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'Parks and Recreation': Michelle Obama, Jon Hamm, more cameos on smart season finale

Michelle Obama appears as herself on the season

Michelle Obama appears as herself on the season six "Moving Up" episode of "Parks & Recreation." Credit: NBC

Surprise, surprise: Jon Hamm is now a series regular on "Parks and Recreation." Except that he's not -- a series regular that is -- but who knows, really. Hired, so to speak, then fired, so to speak, in the closing seconds of last night's smart, funny, cleverly baited "Parks and Recreation" sixth season finale, at least this classic established the possibility that he will return, at least for some "prequel"  episodes that establish how he got to this point (hired/fired) in the first place.

(Quick spoiler: "P&R" ended three years in the future, with Leslie's triplets already born and walking.)

Hamm, an excellent comic actor, did standout work on "30 Rock," so there's no real reason why he should not find a second or third act to an already charmed career here, especially as "P&R" sails through a seventh and what could very well be a final season.

It was indeed a smart move -- and finale -- by a show that tends to get very little audience attention these days -- plenty of fan action, and critics remain devotees, but as the sixth ends, not all that much widespread attention. Last night was stuffed with cameos (Michelle Obama), biggish name bands and acts, like the Decemberists, Land Ho, Mouse Rat, Ginuwine, even Night Ranger (remember them!), "P&R" is probably getting an enormous amount of viral action this morning if only because it was one of those season wraps that demand day-after attention.

Consider the questions that were left dangling in the Pawnee breeze:

- Will Leslie in the Future be Happy in the Future, with her big job and the demands of a big new National Parks job that clearly competes for attention with that threesome brood? (Two boys, one girl.)

- Will Tom's Bistro be a success, maybe even a chain or will Ron's chair bill bankrupt TB in the crib?

- How is Jerry's dog, by the way? And why is his name suddenly Terry?

- Why is there a media lockdown?

- And what could poor Jon Hamm have done that would have necessitated a brutal beheading so quickly by an obviously toughened-by-the-cold-cruel-world Leslie Knope?

Smart finale, because obviously some of these questions will have to be answered, and the show will clearly have to rewind, a la "Lost," to fill in the backstory, and .?.?. finally, it will have to explore exactly what happens at the end of that elevator ride to who knows where.

(Another question: Will President Obama be standing there when the doors open? "P&R" wants him, badly, but a standing president on a TV sitcom is not exactly good PR, particularly for a president who has huge problems in Japan, the domestic economy, the Ukraine, and so forth .?.?. yet still finds time to shoot a cameo?! Maybe if he's allowed to make a pitch for affordable health care.)

 Excellent season finales change the dynamic of the entire show -- not just do cheap "cliffhanging" stunts -- and "P&R" did precisely that Thursday night. A new show is coming that still has the same irreverence of the old. Most of all, "P&R" has offered some compelling reasons to tune in again next season. Good going.

(App readers, watch a scene from the finale here:


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