Parks and Recreation
"I hate the public. The public is stupid."—Ron Swanson
Work Com about small-town government, centering on the employees of the Parks and Recreation Department of the fictional town of Pawnee, Indiana. Created by the same people as the U.S. version of The Office and filmed in the same Mockumentary style, it essentially does for the public sector what its sister show does for the private.
The main character is Leslie Knope, played by Amy Poehler, a Pollyannaish Workaholic who works as Deputy Director of the Parks Department. See here for further information on the characters. The very short first season focused almost entirely on Leslie's efforts to cut through the red tape to turn Lot 48, a giant pit created as part of an abandoned construction project, into a park. This storyline was continued in subsequent seasons, but diminished in importance as the show explored other facets of the characters' lives, both professional and personal. The pit is filled in in season two, but as of the end of season three is still not a park.
Parks and Rec was actually originally conceived as a Spin-Off of the U.S. The Office, but in the end its only tie to that show is the format and the presence of Rashida Jones in the cast (as a different character).
- Aborted Arc: The original story arc was Leslie's struggle to turn the pit in Lot 48 into a park. After the Retool going into Season 2, the pit was filled in, but the idea to build a park was dropped almost completely by Season 3 as the show picked up other storylines. During the camping episode, Leslie says that they couldn't continue turning the lot into a park because Chris wanted the next project to bring in revenues.
- The Ace: Justin, who seems to be an ace lawyer and a globe-trotter who impressed everyone around him (except for Andy and Mark, who are mostly threatened by Ann's admiration of him). However, Ron later deconstructs Justin's personality at the end of "Galentine's Day" and points out that despite all of his apparent perfections, at his core Justin was a "tourist", a selfish person who was more concerned about the stories he formed rather than the people he was helping, which leads to Leslie breaking it off for him.
- Activist Fundamentalist Antics: Marcia Langman, the humorless right-wing Christian spokeswoman for the Society for Family Stability Foundation. In "Pawnee Zoo", she tries to get Leslie to annul a fake gay penguin wedding since "when gays marry, it ruins marriage for the rest of us." Later in "Time Capsule", she denounces the Twilight books as "anti-Christian" and "pro-quivering". In "Jerry's Painting", Marcia shows up again to protest Jerry's painting of Leslie as a nude centaur. Marcia was gung-ho to burn the painting (simply removing it from the public eye would not satisfy her), to Leslie's chagrin, but Leslie managed to salvage it in the end.
- Actually Pretty Funny:
- Comes up a lot in the episode "Park Safety", as after Leslie finds out that Jerry had been mugged, she feels bad about how cruel everyone treats him, and tells the others to be nicer to him. However, when they make cracks about Jerry, she can't help but laugh. It doesn't help that he's a magnet for embarrassing things happening.
- "Campaign Shake-Up":
Chris: If your team keeps this up, I think we can hold off on filling the Leslie void.
Donna: I think Ben's already filling the Leslie void. (high-fives Ann)
Chris: ...I'll give it up for that.
- Adult Child:
- In "Tom's Divorce", Jerry reveals that he goes to a dinosaur themed restaurant named Jurassic Fork three times a week.
- Andy is this all over.
- Aerith and Bob: Donna's brothers: LeVondrias and George.
- Affably Evil/Punch Clock Villain: Jennifer Barkley, Bobby Newport's campaign manager as of "Campaign Shake-up". While she can run circle around Leslie's campaign, when they meet at JJ's Diner for food, she's genuinely friendly towards her and Ben. She actually gives Leslie some casual advice, even (although Jen compares it to playing chess against herself due to the lack of an actual opponent).
Jennifer: I don't care about any of this; I'm just trying to win. Look, it's not personal--I like you! But my job is to beat you. So have a seat. I'll get you some of those waffles that you love.
Leslie: How do you know all th--
Jennifer: It's my job to know.
- All Crimes Are Equal: Pawnee's sister city, Boraqua, Venezuela, jails everyone for everything. Including over/under-cooking meat, overpricing sweaters, and flaking out on dentist appointments.
Raul: We have the best patients in the world. Because of jail.
- All There in the Manual: Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America is a great example. In-universe, it serves as a plot point, written by Leslie to help her city council campaign. In the real world, written by the show's writers, it expands on the details of the fictional Pawnee.
- Always a Bigger Fish: Ron's ex-wives get progressively more ferocious the further back you go. Tammy II flees in fear when Tammy I arrives. Tammy I works at the IRS, after all, and also threw acid on Tammy II's foot.
- Ambiguously Brown: In "Win, Lose, or Draw", Leslie tells Ann that Ann's "ambiguous ethnic blend perfectly represents the dream of the American melting pot." Ann's ancestry is never revealed in the show, though Rashida Jones is herself half African-American and half Ashkenazi Jew.
- And Starring: Rob Lowe.
- Anguished Declaration of Love:
April: I love you.
Andy: (beat) Dude, shut up! That is awesome sauce! [tries to high-five]
- Animal Wrongs Group: Manrico Della Rosa in "The Debate".
Della Rosa: And anyone who even rubs their hands on a leather jacket should be tried for murder.
- As Himself:
- Former NBA player Detlef Schrempf shows up as a special guest in "Telethon". Tom sidetracks him into bringing him to the Snakehole Lounge. Hilarity Ensues. He returns in "Li'l Sebastian", having been hired by Tom and Jean-Ralphio to hang out and shoot baskets at the headquarters of their new entertainment company.
- in "Ron and the Tammys" Indianapolis Pacer Roy Hibbert is hired by Tom and Jean Ralphio to just play one-on-one with Detlef in the e720 headquarters. Tom tells an amazed Ben:
"The NBA's on strike so we got him for like only 75 percent of his original NBA salary!"
- Aside Comment: The characters will frequently glance at the camera to share their mood, even when they're not doing a Talking Heads sequence.
- Attack of the Political Ad:
- In the episode "Campaign Ad", the protagonists toy with airing an attack ad in Leslie's election for city council. Leslie desperately wants to stay positive, even though Ben's attack ad is effective and accurate regarding her Upper Class Twit opponent.
- An attack ad against Leslie airs in "Campaign Shake-Up"--it's just a Gag Dub of Leslie's successful ad from "Campaign Ad".
- Back From the Dead: Andy's alter ego FBI agent Bert Macklin who "died" from a bad hangover after drinking 'Snakehole juice' in the third season. In the fourth season, he's "resurrected" to serve as Leslie's bodyguard during her promotion of her book about Pawnee.
You thought I was dead? So did the President's... enemies."
- Backhanded Compliment: Thrown around like confetti by Lindsay Carlisle Shay, a former Pawnee Parks and Rec worker who moved on to Eagleton's department. Not that she's above open-handed insults.
- Badass Family: The Swansons drink their own liquor, which only legal use is to strip varnish off of speedboats.
Ron: Under my tutelage, you will grow from boys to men. From men into gladiators. And from gladiators into Swansons.
- The Bear: Alluded to in "Operation Ann", wherein Ron has to go into The Bulge and receives a lot of favorable looks.
- Beard of Sorrow: Ben sports some thick stubble after being forced to resign.
- The Beautiful Elite:
- The residents of wealthy nearby town Eagleton. Lampshaded by Tom at the Eagleton public forum: "Look at how pretty the people are!"
- Tom and Jean-Ralphio hired female models to basically just hang around as decoration in the vast headquarters of their new company.
- Beauty Contest: The episode "Beauty Pageant".
- Be Careful What You Wish For: In "Bowling for Votes":
April: I wished for [Chris's] happiness to go away. I might be a wizard.
- Belligerent Sexual Tension:
- Ron and his ex-wives.
- Berserk Button:
- Do NOT mess with Donna's Mercedes.
- Don't even speak in a remotely hostile about the late Li'l Sebastian around Ron.
- Don't insult Leslie around Ben.
- Beta Couple: Mark/Ann and Andy/April with the complication that Andy is oblivious to April and still likes Ann. This changes over the course of Season 2, and in Season 3, Andy actively switches to pursuing April. And then they got married. Because why not?
- Biggus Dickus: According to a doctor who gave him a physical, Jerry has one of these. The biggest he's ever seen, in fact.
- Bikini Bar: Averted with Pixellation in "Tom's Divorce", which befits the show's Mockumentary format.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing:
- Somehow, the entire population of Eagleton when it comes to Pawnee and its less beautiful people.
- Marcia Langman.
- Blondes Are Evil: Ron's first wife Tammy I.
Ron: Why do I only date brunettes? You know sometime you eat chicken and get food poisoning and then even the sight of chicken makes you sick? Tammy One is my blonde chicken.
- Blond Guys Are Evil: Greg Pikitis.
- Book Ends: Done masterfully between the season finale of the first and second season. Andy gets his casts off his broken legs and ends up getting a cast on his broken arm. Leslie and Mark sit at Lot 48 at night originally a pit, and now the site of a successful children's concert. Mark is originally pessimistic, but now presents Leslie with the blueprints for a new park.
- Bowling for Ratings: "Bowling for Votes".
- Brainless Beauty: Trish Iannetta.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: Characters frequently acknowledge that they're being observed, glancing at the camera and performing Talking Heads interviews.
- Brick Joke:
- A marijuana plant is found in a community garden in "The Stakeout". In "Summer Catalog", one of the former heads of the department admits to planting marijuana plants in community gardens across town.
- Ron Swanson's second life as jazz saxophonist Duke Silver is occasionally brought back up in later episodes, such as "Eagleton" (in which his birthday party is being booked):
April: [on the phone] Hi, I have a question about your inflatable saxophones, do they come in different sizes? I'm gonna need about forty dozen of those. Also, what about your neon gangster fedora hats?
- In "Campaign Ad", Andy brings the gang to a music studio to record Leslie's campaign jingle. Ron is horrified to realize that it's the same studio where he records as Duke Silver, and spends his time there frantically hiding all the Duke Silver posters and coffee mugs scattered around.
- In "94 Meetings", Andy handles a meeting with a woman from Pawnee's ultimate Frisbee league. After learning that the town has its own league, he insists upon joining her team, and specifically asks if the team's name is "The Lightning". Later, in "Go Big Or Go Home", Ron and Andy become the coaches of the town's two boys' basketball teams. It can be assumed they each named their respective teams, as the scoreboard reads "Swansons" and "Lightning".
- Brother-Sister Incest: In "Operation Ann":
Jeff: Leslie, you didn't tell me she was so beautiful!
Ann: Aw, thanks, Jeff!
Jeff: Not as beautiful as my sister, but...you know the law.
- Bunny Ears Lawyer: Against everyone's expectations in "The Debate", Bobby Newport's extreme naivete affords him the advantage of relatability and easily digestible soundbites for answers.
- The Bus Came Back: Louis CK returns as Dave Sanderson in "Dave Returns".
- Butt Monkey:
- The long-suffering Jerry, who is a loser at everything and mocked by everyone in the office, even the nice people. It's often contrasted by the great many things he has going for him: he's talented, cultured, enormously endowed, and has a beautiful daughter.
- Kyle (Andy's frequent shoeshine customer) is even lower on the food chain. Tellingly, even Jerry rudely puts him down.
- California Doubling: Played straight. Most exterior town scenes are shot in Pasadena. The outside of Pawnee City Hall is actually Pasadena City Hall.
- Lampshaded in Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America, in which it is stated that the upkeep and maintenance of City Hall puts a considerable financial strain on the city government.
- Captain Obvious: Perd Hapley is some sort of super-evolved mutant form of this trope.
- Casanova Wannabe: Tom, first and foremost, but then there's his friend Jean-Ralphio who's even worse.
- Casting Couch: Implied to be the case with the 1994 Miss Pawnee winner, Jessica Wicks. One judge states offhand that he "made her", cuing an alarmed expression from Wicks.
- Cat Fight: The "garbage fight" Leslie gets in with Lindsay in "Eagleton".
- Character Development:
- Leslie started off with some unpleasant, Michael Scott-ish aspects to her character, but she has developed into a hyper-competent Pollyanna.
- April Ludgate is a Deadpan Snarker Ice Queen, until Andy brings out her softer side.
- Ron initially starts as The Snark Knight, but gradually shows an occasional soft side for his staff and Li'l Sebastian the miniature horse.
- Ben at first just saw Pawnee as simply another town that needed fixing, but eventually fell in love with it.
- Andy at first was kind of a jerk who exploited poor Ann, but he became a lovable ditz.
- The Chew Toy: Leslie's mom's old boyfriend, Frank.
- Church of Happyology: Reasonablism, in which folders play a significant part. Lampshaded in Pawnee: The Greatest Town In America, when one of the last followers of Zorp denies Reasonablism's cult status by comparing it to Happyology.
- Citizenship Marriage: Tom and Wendy. The subversion of this trope is a significant plot twist, since it is actually the white, Canadian Wendy who is the immigrant.
- Coitus Uninterruptus: During their "lovey" moments, Ron and Tammy II constantly engage in this.
- Comeback Tomorrow: When Lindsay calls Pawnee a horrible nightmare from which Leslie will never wake:
Leslie: "What?! I'm not asleep! I'm awake, I'm wide awake! And I got my eyes on you!" That's what I would have said if I had thought of it in the moment. What did I say instead?
- Comically Missing the Point:
- When Ron gets shot in "Hunting Trip":
Tom: Maybe Ron shot himself.
Leslie: Hmm...he has seemed really depressed lately.
Mark: He was shot in the back of the head!
Leslie: You're right--he loves the back of his head. He would never shoot himself there.
- In "Harvest Festival":
Ron: Ground mission failed. We need a bird's eye view. (motions toward the Ferris wheel)
Andy: You want me to climb on top of the Ferris wheel?
- In "Smallest Park", Ron concurs with Andy's Women's Studies teacher when she calls marriage a form of slavery.
- Comic Role Play: In "The Fight", Andy and April do this in the Snakehole lounge. Andy pretends to be his FBI agent alias "Burt Macklin" and April is "Janet Snakehole" a rich widow with a cigarette holder who talks like Katherine Hepburn.
- Compliment Backfire/Too Much Information: "Campaign Shake-Up":
Leslie: As a candidate I appreciate your strategic mind, but as a woman, all I care about is your slight but powerful body.
Ben: (Aside Glance)
- Conspicuous Consumption: This is all Tom and Jean-Ralphio did at their company "Entertainment 720". Spending an exorbitant amount on expensive furniture, and paying pro basketball players and beautiful women to just hang around. An alarmed Ben: "My guess is they'll be bankrupt by the end of this.. sentence!"
- Continuity Nod:
- In "Go Big or Go Home", we find Chris, Ann, Leslie and Ben at The Bulge, a gay bar where Leslie is a heroine for accidentally marrying two gay penguins in the episode "Pawnee Zoo".
- Whenever Andy needs to coerce someone into something, he always uses the alias of FBI agent Bert Macklin.
- On two occasions April claims to be "Janet Snakehole", the daughter of the owner of The Snakehole Lounge, "Mr. Snakehole, all the while playing like a femme fatale from a Film Noir.
- As its title would imply, "The Trial of Leslie Knope" involves a hearing regarding Leslie and Ben's relationship, and naturally the witness testimony involves a lot of continuity nods.
- Cop Boyfriend: Dave Sanderson (Louis CK), Leslie's boyfriend for a time in Season 2. They part amicably.
- Courtroom Episode: "The Trial of Leslie Knope".
- Crazy Cat Lady: The owner of the bed and breakfast in "Camping".
- Cringe Comedy:
- Generally around Leslie.
- A Running Gag has Ben completely breaking down in high-pressure social situations, usually when his disastrous past as a teen mayor gets brought up. It's amplified in "Dave Returns" thanks to his crippling fear of cops.
- Ann not realizing that Chris had broken up with her due to his ulta-positivity, and then for the same reason, mistakenly thinking he wished to get back together. After that happens, she kind of breaks.
- "The Comeback Kid" has Leslie's entire comeback rally. The venue, a multipurpose sports arena, is set up as a hockey rink instead of a basketball court. Tom couldn't afford enough red carpet to get all the way from the rink entrance to the stage, forcing everyone to gingerly shuffle across the ice. Ron didn't have enough wood to build stairs to the stage platform, meaning he has to attempt to boost Leslie up onto the stage. Leslie's speech note-cards shuffle out of order, causing her to say, "We can defeat obese children." And when local basketball legend Pistol Pete actually shows up and is willing to do his slam-dunk, he obviously slips when he tries to jump and breaks his arm. And the whole time a ten-second clip of "Get on Your Feet" by Gloria Estefan keeps repeating.
- The CSI Effect: In "Greg Pikitis", Leslie keeps talking about how they can test evidence for Greg's DNA only for Dave to repeatedly shoot her down by meekly pointing out that they don't actually have a lab and so forth.
- Culture Equals Costume: Minor examples at the Model UN in "The Treaty", where, for example, the French delegate wears a silk scarf and beret.
- Cuteness Proximity:
- Even April (but not Ron) isn't immune when a puppy shows up in "Telethon".
- No one is immune to Lil Sebastian the miniature horse, except for Ben, who just doesn't get it.
- Everyone loves Champion, the three legged dog.
- Cutting the Knot: Leslie gives Ben a cryptex containing a clue to where to meet her for their date on Valentine's Day. Ben can't figure out the five digit combination and asks Ron if he could solve it. Ron just takes out a hammer and smashes it to pieces to get the clue.
- Damned By Faint Praise: When asked to say something positive about Jerry in "Sweet Sixteen", Ron remarks that Jerry's work is often adequate. Jerry lights up at this unusual amount of praise.
- The Dandy: Tom, who turned a spare room of his old house into a huge walk-in closet.
- Dartboard of Hate: They're not that malicious about it, but Ron and Leslie tape a photo of all four living Parks Directors to a dartboard and go to town on it in "Summer Catalog"'s tag.
- Date Peepers: Ben and Leslie in "Operation Ann".
- Dating Service Disaster: Goes very wrong for Leslie in "Soulmates"--she gets matched up with Tom. Turns out he keeps several different accounts, all ideal for different sorts of women.
- Decided by One Vote: Jerry is scared that this could've happened when he forgot to vote for City Council. It didn't.
- Defrosting Ice Queen: Associating with Andy seems to be making April slowly drop her barrier. By the third season credits, she actually smiles shyly at the camera.
- Department of Redundancy Department:
- The Society for Family Stability Foundation.
- Perd Hapley is a news reporter and talk-show host from the media whose speech mannerisms, delivered orally, sometimes invoke this trope.
The statement that this reporter has is a question.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Marcia Langman from the Society for Family Stability Foundation calls for Leslie to resign because Leslie staged a penguin marriage as a publicity stunt for the zoo and the penguins turned out to both be male.
- Don't Explain the Joke: In one episode, Tom makes a joke to Dave, then has to explain it to him. He still doesn't get it:
Tom: Hey, John McClane!
Dave: Who's that?
Tom: Die Hard.
Dave: The battery?
- The Dreaded: The appearance of Tammy I is enough to make Tammy II scream "Oh, shit!" and vanish and enough to make Ron disappear into the wilderness for three weeks. Back in the small town Ron and the Tammys grew up in, she was regarded with terror.
- Dresses the Same: In a Season 2 episode where there was a Halloween party at Ann's house, one of April's gay boyfriends asserted that he was dressed up as a straight person. Immediately afterward, Mark walks in wearing the same outfit. A few episodes previously, Leslie comments on Tom's pink shirt being effeminate, and to prove her point, holds up a shirt she was given by the local gay bar, which is the exact same shade/color.
- Drinking Contest: A three-way one in "Ron and Tammys" between Tammy I (to stay with Ron), Ron's mother (to take him back to the farm forever), and Leslie (to keep Ron at the department).
- Drop-In Character: Originally Ann before she got a job at City Hall. In Season 4, it's Tom.
- Dumbass DJ: Crazy Ira and the Douche. Ben mugs about it the whole time and the soundboard operator appears to loathe himself.
- Early Installment Weirdness: In the first season, the characterizations were still in their early stages of development. Leslie is much less self-confident and less competent, and it's implied that she only got her job through nepotism. Aside from being a bit of a jerk, Tom's only defining trait is being a Casanova Wannabe. His obsession with style and luxury is introduced in the first episode of the second season. April is also shown smiling more often. Ronna and Jerry are only background characters with almost no lines and no characterization. The opening credits sequence is also longer, with an extra stanza of the theme music.
- Eighties Hair: Perd Hapley had a pretty spectacular fade back in 1989.
- Emotionless Girl: April.
- Erotic Dream: Leslie has had one about Ron.
- Even the Girls Want Her: After Andy and April saw a painting of Leslie as a topless centaur:
Andy: Not to be inappropriate or anything, because you’re my boss and my friend, but I would totally hit that.
April: So would I.
- Even the Guys Want Him: Justin, Leslie's boyfriend for three episodes in Season 2. Tom gets a mancrush on him.
- Everytown, America
- Evil Laugh: Tammy II gets good use of Megan Mullally's high-pitched cackle.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The show is about a small town's Parks and Recreation Department. The trope also applies toward the episode titles, which tend toward the very dry.
- Expy: At the beginning of the series, before Character Development set in, the main cast were clearly based on characters from The Office:
- Leslie is Michael Scott.
- Ann is Pam Beasly.
- Ron is Dwight Schrute.
- Mark is Jim Halpert.
- Andy is Roy Anderson.
- Tom is Kelly Kapoor race-wise and Ryan with some Andy personality-wise.
- April is Angela Martin (with some Ryan Howard mixed in).
- Face Doodling: Ann narrates the talking heads segment at the end of of "Telethon", and announces that Leslie has been asleep on her couch for 22 hours (after staying awake for a few days). She closes the episode by announcing that "I love her so much... but I think I'm gonna draw a mustache on her face."
- Fashion Shop Fashion Show: Cold opening to the episode "Sweetums", with Tom. Takes place in the office, but otherwise plays the trope straight.
- Tom and Donna do another one of these during Treat Yourself Day in "Pawnee Rangers".
- Fidelity Test: Ann's friends pull a few lame ones on Mark at Ann's Halloween party in Season 2.
- Five-Man Band:
- Flanderization: Dave's reappearance in Season 4 takes his unusual speech patterns up a notch. Louis CK makes it work.
- Foil: Chris, to Ron.
- Food Porn: Ron has posters of breakfasts on his walls. He also has a photo album of every steak he's ever eaten at his favorite steakhouse.
- Former Friend of Alpha Bitch: Lindsay used to be Leslie's best friend, but then got a nose job, moved to Eagleton, and became a real snob.
- Four Is Death: The fourth floor is generally creepy and houses all the terrible departments like divorce filings, probation, and the DMV.
Leslie: They put a popcorn machine up there just to brighten things up, but they used the wrong kind of oil and a bunch of people had to get their throats replaced.
- Fourth Date Marriage: Andy and April decide to get married after only dating for a month.
- Freudian Trio: While trying to figure out what to do about the Nick Newport crisis in "Bus Trip", Leslie, Ben, and Ann take on the respective roles of The Kirk, The Spock, and The McCoy.
- Friendly Enemies: Ron and Leslie have shades of this as well as Worthy Opponent. They are very close friends who always look out for each other despite their diametrically opposite politics. In one episode, both get talking heads about what they would do if they were in charge (Ron would try to close Parks and Recreation and Leslie would try to massively expand it), but know they would have a spirited debate with the other first.
- Jennifer Barkley, Bobby Newport's campaign manager, and Leslie. Outside of the race she is friendly to Leslie and even gives her advice on her own campaign. In the race she is completely ruthless and does whatever she can to win. She justifies this to Leslie as being her job to win the race and it's Nothing Personal.
- Friendship Moment: Many have happened in the series so far, but especially between Leslie and Ann and Leslie and Ron.
- Ron and April also share these, as their respective approaches to their work (fierce anti-government libertarianism and utter apathetic misanthropy) often lead one of them to handle things in a way the other appreciates.
- Frivolous Lawsuit: "My dog went to one of your parks and ate another dog's feces and I'm going to sue you for that!"
- Fun with Acronyms: "Citizen Knope" features Leslie forming a citizen action committee named the Parks Committee of Pawnee. Just like the drug, they are so powerful and fast-acting they should be illegal. Later, she tells Chris she's starting a new organization: Leslie's Sorry Division.
- Gag Penis: Li'l Sebastian has one.
- Also Jerry.
- Gargle Blaster: Swanson family mash liquor. Its only legal use is to strip varnish off speedboats. Other applications include burning warts off mules and dissolving snail shells.
- That makes Snakejuice, which got even Ron shitfaced, even more formidable.
- Geeky Turn On: Ben and Leslie engage in sexual role play as political figures.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: In "The Debate", porn star and city council candidate Brandi Maxxxx gives this statement:
Maxxxx: And just like Leslie, I know what it's like to be the only woman in a room full of men.
- Ghetto Name: Donna's brother is named Lovondrius.
- Gilded Cage: The Eagleton jail. The officers are extremely polite and they serve scones for breakfast.
- Gilligan Cut: Ron promises a horrified Leslie that he's just going to go outside and have a reasonable chat with his psychotic ex-wife Tammy II. Cut to them the next morning making out through the bars of their holding cells, her in a wedding dress and him in a kimono and cornrows.
- Girl-On-Girl Is Hot: In the episode where Leslie is set up with Tom by a dating service, the only detail about her life that interests him is her comment that she had kissed a girl in college. Also, in "The Fight", both Tom and Ben are clearly interested by The Douche's speculation about Leslie and Ann being lesbians.
- The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: April and her sister Natalie, who is exactly like her. Natalie's toast at April and Andy's wedding actually moves April to tears: "My sister is lame, but Andy is sort of cool. Guess I kind of see why he'd marry her. Also if anyone finds my grey hoodie I lost it, thanks."
- Go-To Alias:
- Andy used Bert Macklin, FBI agent, in a few scenarios. However, he eventually dies and is replaced by his brother, Kip Hackman. Or so the President...'s enemies think.
- In the same vein, April likes being Janet Snakehole. Originally just the daughter of the owner of the Snakehole Lounge (so she could score free drinks), the next time we see her she's a fabulously wealthy widow with a Mysterious Past.
- Gold Digger:
- Former beauty queen Jessica Wicks, married to elderly Sweetums candy owner founder Nick Newport Sr.
- Played with by Tom, whose interest in Jessica makes him a Gold Digger digger.
- In "Ron and Tammys", we find out that Tammy I is a literal gold-digger. She is after Ron's money, which he keeps in the form of buried gold.
- A Good Name for a Rock Band:
- Andy rattles off several his band formerly used in "Rock Show".
- In one episode, Ann compares Andy to a baby in a straitjacket and wonders if she should suggest that to him as a band name.
- In "Harvest Festival", Leslie compares Joan to an eagle-eyed tiger, prompting Andy to say "Eagle-Eyed Tiger, new band name, I called it!"
- Government Procedural: Although it shifts in how strongly government-focused it is from episode to episode. Typically, the episodes dealing with major arcs have more political/government stuff in them.
- Growing Up Sucks: April and Andy's new roommate Ben makes them buy important items for their house, but they pick out frivolous stuff instead. Andy realizes they need the stuff on Ben's list but April is hesitant to because she doesn't want to become adults because they're "boring". Andy assures her that they'll still do fun and childish stuff while still being grownups.
- Happily Married April and Andy now.
- For all the ribbing he gets from his co-workers, Jerry's the only one to have been happily married for any length of time- 28 years to his beloved Gayle.
- "Happy Ending" Massage: In "The Camel", Ron really likes getting his shoes shined and ends up having this reaction when Andy shines his shoes, enormously squicking out Andy and embarrassing Ron. The two agree to never speak of it again.
- Heroic Blue Screen of Death: When Ron and Leslie go to Indianapolis to receive an award, Ron only cares about visiting his favorite steakhouse. When he discovers the steakhouse has been shut down for health code violations, he does not take it well.
- Hiroshima as a Unit of Measure: After Ron gets shot in the head in "Hunting Trip", Tom asks the others how angry Ron is on a scale of 1 to Chris Brown.
- His Name Really Is "Barkeep": As a Freeze-Frame Bonus joke, the name badge of the bowling alley manager in "Bowling for Votes" indicates that his name is "Bob Manager".
- Holding the Floor: In "Canvassing", Leslie talks endlessly about this history of Pawnee to run out the clock at her ill-fated public forum. This degenerates into Leslie reading aloud from The Phantom Tollbooth.
- Horsemen of the Apocalypse: A local restaurant, JJ's Diner, serves a breakfast meal called the Four Horsemeals of the Eggporkalypse.
- Hot Scoop: Shauna Malwae-Tweep.
- Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Andy looms over April.
- Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: In "Citizen Knope", the perfumer Dennis Feinstein justifies his deplorable treatment of an employee by saying that the employee should be treated like you'd pay $25,000 to hunt someone in another country. He then makes an aside comment about how much he loved that vacation.
- Hypocritical Humor:
- Leslie has fun TPing a house on Halloween in Season 2, but doesn't condone it.
- In "94 Meetings":
Jessica Wicks: You were a stick in the mud when we judged that pageant and you're being a stick in the mud now.
Leslie: I am not a stick in the mud. I just want to stop a party from happening.
- Ron Swanson: "One thing I promised myself when I buried gold in my backyard was that I wouldn't be a hoarder or a miser about it."
- If You Ever Do Anything to Hurt Her...: Tom asks Chris if the latter is about to give him this speech regarding Ann in "Dave Returns".
- Indirect Kiss: Occurs between Ann and Tom in "Dave Returns". Jerry points it out, revealing to Ann that Tom blabbed about their date.
- Indy Ploy:
- Leslie successfully pulls one off in "Christmas Scandal". Leslie goes on a live talk show in order to clear her name from false accusations of an affair with a sleazy councilman. The talk show hosts surprises Leslie by having the councilman show up to repudiate her claim. Leslie quickly gets him to try to prove it by lying about seeing a mole on her butt. Leslie then drops her pants on live TV to prove there is no mole, thus clearing her name.
Joan Callamazzo: Councilman, do you have a comment about No-Molegate?
Councilman (caught off-guard): Well, I did not expect her to be willing to take off her pants on television.
- In "Leslie's House", Leslie, in order to keep her dinner party interesting for her date Justin, invites several recreation center teachers needing her favor to her house and entertain her guests through the various subjects they teach: belly dancing, fencing, cartooning, accounting software, etc.
- Leslie's closing statement in "The Debate".
- Informed Flaw: It's mentioned in numerous episodes that Pawnee is the fourth most obese city in the entire United States, but nearly all the actors and extras who have appeared on the show are nowhere near obese. Jerry and Donna appear to be overweight, but that's about it.
- In Season 2's "Park Safety", there's a multiple Brick Joke in the background when Leslie and her coworkers visit the park where Jerry was mugged: Two children are seen buying candy from a Sweetums stand, and the kids are notably porky.
- Intentionally Awkward Title: The library has a habit of fabricating late fees for books with mortifying titles as a means of social attack.
- Intimidating Revenue Service: Turns out Tammy I's career is ruining people's lives (read: working as an auditor for the IRS).
- I Resemble That Remark:
- In "Bowling for Votes", a guy in Leslie's focus group comments that she seems uptight, not the sort of person you'd go bowling with. She gets really uptight about trying to seem laid-back and good at bowling.
- In "Operation Ann", Ron states that he hates riddles before solving the current clue in a heartbeat and enthusiastically coming up with a game plan to find the rest.
- Ironic Nickname: Old Gus, the shoe-shiner before Andy took the job. It's fitting enough when he's a crotchety old man, but apparently they called him "Old Gus" back when he got the job in his 20s, too.
- I Was Quite a Looker: Marlene claims this in a deleted scene.
- Jerkass: A whole lot of Pawnee citizens.
- April to everyone except Andy, Ron, and sometimes Leslie.
- Jump Cut: The use of this sort of editing has become almost a trademark of many of the show's "talking head" interviews.
- Kavorka Woman: Donna, especially in the sister cities episode, she is chosen much more often than Leslie, April, and lovely Ann.
- Kent Brockman News: Pawnee Today.
- Kubrick Stare: April does this to camera as she and Andy TH's about their upcoming Halloween party.
- Latin Lover:
- April briefly dates a Venezuelan Eduardo at the beginning of Season 3.
- Tom invokes this with Lucy when he mentions that she's Cuban.
- Like Brother and Sister: Leslie and Ron known each other really well and have a tight emotional bond, but Word of God is that they are just very good friends and there will never be any romantic tension between them. Something similar is true of Leslie with Tom- when she's set up with him by a dating service, she balks at the idea, stating that he's like a little sister to her.
- Literal-Minded: In "Sweet Sixteen", Leslie puts a link to a JPEG on a form at a sign printing shop. The shopkeeper prints signs of the URL.
- Literal Metaphor:
- Mark notes at the beginning of the second season that he literally hit rock bottom- he fell into a pit and hit a rock.
- Tammy I turned out to be a literal gold digger, trying to get into Ron's good graces so she could find the gold he had buried throughout town.
- Long List:
- Andy lists all of Mouse Rat's previous names in "Rock Show".
- Pawnee has gone through so many town slogans that even April is impressed that Leslie manages to compile a complete list of them in "Time Capsule". The list takes up its own binder.
- Loony Fan: Kelly Larson (played by Poehler's old SNL castmate Will Forte) is a Twilight loon who chains himself to a pipe in Leslie's office in "Time Capsule". Except that he isn't actually a Twilight fan, he's just trying to reconnect with his daughter.
- Love Dodecahedron: Leslie was into Mark who dated Ann who is still a little a hung up on her ex Andy who has Will They or Won't They? with April. Tom is dating Lucy who seemed to eye Ron who is sleeping with Tom's ex-wife Wendy.
- Completely done away with in favor of focusing on just two person couples. Andy and April are married, Ben and Leslie are in love but forced to stay apart, and Chris and Ann have Unresolved Sexual Tension.
- A legitimate triangle seems to have presented itself in Season 4 with Chris/Ann/Tom.
- Love Triangle: In Season 2, Mark/Ann/Andy, Ann/Andy/April, Tom/Wendy/Ron. A bit subverted with April, her boyfriend, and his boyfriend, as April is only along because she feels above traditional relationships.
- The Maiden Name Debate: Parodied among Tammy II and her friends. When she and Ron get married again, one of the other librarians gives her a gag gift of a library card reading "Tammy Swanson-Swanson".
- Man Child: Bobby Newport, Leslie's opponent in the City Council election. At first he just seems entitled and somewhat dull, but by the end of the episode he's shown to be practically mentally retarded.
- Manipulative Bitch: Tammy I, to truly terrifying degrees. Her mere word is enough to make Leslie scramble to do anything she says, and a week of living with Ron turns him into a brightly dressed, personable, clean-shaven, pro-government dork.
- In a deleted scene, Ron describes Tammy II as (among other things) "the manipulative bitch by which all other manipulative bitches should be judged."
- The Matchmaker: April is the one who pairs up Tom and Ann, much to her regret as they annoy her later with their relationship problems. She also tries to set up Chris, still sad from breaking up with Jerry's daughter, with Andy's female studies professor. She ends up sleeping with Ron instead.
- May-December Romance:
- In "Rock Show", Leslie's mother set her up on a date with a 62-year-old man ("And this is my youngest. He's about your age.").
- Andy is 29, April just turned 21. This creeps Andy out at first.
- Tammy One was a candy striper when Ron was born... and helped deliver him.
- Meta Guy: Ben became one when he commented on Tom and Jean-Ralphio's office for Entertainment 720, which, while stylish, is very absurd.
Ben: Literally, there’s someone reading a magazine and someone applying nail polish. What is she doing? She’s just playing with an iPad. Tom told me that chair was $27,000, that chair that has a roof. There’s someone over there in a deep sleep, she’s probably being paid upwards of $100,000 a year. There’s just video of a boat. Look at that thing, what is that? What are you supposed to do with that thing?
Leslie: I'm like that light bulb. Weak, flickering. Barely giving off any light. Unable to make out with the light bulb I wanna make out with.
- Mistaken for Cheating: Ann worries Chris is cheating on her, so Leslie looks for and finds evidence of cheating in his house. It turns out though, that the items all have perfectly reasonable explanations. Also, Chris couldn't have cheated on her anyway, as he had dumped her a week earlier.
- Mistaken for Gay : Leslie and Ann, to Ann's discomfort.
- In Episode 5 where Leslie dresses up in a suit and ties her hair back, looking like a very butch lesbian and takes Ann as her date. A former councilman comes up to them and says that he thinks what they are doing is so brave. Ann even says that she is Leslie's trophy wife.
- The entire episode of "The Practice Date".
- In Episode 12, the news anchors call Leslie and Ann lesbians for being close to each other in a photograph and later on the news anchor says to Leslie "It's nice to see you brought your girlfriend for support."
- The Douche comments to Crazy Ira about how long Ann and Leslie were in the bathroom during "The Fight".
- The Mister and the Ex: It's more passive-aggressive than anything, but it comes up in "Dave Returns".
- Mockumentary: The show is presented in documentary format, exactly as The Office. Perhaps learning from that long-running show, Parks and Recreation makes fewer direct references to the idea that they're actually being filmed for a documentary. We're just supposed to accept the idea that the events are unfolding in front of cameras that the characters can see and talk to.
- Model United Nations: A high school model UN event is featured in "The Treaty".
- Moment Killer: Ethel during Leslie and Ben's spectacular kiss at the end of "The Trial of Leslie Knope".
- Museum of Boredom: A museum of snowglobes.
- My Name Is Not Durwood:
- Ron calls Ann "Jenny" after she finally manages to engage both him and April in small talk by describing a gross medical story. Ron and April's talking head:
Ron: Ann was getting a little chummy. When people get too chummy with me I like to call them by the wrong name to let them know I don't really care about them.
April: That's a genius move.
Ron: Thank you.
April: You're welcome....Lester.
(Ron smiles at the camera like a proud father)
- Turns out that Jerry's name is actually Gary. The old Parks director accidentally called him "Jerry" on his first day and he's never had the backbone to correct anyone.
- Never Live It Down: In-universe. Ben bankrupted his town as an 18 year old mayor with his Icetown project. Random passers-by that recognize him are quick to bring it up.
- Nice Hat: Tom borrows Ron's coonskin hat and hangs out in the hallway, hoping that it will be a conversation starter with women. It fails, even after he resorts to shouting, "I'm wearing a crazy hat! I'm interesting!" at them as they pass. The moment Ron puts it on, he gets complimented.
- Nipple-and-Dimed: The Double Standard of this trope even existing is discussed in "Jerry's Painting", where a topless female centaur painting is considered offensive, so Leslie has it repainted as a topless male and gloats that no one would find it offensive now.
- No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Tom is on the receiving end of one from Tammy II at the end of "Ron & Tammy: Part Two".
- No-Tell Motel: Ron and Tammy II rush off to one in "Ron and Tammy".
- No Accounting for Taste: Ann is a nurse, and therefore predisposed toward wanting to take care of people. Andy is a helpless idiot bordering on Too Dumb to Live. As soon as he's back in the hospital and their old dynamic is re-established, she immediately becomes attracted to him again.
- No Bisexuals: April claims to have a "gay boyfriend", Derek, who has his own boyfriend, showing her pronounced sense of ironic detachment. She claims that he's straight for her, but he only makes out with her when he's drunk. In one episode, the gay guys give her a rather platonic peck on the cheek in greeting, and she later breaks up with them in an apparent desire to have a real relationship. The trope is averted in another episode when Leslie gets the numbers of two bisexual guys.
- No Except Yes:
- In "The Trial of Leslie Knope", Leslie tells Ron to silence Chris's decisive witness, then corrects herself--"Don't silence him, just make sure he can't talk." To be fair, Ron probably took the initial "silence him" as a Deadly Euphemism.
- "Citizen Knope":
Leslie: Oh, I'm not gonna do my job. I'm just gonna oversee the department, check in on the parks, and attend any meetings that are required of the Deputy Director.
- No Indoor Voice:
- Non Sequitur Distraction: In one episode, the gang is auditioning mural ideas. Jerry starts to give a touching speech about how his idea was influenced by his mother, but he accidentally calls the mural a "murinal". Seeing as how he's the Butt Monkey, nobody lets him live it down.
- Noodle Incident: "That was the second most awkward way someone has grabbed my breast."
- No Party Given: The main characters all seem to be in non-partisan career civil service positions, so the lack of explicit party identification isn't surprising. Leslie Knope's party affiliation is never given, though she comes across strongly as a Democrat. Judging by the portraits in her office, she admires all headstrong female politicians regardless of their politics. The parties of local politicians are also never given, though Indiana politicians are required be law to divulge the information. The trope is averted by Ron, who is emphatically a Libertarian.
- Not-So-Innocent Whistle: In "Bowling for Votes", Milicent shows up to break up with Chris and Andy starts whistling the moment he sees her.
- Not Hyperbole: In one episode, the owner of J.J.'s refers to Leslie as being his best customer. She initially thinks he's flattering her, but then he notes she is literally his best customer, spending over $1000 on waffles each year.
- Number Two: Leslie to Ron.
- Obstructive Bureaucrat: Inverted with Leslie, who tries to help everyone as much as she can. Her foil is Ron, who doesn't believe that government should do anything, and tries to make it so. He hires April specifically so she can block any attempts to get him to do something. Ben is also forced into this role due to his job slashing budgets.
- Oh Crap:
- At the end of Season 3, Ron's first wife, Tammy I, shows up. The news causes the Tammy II to shout "Oh, shit!" and flee in terror. Also an example of The Worf Effect, as it's demonstrated how bad Tammy I is by showing that even Tammy II is scared of her.
- In "Operation Ann", Leslie has sent Ben on a scavenger hunt for clues about their date. Upon the discovery that there's a third clue, Ron asks, "Just how many clues are there?" Ben shoots a wide-eyed Aside Glance.
- One-Hour Work Week: Despite being a time intensive job in reality, Ann's nursing profession is this on the show, bordering on The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything, as she hangs out in the Parks and Recreation department just as frequently as the people who actually work there/are supposed to work there. The cast discussed this in an interview, with Rashida Jones commenting that Ann doesn't work at all, and Aziz Ansari joking that there would be an episode revealing that Ann wasn't actually a nurse and had just picked up a pair of scrubs.
- One of Us: In-universe. Ben has been revealed to have a strong interest in Star Trek and Game of Thrones. He also owns a Batman costume.
- One Steve Limit: Averted. Ron has two ex-wives named Tammy. We see Tammy II in a couple episodes, and Tammy I shows up as The Ghost at the end of "Lil' Sebastian". Ron's mother is named 'Tamara', though she goes by 'Tammy'.
- This show likes averting this trope; there have been at least two Bens and two Chrises.
- Operation Blank: In "Ron and Tammys", Leslie goes through a variety of code names for her plans to save Ron from Tammy I, "Operation: Rescue Ron", "Operation: Golden Dove", "Operation: Soaring Falcon".
- Operation: Jealousy: April tries to pull this on Andy a few times. When Ann starts drunkenly flirting with him, April counters by flirting with Jean-Ralphio. When Ann kisses Andy, she shacks up with a new Venezuelan boyfriend, Eduardo. Both attempts backfire on her.
- Opposites Attract: Who'd have thought that a liberal feminist vegetarian community college professor would be hot for the libertarian man's-man carnivore Ron Swanson?
- Overly Narrow Superlative:
- In a first season episode, Tom asks April if she thinks he's one of the top five best-looking guys in Pawnee.
- Leslie suggests that she and Ron see Indiana's second-largest rocking chair on the way to Indianapolis in "Indianapolis".
- Parental Substitute:
- Even though April has two very loving, affectionate parents, she feels a kinship to Ron and vice versa because of a shared stoicism and aversion to interacting socially with other people. They even have what is basically a father-daughter dance at her wedding. She also admires Ron's first wife Tammy One, a stern woman who intimidates everyone around her.
April: She's the cold, distant mother I never had. I love her.
- Ron and Andy also have a bit of a father-son relationship.
- Pass the Popcorn: Ron takes great glee in watching the government stall to the extent of uselessness and loves to "grab a few donuts and enjoy the show."
- Perfectly Cromulent Word: When Leslie is informed of her potential to be elected mayor in the third season finale, she gets so excited that she blurts out "Absotutely!"
- Person as Verb: In "Ron & Tammy: Part Two", Leslie refers to (what she perceives as) an embarrassing mistake by Ben as "being a Jerry".
- Pet the Dog : April loves animals. She thinks they should be rewarded for not being people.
- Pinch Me:
Chris: April! You are too valuable to just be Ron's assistant, so from now on, you are a multitasking executive aide--assisting the entire office.
April: Is this a nightmare? (smacks herself in the forehead with her pen) April, wake up. (slaps herself on the cheek)
- Pitbull Dates Puppy: April and Andy.
- Pop Cultural Osmosis Failure: Tom calls Dan Officer John McClane, a reference the latter doesn't get.
- Portmanteau Couple Name: When discussing the relationship between Mark Brendanawicz and Ann Perkins, Tom chooses to go with the name "Ann-danawicz", rather than the alternative: "Merkins". The latter is a clever example of Getting Crap Past the Radar.
- Precision F-Strike:
- When April is hospitalized with the flu, she spends an entire day abusing Ann in revenge for kissing Andy. Ann, being a good nurse, endures April's behavior ... until: "3, 2, 1 ... my shift is over. What the fuck is wrong with you?!"
- Fuck you, Ann! from Leslie Knope, of all people, in "Soulmates," when Ann sticks her with a needle for a blood test.
- Stricken with a severe hernia, Ron enlists April to get him into the hospital. When she asks him if he's ready to go, he makes this statement, sitting motionless in his office chair, in absolute pain: "I was born ready. I'm Ron fucking Swanson."
- Punny Name: Ron's last name was going to be "Knope" to go with his obstructive personality. After Amy Poehler was cast it was made Leslie's last name as an ironic counterpoint to her positive personality.
- Put on a Bus:
- Mark left the show at the end of the second season to pursue a private sector job, and hasn't returned since.
- Sewage Joe was put on a bus after Ben fired him for texting pictures of his penis. The Bus Came Back (appropriately) in "Bus Tour" where he turns out to be the mysterious assailant who through a pie that almost his Leslie- he was aiming at Ben to get revenge, and succeeds at the end of the episode.
- Putting the Band Back Together: In the opening of the Season 3 premiere, the Parks and Rec department reopens after being closed down for the summer and Leslie goes to each of her old co-workers who either have new jobs or relaxing and gets them back to work with her.
- Quietly Performing Sister Show: The show's similarities to The Office are no coincidence; it shares the same executive producers and some writers. While The Office gets much more attention and higher ratings, Parks has quietly built up a loyal following and has become a critical darling, with most critics considering it equal to, and in some cases better than, The Office.
- Quirky Town: Pawnee.
- The Quisling: The town has changed its slogan several times. These include slogans that welcome German, Vietnamese, and Taliban soldiers.
- A Real Man Is a Killer: Leslie tries to prove she's one of the guys by joining Ron's annual bird hunting trip in "Hunting Trip".
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Chris and Ben in the beginning.
- Retool: The second season deemphasizes the pit storyline and shifts the show into a more episodic format. See Aborted Arc above.
- Ripped from the Headlines:
- "Born Raised" has the citizens of Pawnee overly concerned with whether Leslie was actually born in Pawnee and demanding her birth certificate, aping the whole Birther farce.
- "End of the World" reveals that every few years since the '70s, a local cult claims that the end of the world is coming, likely a reference to the antics of Harold Camping and Family Radio. However, the group in Pawnee are Lovecraftian rather than Christian.
- Robot Buddy: Tom's DJ Roomba in "Sweetums".
- Rogue Juror: Leslie in "Beauty Pageant".
- Romance-Inducing Smudge: A mild variation is invoked between Leslie and Ben after the latter has dust thrown in his face at a fake Native American curse-lifting ritual.
- Running Gag:
- Tom proclaiming, "This is my wife, Wendy. She's a surgeon, and she's super-hot!"
- Leslie saying, "Oh Ann..." before lavishing praises on her, though often it's unintentionally condescending.
- Leslie being ambushed on camera by Joan Callamazzo.
- Jerry being a loser at everything.
- Duke Silver.
- "Hey, weren't you the 18-year-old mayor who bankrupted that town?"
- People ignoring that Ann doesn't work at the Parks and Recreation Department.
- "My name is Bert Macklin, and I'm with the F.B.I."
- It seems there is not a single chapter in Pawnee history that isn't completely horrifying.
- The hilariously graphic murals depicting historical atrocities.
- Places in Pawnee being overrun by raccoons and the courtyard overrun with pigeons.
- Leslie's hypothetical newspaper headlines are always extremely long and descriptive.
- April's creepy friend Orin who just stares at everyone.
- Ben's love of calzones and everyone else's hatred for them.
- Ben inability to understand everyone else's love for Lil' Sebastian.
- Leslie's odd understandings of what Ann's work as a nurse involves.
- Tom buying clothing/accessories sized for a woman. Or a child. Or a pet.
- Sand in My Eyes: Andy is allergic to jerks.
- Sassy Black Woman: Donna.
- Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl: Gender Flipped with Andy and April.
- Scandalgate: A Sleazy Politician invented a sex scandal with Leslie in order to divert attention from the far more embarrassing sex scandal which he was actually involved in. Eventually, Leslie challenges him to provide proof of their affair on TV and he claims she has a mole in her buttocks. After a very fed-up Leslie shows her butt to the reporter, said reporter terms it "no mole-gate."
- Scary Librarian: The entire Pawnee Library department. Examples:
- Ron's ex-wife Tammy II, deputy director of the Library department, who uses her sexual hold over Ron to its full extent to get whatever she wants.
- Marci in the episode "Sweetums" who loudly announces that Leslie has a late fee on a book titled "Mysteries of the Female Orgasm" to everyone in the library.
- Scavenger Hunt: Leslie sets one up for Ben in "Operation Ann".
- Scenery Porn:
- In "End of the World", Andy and April run off on a road trip to the Grand Canyon. April struggles to find some reason to be annoyed by the staggering vista, but comes up empty.
- "Sweet Sixteen" features the department going to Donna's lake cabin. The view is beautiful.
- Scout Out: "Pawnee Rangers".
- Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Chris and Ron.
- Sequel Episode: "Ron & Tammy: Part Two".
- Sexy Secretary: The brunette receptionist at Tom and Jean-Ralphio's company e720. She's not even sure she's the receptionist there but she's hot. Ben asks her how much she's getting paid and she says: "A hundred thousand dollars a year with full medical!"
- Ship Tease: April/Andy, Chris/Ann, and Leslie/Ben are all teased and taken to completion. Chris and Ann break up, but as of Season 4 "Operation Ann", it seems that Chris has begun to think about Ann again despite Ann and Tom apparently hitting it off.
- Shoe Shine, Mister?: Andy gets the job of shoeshine boy at Pawnee City Hall after a season and a half of being essentially homeless and unemployed.
- Ann and Andy's names. If it wasn't enough that they were introduced as a couple, Ann actually dresses up like Raggedy Ann for Halloween.
- Tom's pitch for the cover photo in "Summer Catalog" is a big Shout-Out to Mad Men, with Tom in the role of Don Draper. Tom fails; the advertising techniques needed to sell things are rather different from what's needed for a parks department.
- Ron throwing a chair across the court at the Basketball game in "Go Big Or Go Home" references the incident where Bob Knight did the same thing at a 1985 game against Purdue. Ron's team even had the same colors (red and white) as Knight's Indiana Hoosiers. Possibly an in-universe shout-out, as Ron in Season 1 had a poster of Bobby Knight up in his office.
- Ben uses a Bill Watterson quote against Margaret in "The Bubble".
- Leslie tries to recruit Tammy II in the fight against Tammy I by comparing I to Godzilla, and II to Mothra.
- After Leslie discovers she was born in hated Eagleton: "I wonder who else was born in Eagleton? Voldemort, probably!"
- When Ben's upset, Donna asks him if Game of Thrones was canceled. He launches into a rant about why that wouldn't make any sense.
- Tom wearing Ryan Gosling's satin scorpion jacket from Drive in "Bowling for Votes".
- In the Harvest Festival episode, Tom is watching Li'l Sebastian for Jerry and lets him escape. Ron has two or three lines in which he yells at Tom and Jerry, including one where he says, 'Tom and Jerry, just get along!'
- When Bradley Whitford guest-starred as Councilman Pillner, he had a framed "Pillner for Pawnee" napkin in his office that was identical to the "Bartlet for America" napkin from another show in which Whitford appeared.
- Leslie describes Ann's brief man-eater phase as "Ann Vs. Wild".
- Shrine to Self: Pawnee Today host Joan Callamazzo's house is full of paintings of herself, some of them nude.
- Sick Episode: "Flu Season" when April, Chris and Leslie get the flu and are admitted in the hospital. Leslie sneaks out to speak at an important town meeting even while feverish and delirious.
- Sitcom Arch Nemesis: There is an extremely bitter rivalry between the parks department and the library department, and Pawnee and neighboring (and much richer) town Eagleton.
- Sitcom Character Archetypes: Most of the cast fits into at least one of them. Oddly, Leslie isn't really a clear example of any single one of these, but is probably closest to a (paradoxical) combination of The Square and The Goofball.
- The Square- Ann.
- The Wisecracker- Tom, April (in a good mood).
- The Bully- Tom (when Jerry's involved), April.
- The Dork- Ben.
- The Goofball- Andy, Chris.
- The Sage- Ron.
- The Bigmouth- Tom, Jean-Ralphio.
- Sleazy Politician: Councilman Bill Dexhart.
- Sleep Cute: Leslie and Jerry in "Sweet Sixteen".
- Small Town Rivalry: Pawnee vs. Eagleton.
- The Snark Knight: April's sister Natalie.
- Snow Means Love: "The Trial of Leslie Knope".
- So Beautiful It's a Curse: Arguably applies to Ann, who is so pretty that she's never been dumped. After Chris breaks up with her, she pretty much goes off the deep end. Specifically invoked in "Hunting Trip":
Leslie: Oh, Ann. I always forget that because you're so pretty, you're not used to rejection.
- Somebody Doesn't Love Raymond:
- This is shown as a character trait of Ann's (see So Beautiful It's a Curse above), and it plays out in her efforts to win the friendship of Ron and April, who don't like her.
- In "Bowling for Votes", Leslie becomes obsessed with winning the friendship and vote of one focus group participant who stated that he didn't like her.
- Spin-Off: When the show was announced it was merely titled "Untitled Office Spin Off" and then "Untitled Greg Daniels Project". After it was announced that Rashida Jones would be in the cast, some thought that the then-untitled project would involve Karen Filippelli, her character from The Office. Later on, it was confirmed that the show has no relationship with The Office, but it's still entirely possible that the shows take place in the same fictional universe. Of course, the fact that Ann Perkins and Karen Filippelli look exactly alike would have to be resolved somehow.
- Spit Take:
- April and Andy induce them in each other to kill time in "Hunting Trip".
- Ron does this when Wendy suggests he move to Canada with her.
- Stalker Shrine: Early in the second season, Andy set up one of these to Ann in his shoe shine station.
- Stealth Pun: The show has never explicitly made a comment on a pairing of Ben and Jerry (as in the ice cream company) or Tom and Jerry, although it does get close to the latter when it's commented that the two should try to get along.
- Strange Minds Think Alike:
- In "The Stakeout", Leslie and Andy both mistake marijuana plants for the stems and leaves of carrots. Probably because they are carrots.
- In this web-exclusive "announcement" video by the cast, Amy Poehler, Nick Offerman, and Aziz Ansari are all independently under the belief that Seinfeld was broadcast in IMAX theaters.
- In the episode where Tammy I shows up, she tells April to stop slouching because it doesn't do her breasts any favors, and April complies. Shortly afterward, Andy walks in and compliments April on her breasts.
- In "Operation Ann", both Ron and Andy guess that the answer to a clue about what Ben and Leslie did on a date is "fuck". Or rather, "fucks," because the cryptex requires a five letter word.
- Strawman News Media: Pawnee Today checks off a lot of the boxes for this, being vapid and with ridiculous attempts at "balance" that play out as bias against Leslie.
- Subverted Rhyme Every Occasion: Jean-Ralphio's raps about the various Parks Department employees sort of play with this trope--instead of out-and-out subverting the rhyme, he just goes one word too far.
Jean-Ralphio: "R to the O to the N-N-N
"I said, Swanson's got swagger the size of Big Ben... clock."
Leslie: I'm gonna go see a man about some porcelain. You know what I mean? I'm not buying cocaine, I'm going to the bathroom. Whiz palace, as I like to call it, and I'm not calling Ann. So. (leaves unceremoniously)
- Take That:
- Talk Show: Pawnee Today and Ya Heard? With Perd.
- Tastes Like Feet: Andy thinks April's vegetarian muffins taste like rug. Ben comments in a later episode that a shake made with everything stored in Chris's herb belt actually tastes like a belt.
- Tear Jerker:
- Chris cries at Li'l Sebastian's funeral, mostly because he's overreacting about his own mortality.
- Ron Swanson has only ever cried twice: at 7 years old, when a bus ran into him, and when he found out that Li'l Sebastian had died.
- Teens Are Monsters: In a deleted scene:
Leslie: Teenagers are the scourge of public parks. They're like raccoons, only worse, 'cause they smoke and backtalk.
- Thanks for the Mammary: In "Camping", the city manager has a (non-fatal) heart attack, and he grabs Leslie's breast on the way down.
- That Came Out Wrong:
- Ann's talking heads segment in "Pawnee Rangers":
- Leslie in "Smallest Park":
"The current title [for world's smallest park] is held by Martin Luther King, Jr. Park in Terryville. Well, you know what? Terryville sucks old car tires and so does Martin Luth... oh wait. No. No, he does not suck old car tires. He was one of the greatest men in history. Sorry. Sometimes I get competitive."
- Leslie in "The Comeback Kid":
It's true. I no longer have highly trained, professional campaign managers. So what? Are most murders committed by highly trained, professional assassins? No, they're committed by friends and coworkers!... That analogy was way better in my head.
- There Are Two Kinds of People in the World: See The Vamp below.
- They Just Don't Get It: In "Harvest Festival", Ben fails to see what's so great about Li'l Sebastian, the tiny horse that everyone in Pawnee loves so much. Inverted, due to the fact that the audience probably fails to see it as well.
- Too Dumb to Live: Pawnee has some pretty dumb citizens, and they will thrust the blame for it on the local government. A woman who appears in "The Bubble" brewed tea with sprinkler water from a park knowing full well that the water was unsanitary and actually comes to the Parks Department to complain about it.
- Too Much Information:
- When Chris starts dating Jerry's daughter, Chris insists on giving him full disclosure. This includes telling him that she spent the night. Jerry's reaction is to freezes in horror.
- In "Campaign Shake-Up", Leslie reveals that Joe Biden is on her "celebrity sex list". You can guess Ben's reaction.
- Whenever Ron gets back together with Tammy II, he will not shut up about their sex life.
- Trademark Favorite Food:
- Leslie loves waffles from J.J.'s, especially with whipped cream, as well as anything sweet in general.
- Ron loves meat in general and also shares Leslie's love of breakfast food (geared toward breakfast meats in his case)
- Ben really loves calzones. Initially this seemed like a one-off joke, as the people of Pawnee have an irrational hatred of them, and Ben stating that he likes them marks him as a Fish Out of Water. However, in a later episode, Ben has a calzone when he and Leslie order Italian, and in another episode, a depressed Ben becomes obsessed with learning to make calzones and opening up a fast food calzone restaurant.
- Trash of the Titans: When Ben comes into move in with April and Andy he is appalled by how filled with trash their house is. He teaches them how to clean up.
- True Art Is Angsty: Andy thinks the opposite is true.
Andy: 'Cause your music is sad, and depressing, and weird, and art...is supposed to happy, and fun, and everyone knows that.
- True Art Is Incomprehensible: April's submission for the "mural" includes a flat screen TV looping film of knee surgery and a fat man trapped in a giant mouse wheel. When told it will make someone vomit, she considers it a compliment.
- Tyrant Takes the Helm: April sums up Chris' changes:
April: So Jerry is like basically my boss now, which I'm never going to work for him. Ron's trapped in this weird desk prison and I now work at this traveling IV station.
- Ugly Guys Hot Daughter: Jerry's not really ugly perse but since he's the office Butt Monkey it's surprising to even the always positive Chris that his grown daughter Millicent should be quite attractive. It is revealed that she looks like her mother, which would imply that Jerry is one half of an Ugly Guy, Hot Wife.
- In a later episode Tom admits that all three of Jerry's daughters are beautiful.
- Unaccustomed as I Am to Public Speaking: Hilariously averted in "Go Big or Go Home".
Ron: "I am not usually one for speeches -- so goodbye."
- Unnecessary Combat Roll: Andy pulls one over a small table when he and April decide to return all the tip money they hustled from the bar in "Indianapolis".
- Unsuspectingly Soused: In "The Fight", Tom pushes a proprietary coffee liqueur called Snakejuice on everyone and, because of the caffeine, everyone gets much, much drunker than they intend to.
- Upper Class Twit:
- Bobby Newport is this trope incarnate.
- Being about as serious about Leslie's fundraiser dinner as anything else, April and Andy affect posh New England accents in front of Leslie's campaign contributors in "The Debate".
- Values Dissonance: Present in-story with the office murals, which proudly depict various sordid events in the town's history that are shocking by today's standards. Leslie shows them off with some embarrassment.
- "She was one of the first feminist leaders in Pawnee! She was the first to dare wearing pants on a Sunday, she spent 30 years in prison for that."
- "In 1867, the progressive Reverend Turnbill officiated a wedding between a white woman and a Wamapoke Indian chief. The secret ceremony was beautiful and romantic. But then word got out and the reception was a bloodbath. Fortunately, there were two survivors. Unfortunately, they were both horses.
- "This is a map of all the atrocities the Pawnee settlers inflicted upon the Wamapoke Indians. The atrocities are in blue."
- The Vamp: Tammy II, Ron's ex-wife and deputy director of the rival Library Dept.
Tammy: Les, there are two kinds of women in the world. There are women who work hard and stress out about doing the right thing, and then there are women who are cool.
- Verbal Tic: Chris and his use of Literally.
- Video Wills: Ron leaves something along these lines to be shown to himself in the event he wound up yet again in Tammy Two's claws.
- Webisode: A short series of them to show the details of April and Andy's trip to the Grand Canyon in "End of the World".
- Wedding Day: In "Fancy Dinner", April and Andy invite family and friends to their house for a dinner party and surprise them by having their wedding ceremony.
- Wham! Episode: Both "Kaboom" and "The Master Plan" are big turning points for the show.
- What Does She See in Him?: Ann and Andy.
- Moot in the late second season on now that Andy has matured.
- Also several episodes have implied that not only did Ann enjoy his sense of humor at first but that part of why Andy is such a jerk to her is that she accidentally encourages it. Case in point: Andy injures himself learning self defense and Ann immediately starts coddling him, even offering to make him pancakes. April and the others meanwhile get him to shake it off and he's back to normal and more eager to learn then ever.
- What Do You Mean It's Not Awesome?: The entire department (save outsider Ben) goes totally ape over Li'l Sebastian, a miniature horse who is famous for... being a miniature horse back in the '80s. Even Ron Fucking Swanson turns into a giddy child around him, and the hostile Pawnee Today host is nearly turned around by Li'l Sebastian's presence. Ben just doesn't get it.
- What Do You Mean It's Not Didactic?: This mindset is derided by Ron, who says that in art, "anything means anything".
- What Do You Mean It's Not Heinous?:
- During an interview for an article about the prospective park, Andy reveals that he was drunk when he fell into the pit, and Ann calls him out on it, which prompts him to call her out on... using birth control. Ann is mortified that he had the audacity to bring this up in front of a reporter clutching a tape recorder, and her birth control use is mentioned in the resulting article.
- "The fact that Yahtzee is not in the rec center is a tragedy on par with human trafficking. ...slight exaggeration."
- Tom's complaints about Ann include things like her not caring about bed sheet thread-count and and still using an iPad 1.
- What's He Got That I Ain't Got?: When Ann leaves Andy and starts dating Mark, Andy asks her this. Keep in mind that Andy was jobless and homeless at the time. Ann's reply was a devastatingly accurate "everything".
- What the Hell, Hero?: When a little girl comes to the Park department looking for an interviewee for her report on why government matters, Ron takes the chance to indoctrinate her on libertarian values. This lecture includes him eating her lunch (a metaphor on taxes) and giving her a Claymore landmine to protect her property. Her mother shows up the next day to chew him out on it.
- Where Everybody Knows Your Flame: In "Pawnee Zoo", Leslie accidentally weds two male penguins in a playful ceremony and is honored with a night of drinking and dancing at a popular Pawnee gay bar: "The Bulge".
- Wife Husbandry: Gender inverted with Rom and Tammy I, who both delivered him and was his school teacher as a child.
- Will They or Won't They?:
- "The Master Plan" started this with April and Andy. After a somewhat rocky relationship, they suddenly get married.
- Leslie and Ben for a while until Ben kisses her at the end of "The Road Trip".
- Justified with Leslie and Ben: Both wanted to do it earlier, but Chris could fire them for having a relationship.
- Women Are Wiser: Played with. The women are more sensible than the men for the most part but Mark and Ben are much more sensible than Leslie and April.
- A Worldwide Punomenon: In "Soulmates", Leslie uses a presumably Indiana-specific online dating service called Hoosier Match.
- Worst News Judgment Ever:
- The headline of the Pawnee Journal in "The Reporter" is "Spring arrives!"
- A 24-hour news cycle and lack of any actual news are the main reasons for the blowing up of Leslie's nonexistent sex scandal in "Christmas Scandal". As she explains the situation in a talking head segment, Leslie refers to the Pawnee media reporting for an entire year on a local child going to the Olympics--not competing, just going to watch the Olympics.
- Wretched Hive: The fourth floor of Pawnee City Hall as seen in the episodes "Tom's Divorce" and "The Bubble".
Tom: "I hate the 4th floor! Last time I was up there I saw someone buy crystal meth from a vending machine! It's a bad place!"
- The fourth floor has a room where they keep the knives confiscated from people who go to the fourth floor to stab someone.
- Xtreme Kool Letterz: Tom remarks that he likes to call air conditioners "Cool Blasterz" (he specifies the use of a z).
- Yiddish as a Second Language:
Ron: David Meyers, the Jewish guy who works at City Hall, once told me something. A schlemiel is the guy who spills soup at a fancy party. A schlemazel is the guy he spills it on. [smiling] Jerry is both the schlemiel and schlemazel of our office.
- You Have to Have Jews: Dennis Feinstein was born Dante Fiero, but changed his name because Dennis Feinstein is (as Tom puts it) "way more exotic in Pawnee."