Parks & Recreation was done as if it was a documentary, but a fan theory suggests the documentary is fake. Here’s what happened.
Parks & Recreation is done in the style of a mockumentary, but some details have made fans believe they were never filming a documentary – here’s why. Parks & Recreation premiered on NBC in 2009 and came to an end in 2015 after seven seasons, and even though its first season wasn’t the best as the writers struggled to find the right tone for the series and the characters, particularly Leslie Knope, subsequent seasons were better received, and Parks & Recreation became one of the best TV shows of the decade.
Parks & Recreation followed the daily lives of the crew working at the Parks Department in the fictional town of Pawnee, Indiana, led by the always optimist Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler). The series was done as a mockumentary, similar to the style of The Office, mostly as Parks & Recreation was originally planned as a spinoff of that series, so the characters were often talking to the camera and adding commentary to what had just happened, but there are some details that have made fans believe the documentary was fake, and there was something else going on there.
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A Reddit user shared their perspective of the Parks & Recreation mockumentary style and suggested it was all fake, mostly because the crew filming the “documentary” never appeared on screen. The author took the final season of The Office as an example, as in it, the documentary crew does appear, proving that they were in fact taking part in a documentary, while Parks & Recreation never did that, and even used the departure of Chris and Ann as proof of a shot that should have shown the crew, but instead just changed to a “traditional back street shot”.
The author then suggests that the confessionals and asides aren’t what they seem, and they are actually the way in which the Parks & Recreation writers decided to show the inner monologues of the characters, allowing the viewers to know what’s going on in their minds at specific moments. Although this theory makes sense and has some elements supporting it, such as Parks & Recreation gradually forgetting it’s supposed to be a documentary on the characters, there are even more that play against it. First, and as pointed out by the author of the theory, the confessionals with more than one character don’t fit into this theory, though they also suggest these could be a “representation of both of their thoughts” even if they aren’t speaking directly to each other.
Other fans of the series have pointed out that the characters – specifically Leslie, Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman), and Mark Brendanawicz (Paul Schneider) – directly address the camera crew at some point, mostly during the first episodes. Another detail that invalidates the theory is how many characters, most notably Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott), turn to the camera “for comfort and assurance”, though some believe these are also part of their inner thoughts. In the end, this detail in Parks & Recreation is open to the interpretation of every viewer, but what’s true is that the “mockumentary” side of it became inconsistent towards the end of the series.
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