As I noted earlier this morning, I wrote my farewell column for Friday Night Lights on the show’s theme of community and interdependence: the way it shows how sustaining (and sometimes infuriating) a small town’s network of relationships and reliance can be. If I had two or three times the space, I might have written a different column, which explored that theme not just in FNL but in Parks and Recreation—which, in a very odd way, is a kind of bookend to the football drama.
Like FNL, P&R is a relatively rare network-TV depiction of regional America. And though it plays this for comedy instead of drama, Pawnee’s Parks Dept. constituents—like Dillon’s football fans—are often, um, “passionate” in ways that can be trying.
“Time Capsule” was probably actually the weakest of the seven episodes I previewed (the Will Forte subplot, in particular, went nowhere), but that speaks more to the high quality of the rest. And in the end, it turned to a theme that the show has touched on from the beginning: that for all the stress between the bureaucrats in the department and the crackpots in the town, those concerns and arguments are what makes Pawnee Pawnee—to the extent that the videotape of the heated public meetings became itself the representative document preserved in the time capsule.
Of course, structuring an episode around a time capsule did more than advance that theme. It also solved the problem: “How can we structure an episode around an object big enough to hide our star’s extremely pregnant abdomen?” Who says government can’t accomplish anything?