There’s something inherently happy about a tiny horse. And by tiny horse, I don’t really mean a pony, although I have nothing against a good pony. I mean a miniature horse, like Li’l Sebastian from Parks and Recreation.
Yesterday was the inaugural Happiness Day at University High School, and to me, this made-up holiday is all about celebrating the little things in life that bring us happiness. My personal happiness list would include grammar, cupcakes, puppies, Diet Coke, board games, puns, and Parks and Recreation, but for the sake of this post, we’ll focus exclusively on the show.
If you’ve never seen Parks and Recreation, allow me catch you up. The show is a comedy series done in the mockumentary style of The Office. It focuses on a small-town bureaucrat Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) and her ragtag group of colleagues (most notably Adam Scott, Aziz Ansari, Rob Lowe, Nick Offerman, Aubrey Plaza, and Chris Pratt) in the parks department of the fictional town of Pawnee, IN. Hilarity ensues. The most recent episode that aired, titled “Leslie and Ben,” was particularly special in that it featured a wedding and reminded me of the top three things I love about the show. What are those three things, you ask? Allow me to count.
3. The people. In most comedy shows, there’s a standout. A Barney in HIMYM. A Sheldon in The Big Bang Theory. A Schmidt in New Girl. A Joey or Phoebe in Friends. But Parks and Recreation is the epitome of an ensemble show. Everyone shares in the funny. In “Leslie and Ben,” for example, Tom, the man who inspired a nation to “Treat Yo Self!,” exclaimed in a moment of frustration, “But this is America. I want it now!” April, a dark and sarcastic character, absurdly stole all of the marriage licenses from Pawnee’s courthouse because, as she said, other people getting married makes it less special for her (a political comment, perhaps?). Leslie impersonated Tim Gunn. Ron crafted two wedding bands out of a sconce. And Councilman Jamm set off a stink bomb (who knew those still existed?) and gave Amazon Prime a super awkward shout-out for their two-day shipping, which, for the record, is pretty awesome.
2. The gems. Parks and Recreation is one of those shows (HIMYM may actually be the best at doing this, however) that will occasionally bust out old references that make viewers get all nostalgic. I call them gems because, to me, they’re like tiny, sparkling gifts of memory. Li’l Sebastian is a gem. He first appeared in season two as a special guest in the Pawnee Harvest Festival. Fact: I have a coffee mug that says “I met Li’l Sebastian at the Pawnee Harvest Festival.” A memorial service was held for Li’l Sebastian at the end of season three. And in the most recent episode, he appeared in horse-ghost form. Gem. Also, Li’l Sebastian was the inspiration for Mouse Rat’s epic ballad “5,000 Candles in the Wind” which made a special appearance in this episode as well.
1. Leslie Knope. After today’s morning meeting about feminism (shout out to Brynna for bringing those issues to our attention), my love of Leslie Knope is even more relevant. She’s been called the one true feminist on primetime television, and while I wouldn’t go so far as to exclude other characters, I would say that Leslie Knope is the most well-rounded, independent, feminist-leaning female protagonist on television. You can laugh at her antics (and there are many) without making her the butt of jokes. She is serious and also light, but she is not portrayed as lesser or weak because she likes waffles and idolizes Hillary Clinton. Plus, in something I’ve never seen on television (though, granted, I haven’t seen all of the shows ever created), Leslie ran for office last season, and her boyfriend left his job and became her campaign manager (never once seeming emasculated because she was in the spotlight). I love the show for many reasons, but that it’s a show I’d want my daughters to watch — and one I’d love you to watch — makes it all the more awesome.
So, seriously, if you’re looking for a dose of happiness (and who isn’t, it’s freaking snowing outside), give Parks and Recreation a try. And if I were you, I’d start with any episode featuring Li’l Sebastian.
Fun fact. Did you know Indianapolis has a famous miniature horse of its own? His name is Cheesecake, and he seems to have a flair for the dramatic. He went missing in 2008. Don’t worry, they found him.