What happened after Buffy Season 7 ended? Think the story continued in some comics no one cares about? Knope.
(Spoilers follow, btw, for both shows up to the end of Buffy and Parks and Recreation Season 5.)
The thing I mostly end up talking about when I talk about how long it is since Buffy ended – it’s 10 years now (ffs) – is why didn’t Buffy change things more? Change TV more? Buffy was a great and funny and narratively satisfying and genuinely feminist and really, really popular. So popular that we are still all talking about Buffy literally all the time.
So why doesn’t anyone make another show like Buffy? Another show that is smart and funny and has a female lead who is awesome and cool and who has a bunch of friends around her helping her do her awesome cool stuff she really cares about?
Not like Alias where there is a woman doing kicky stuff but she is surrounded by men. Not like Homeland where being a woman upfront hurts your womanly brain and makes you crazy. Like Buffy, you know, good. And stuff. Non-annoying.
But there is one show on TV that qualifies as being a show like Buffy. Being a show that is very like Buffy, but so cleverly that you might not have even noticed how like Buffy it is. It’s not the one you think it is. Because that show is Parks and Recreation.
Here is why Parks and Recreation is TV’s natural successor to Buffy. I was going to present this as a full mathematical proof, but then I though, hey, isn’t a photo essay even more rigorous?
Yes. Yes it is.
Let’s go. Starting with the show’s premise.
The blonde with a calling.
Buffy Summers and Leslie Knope are both small, blonde, white women on a mission to improve the world around them, particularly one small town, even when their efforts are utterly unappreciated by the people they help day after day.
The Daddy Cool
Good start. Want more? This’ll convince you. Lesley Knope has a watcher too.
And both these men have super cool sekrit super sexy sex identities.
Oh. And there’s much more.
The best friend
(Oh boy, though, more TV shows and films and everything need to have female characters who have friends. Most women do have friends. Give that ‘strong female character’ a friend. And don’t cheat and make it a sister. Make it an actual friend.)
The lover of material things. (Who opens a shop.)
And you can keep matching up Leslie’s own Scoobies, there’s the alpha female Donna/Cordelia, the butt monkey Andy/Xander. And of course…
The Sulky Little “Sister”
Like Buffy, Parks and Recreation started with a short season that can make it hard to get new people started on the show, because it doesn’t really kick in until season 2. Furthermore, there a loads of shared plot points. Like this one.
The super sexy brunette with a massive foreheads who turned out to be a dick post sexytimes and at the end of season 2, got sent to hell (private sector.)
Who wouldn’t though? God.
(Side fact: mark Brendanawicz now helps the helpless.)
Also, Grief is painful
Season Five ends with an incredible sacrifice
Only joking., Getting married is stupid, but if you must do it, marry Ben Wyatt. And, fact is, at the end of season 5 Leslie and Buffy both change their lives massively.
I’m not just being glib, saying, oh Jerry is Principle Snyder, or Ben Wyatt and Chris Traeger are Spike and Drusilla (they ARE) there’s a real point too. Both these shows are about women with strong ideals, fighting for what they believe, with work at the centre of their lives. Relationships are important and so are their friends. They are funny and they are heroes but they are not always good people.
And if we could have more than one show like this every 20 years, that’d be nice.
EDITED TO ADD: After some twitter chat, I feel bad that I didn’t mention Buffy’s own dealings with local government in season 3, that Eagleton = the wishverse, that Lot 48 = the Hellmouth, that s6 could be the one where Ann goes dark, that Parks and Recreation need to do a musical episode where Leslie questions her calling…