Wyatt and Chris Traeger really became a part of the show. Once again, Leslie Knope is forced to maintain her focus despite extreme fatigue. Her flu-catalyzed collapse, as well as that of Chris, are terrific moments, helped along by the show’s knack for the unsettlingly surreal.
4. Season 2, Episode 22: “Telethon.” The set-up—an all-night telethon on Pawnee television—is a stroke of genius, and Amy Poehler gives one of her best performances of the series. Add in major developments in Ann and Mark’s relationship, plus a nice dose of Pawnee’s local color, and you’ve got a classic.
3. Season 2, Episode 10: “Hunting Trip.” A great episode for both Leslie and Ron, and one of their first great confrontations. Ron’s “invitation” to “shoot him in the head” and Leslie’s attempts to tell the park ranger what he wants to hear about women are the highlights. Oh yeah, and this is the episode where April and Andy start vibing.
2. Season 2, Episode 7: “Greg Pikitis.” Louis C.K.’s run on the show was too short. His reaction to Leslie’s quixotic quest to nail a suspected vandal is terrific. Ditto for Tom Haverford’s heroic salvage of Ann’s Halloween Party. Also, what would we do without Burt Macklin?
1. Season 1, Episode 6: “Rock Show.” The show struggled in its first season, but found its voice with the finale, centering on a concert by Scarecrow Boat (better known as MouseRat), Andy Dwyer’s band. The performance of “The Pit” alone would cement this one’s status as a classic, but this episode was also the first hint of how tight-knit the cast would become.
Honorable Mentions: “The Possum,” “Media Blitz,” “Born & Raised,” “The Trial of Leslie Knope.”