Bye-Bye Li’l Sebastian

Parks-and-Rec

After 7 seasons, the Parks department of Pawnee, Indiana will shut its doors tonight.

Pawnee looks a lot different than how we saw it in 2009. It is no longer the 4th most obese city in America. It is home to free WiFi for the entire town. Most of the starting members of the parks department have moved on to bigger an better things: they have gigs as a service worker in DC, Interim Mayor, Major figurehead in the National Parks Service, congressional candidate, owner of Very Good Building Company, Business Owner, married mogul headed to Seattle, and TV Superstar Johnny Karate.

Our little Parks and Rec employees have grown up, and it’s time to see them off.

Just like with all shows that have run for several years, many people tuned out before tonight’s finale. But for the rest of us, tonight is the heartfelt goodbye to characters we feel like we’ve raised.

Why is this show important? Why is this show — described by so many as a way to profit from the popularity of The Office in the late 2000s — so painful to say goodbye to?

I can only relate some of my personal reasons:

— The creation of Galentine’s Day, which is a real thing now

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— Treat Yo Self, also a thing

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— My discovery of Aziz Ansari as a stand-up comedian

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— My discovery of Nick Offerman, who I had the opportunity to see live at UMBC

Credit to NBC for images of Ron Swanson

Credit to NBC for images

— The world’s discovery of Chris Pratt (he is Andy Dwyer, not Starlord)

Andy

— My weird crush on Ben Wyatt, which I can’t even try to explain

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— Getting all of Ben’s nerdy references to Game of Thrones, Star Wars, Star Trek, Settlers of Cataan, Economics and Accounting, Batman…

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— The cutest TV couple since Jim and Pam

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— Mouse Rat, the only fictional band I’ve actually searched for on iTunes

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5,000 Candles in the Wind, which I kind of want played at my funeral, even though my name is not Sebastian and I am not a mini horse

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— Countless actually-funny political jokes that I’ve heard at SGA events and poli sci classes for years. Seriously. I’ve even started adopting Ron Swanson as a half-decent representation of my view on domestic policies.

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— Guest stars aplenty (John Cena was on an episode last week. What other sitcom is John Cena gonna appear on?)

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Yes, it had its rough moments. But every show has its moments. When a person dies, his funeral isn’t usually an ode to the mistakes he made, but to his accomplishments, his brightest spots. Parks and Rec had a lot of them, and I’m glad it ran as long as it did. Was it time to end? Yes. Am I sad to see it go? Also yes.

So tonight, the Ron Swanson Pyramid of Greatness will have to be amended: Crying is acceptable at funerals, the grand canyon, and the Parks and Recreation finale at 10 PM eastern on NBC.

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My First Love: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Rudolph

When I was first exposed to the fictionalization of Santa Claus and Co., I didn’t have a hard time accepting that The Man With The Bag was actually just My Folks With A Bank Account. The hardest thing for me to deal with was the death of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Rudolph was my childhood hero at all times of the year. I memorized the read-along storybook (the *beep* turn-the-page kind) before I could even read properly. The big action figure in the picture above is one of my most prized childhood toys – I wish I hadn’t torn the antlers off, but it’s just part of the charm now. The ornament on the far left is the only one I’m adamant (read: slightly anal) about putting on the tree myself.

The very first stories I ever wrote were weird Rudolph fan-fiction of sorts. They didn’t exactly follow the canon of the animated special we’ve all seen a thousand times. No, in my stories, Rudolph could literally fire lasers out of his nose and Dasher was an explosion-obsessed supervillain. Christmas was always saved at the end, obviously, but not without a little bit of destruction.

I was watching the original animated special the other night and I realized, probably for the first time, that Rudolph isn’t exactly a butt-kicking superhero as I once imagined him. For most of the story, he just kind of runs away. He gets knocked down whenever he does fight. And he saves the day by… existing.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s still a great story with legitimate character development and an important message for kids and adults everywhere to accept everyone’s differences and fight adversity – a message that is more and more important these days. So Rudolph is still a hero, he’s just not Rambo.

Meanwhile, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to love his sidekicks as well. Yukon Cornelius is corny and goofy, and though I’ve memorized all of his jokes I still laugh at them – especially the sequence where they get away on the iceberg (“I thought you wanted gold.” “I changed my mind!”). Hermy is the man; he pursues his dream and doesn’t seem to care that Christmas society (and the viewing audience) is constantly laughing at him. Clarice is a top-notch role model for kids – and she’s adorable.

I mean, come on. That's precious.

I mean, come on. That’s precious.

When I sat down and thought about it, Rudolph’s hero-ability kind of pales in comparison to his friends. But maybe you don’t have to be a kick-butt, eccentric character to be cool. So what if Rudolph isn’t a superhero? He was my hero as a kid, and in a more realistic sense, he’s my hero now. I could learn a thing or two from him. Everyone could.