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'Parks and Recreation' finale review: A future without shock, but much 'ahhh'

Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope in "Parks and

Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope in "Parks and Recreation." Credit: NBC / Colleen Hayes

According to "Parks and Recreation" -- which wrapped seven seasons Tuesday with a series fast-forwards set variously in 2025 or 2035 (or later) -- the future is bright.

Technology has not overwhelmed us.

The skies are still blue.

There are still lands to protect, trees to save, bears to talk to.

People don't age either -- they look as great as ever. No gray hair or wrinkles.

Even death seems transient -- or at least in the case of Jean-Ralphio. (And yes, there are still casinos, or will be -- in Tajikistan.)

That "Parks and Rec" would wind up or wind down on a supremely optimistic note should be of surprise to no one, certainly not fans. "P&R" always was "optimism" in cap letters -- the anti-cynical sitcom that secretly or not so secretly celebrated mid-western values and the glory of hard work and red meat and (of course) public service.

Finales to classic series are funny things in that no one has ever really figured out how to do them exactly right -- will the jokes be the best ever, or laughs over the top, or will we see old characters back, and older stories resolved?

Some finales are simply punched out for the fans -- a final thank you to the millions for making cast and crew rich. Some are simply designed to pile on the numbers -- get as many people in the door for one last over-the-top rating.

Some are teases -- would or could anyone call the last roundup at "Two and a Half Men" anything but a tease, at least in the final analysis, when the piano had fallen, and Charlie's dreams of revenge were crushed, quite literally?

Or -- accepting fate and fortune and the realization that perfection is unattainable -- some finales simply opt for reaffirmation. And that was your "P&R" wrap.

It was a finale, I suspect, conceived mostly for the cast and crew: A distillation of their hopes and dreams the last seven years condensed into one 43-minute happy whole.

Because this finale was so true to the gentle, genial and generous spirit of the entire enterprise, it worked and worked surprisingly well. Perfect? No. But that is, as mentioned, unattainable. Even Leslie in the end seemed to chuck her whole life's philosophy -- predicated on sheer bureaucratic organizational pile-on -- to the wind, in one short interchange:

Ben: "You want to leave this to chance?"

Leslie: "Yes, because whatever is next, you and I are in it together ..."

Lovely, and about as Indiana nice as you could hope for.

In this long history of situation comedies, "Parks" may represent an endpoint on the evolutionary scale: It was an optimistic comedy that arrived during a pessimistic moment. Washington was in turmoil, the economy was utterly shredded, housing was decimated. The idea of public service was -- in more extreme views, expressed on entire cable networks -- deemed for either losers or scoundrels.

Cynicism reigned, and the idea of a happy and prosperous future seemed plausible but not entirely possible.

Or, put another way, a future that represented a positive advance from that present tumultuous moment was a matter of reasonable debate.

But it is now seven years later, and we are all still here, or most of us. When "Parks" launched on April 9, 2009, we couldn't be entirely certain that would be the case.

But "Parks" -- which had a rocky first year and hardly ever an assurance that its next season would not be its last -- maintained its happy-go-lucky style and its whistle-while-you-work attitude firmly intact.

The future would be bright. More kids would be born. There would be more Halloweens to celebrate, and libraries to dedicate, and national parks to preserve. Remember that Leslie started out small -- fixing up one park, one broken swing set at a time (I think in the pilot there was a slide that needed work.). Until one day ... she would actually dedicate a national park on the outskirts of Pawnee. Who knew!

 Somehow she did.

And recall that Andy essentially began his life on "Parks" as a guy who literally lived in a hole. And look how Andy and April ended up last night?

So think of the "Parks" wrap of a recapitulation of the most hopeful and optimistic impulses in the American spirit.

Anyway, that's what I walked away with. After watching, even I'm starting to feel better about tomorrow.

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