The Best Worst Antagonists of Parks and RecreationParks and Rec, hands down one of the greatest sit-coms of our time (along with 30 Rock and Arrested Development) has ended recently. This has inspired a binge viewing of the entire season, luckily all available streaming on Netflix. There are a lot of possible lists to develop from the show, but I’ve decided to start by highlighting an element the show regularly nailed: Villains. Love them, hate them, these are the characters that made the lives of Leslie Knope, Ron Swanson, and the rest of the Parks Department more difficult.
From least villainous to most, here are the Best Worst Antagonists of Parks and Recreation:
Bobby Newport, played by the charismatic Paul Rudd, is less of an antagonist and more of an obstacle, particularly for Leslie Knope in her goal to become a city councilwoman. Blessed with great affluence and no great intellect, the bumbling yet likeable Bobby Newport is a clear parody of certain political figures in the last decade. His frustration that Leslie doesn’t just quit and ‘give’ him the election eventually gives way to a friendly admiration for her, and eventual relief at his own loss .
Worst moment: I want it to be when he holds the town hostage, demanding to be elected or Sweetums will leave town, but that’s mostly his father talking. Really it’s when he steals Leslie’s story about running track to please a parent. Still, it’s probably more stupidity than malice. In the end, Bobby is pretty decent.
9. John Ralphio and Mona-Lisa Saperstein
“She’s my sister, my twin-sister from the same mister. Seriously, thank you so much for hiring Mona-Lisa, it means so much to me, even though honestly she is the woooooorrrst, she is the worst person in the entire world, huge skank, terrible, but thank you, it means a lot” – John Ralphio
John Ralphio is Tom Haverford’s closest friend and oft-business partner, and Mona-Lisa is his occasional girlfriend, but both of them tend to cause him nothing but grief in the long run. While neither are outright antagonists, their selfish and spoiled attitudes often end up costing Tom financially. Rarely do either of them care much about what Tom suffers.
Worst Moment: Convincing their father (played by Henry Winkler) to destroy Tom’s business by lying to him about their treatment at Tom’s hands. While they eventually come clean, it’s too late, and Tom is forced to sell Rent a Swag to him.
Sewage Joe, as he calls himself, is just disgusting, and it’s not the fact that he works in sewage. It’s more the fact that he sexually harrassess every woman he comes across, which includes sending photos of his penis to all female employees of city hall. He has zero redeeming qualities, but he also doesn’t provide much of a threat to any of characters, keeping him low on the list.
Worst Moment: Hard to pick, they’re he has a lot of truly disgusting ones, but probably the aforementioned dick-pics.
Eagleton, as a whole, is a major antagonist for the Parks Department of Pawnee. The healthy, wealthy, and elite population despises and derides the citizens of Pawnee. Numerous characters emerge to represent the town, such as Linsday Carlile Shay, an old friend of Leslie played by Parker Posey, and Ingrid de Forest, played by Kristen Bell–completely charming actresses both playing horrid individuals. Eventually the town’s spendthrift ways gets the better of it, and Eagletown is declared bankrupt and reabsorbed into Pawnee.
Worst Moment: Building a wall to keep Pawneean Children out of a public playground.
The drug-addled alcoholic host of Pawnee Today, the local tv talk show, Joan Callamezzo has it out for Leslie Knope, constantly working to embarrass and undermine her in interviews and as host of the city council debates. Only Tom Haverford seems to have the ability to properly charm her, generally by appealing to her vanity. Over the course of the program, Callamezzo eventually slides into utter lunacy, eventually unable to distinguish Pawnee from Gotham.
Worst Moment: Teasing Leslie with the promise of a book club sticker, then slamming her with her own brand of “Gotcha Journalism”, revealing that Leslie was not, in fact, born in Pawnee, but in the aforementioned hated Eagleton. Then she gets blackout drunk and croons the entirety of “Let’s Hear it For the Boy”
Dennis Feinstein is summed up accurately by Andy Dwyer as “a dick”. This mogul takes deep pleasure in tormenting others, and considers himself superior to all due to his success in selling a cologne line with such names as “Sideboob”, “Butterface”, and “Blackout” (voted one of the top 100 ways to trick someone into sex by Maxim). He’s approached by the characters in multiple seasons in attempts to reason to his decency, and it’s always met with greasy virulence. He may not be as large of an obstacle as Joan, but he’s far worse of a person.
Worst Moment: In an moment of apparent decency, Feinstein writes a generous check to Ben Wyatt’s charity to combat pinkeye in youth, only to sign the check out to “Go F**k Yourself”. It’s sleazy enough to even upset Tom Haverford.
Sexist, racist, immature, unscrupulous, and greedy, Jeremy Jamm represents the worst aspects of small (and large) government. He’s always willing to sell out his vote, from campaigning to put sugar in the drinking water (he’s also a dentist, profiting off of the terrible health of Pawneeans) to trading a vote to Leslie in exchange for her office and private bathroom. Jamm is petty and absolutely untrustworthy.
Worst Moment: When Leslie wins a bid to turn an empty lot into a city park, over Jamm’s proposal to put in a Paunch Burger, Jamm responds by sabotaging Leslie’s wedding, drunkenly insulting her into a bullhorn as she walks down the aisle, and then breaking stinkbomb capsules to drive people out. It’s out of pure spite, with nothing to gain from it but a punch in the mouth from Ron Swanson.
3. Tammy II
“She’s here” – Ron Swanson
Ron’s second ex wife, whom he married twice: the mad, obsessive woman who will do anything to either destroy or reclaim him. Tammy II is so bad, she forced the temporarily divided Ron and Leslie into an alliance to rescue their hated enemy Jamm from her clutches. She’s played with shrill aplomb by Nick Offerman’s real-world wife, famous comedian Megan Mullaley.
Tammy II may be insane, but Tammy I is cruel, calculating, and commanding—a sinister, pale force of authority who can silence Leslie with a single sentence. She even scares Tammy II, enough that the latter fled in terror when she heard she was nearby. Of course, she did throw acid on Tammy II’s foot at one point. April, predictably, adores her.
She helped to deliver Ron, taught him in middle school, and was his driving and sex instructor. She returns to reclaim him through his finances, auditing him (fradulently) as part of her job for the IRS. Only through combined effort from Ron’s family, friends, and family moonshine is he able to finally be rid of her.
Worst Moment: Somehow convinces Ron to shave his iconic ‘stache, turning him into a “neutered wimp” who wears pastels.
1. Pawnee, Indiana
Leslie Knope may consider it the best city in the whole world, but Pawnee can be pretty terrible to the characters, especially those of city hall. Most public forums degrade into idiocy, from shouts for a nude park to people demanding Paintings of their dog and the novel “Twilight” to be included in a time capsule. Leslie is infinitely patient and caring with her townspeople, but they rarely return the sentiment. It’s a sort of dramatic irony–the thing the characters (mostly Leslie) fight for is the thing that causes offers the most obstacles.
Worst Moment: After everything Leslie fought for, after always having the best interest and concerns of the citizens in mind, Pawnee recalls and outs Leslie from city council, mostly because she wanted to tax Paunch Burger’s sodas, including their 512 oz ‘Child Size’ soda.