Nick Offerman and Amy Poehler (center) in “Parks and Recreation.” The show, along with “Friends” and “The Office” and others, is outperforming several big-money programs years after it went off air. (Getty Images)
by Rob Picheta for CNN Digital as published April 25 2020 by CTV News
“We were never a hit — it’s one of the huge misconceptions about the show,” he tells CNN, reflecting on his seven years playing curmudgeonly local government director Ron Swanson on the NBC comedy “Parks and Recreation.”
“We were a critical darling … but for some reason we didn’t catch on with the fast food crowd,” Offerman adds of the show, which is returning next week for a one-off special to benefit Covid-19 relief efforts. “We remained a Reuben sandwich. We never crossed over and became a McDonald cheeseburger.”
But years after it came off the air, the show’s transition to Big Mac is complete. “Across history, we know a great many artists in every field who died penniless and uncelebrated, and then later on people said, ‘Oh, this Beethoven stuff is not half bad,'” Offerman muses. “It’s just wonderful that the advent of streaming services have allowed our show, which was more of a culty sensation, to reach a much wider audience.”
It’s hardly a boastful statement. Old TV has never been more fashionable, and “Parks and Rec” is one of a small clutch of shows from the 2000s and early 2010s to achieve levels of success unthinkable during their original runs.
Despite a wealth of new, expensive original programming to compete with, it was the ninth most-watched show on Netflix at the end of 2019, according to an image shared by media strategist Scott Lazerson at October’s Wall Street Journal Tech Live conference. (Netflix are notoriously guarded about revealing their own viewing figures).
Topping the list was one if its contemporaries, “The Office,” which also came from the minds of creators Michael Schur and Greg Daniels. “Friends” was in second place, a full 15 years after its final episode aired, and other mature programs like “Grey’s Anatomy” and “NCIS” were in the top five.
Many of those shows are in the process of being pried away by new upstart streaming services; “The Office,” which was streamed for about 52 billion minutes in 2018 according to Nielsen data referenced by NBC in a news release, will move to that network’s own service next year — while the rights to “Friends” and an accompanying reunion special are the crown jewel of HBO Max, which launches next month.
Meanwhile, there are popular podcasts dedicated to “The Office” and “Scrubs,” hosted by their stars, while other cast members from the group of shows — like Chris Pratt and John Krasinski — have gone on to become stalwarts of the Hollywood summer blockbuster cycle.
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