What Episode of 'Parks and Rec' Changed the Entire Series (for the Better)?

'Parks and Recreation'Credit: NBC
How did Parks and Rec change course for the better? 

Even if you're a mega-fan of Parks and Rec, it's hard not to see the first season as more of a trial run. It felt like the show was finding its legs and comedy, really working to understand its characters and take them to the next level. 

But what was the episode where it all changed? Where the writers and actors found the voices that would carry us through many other seasons, exciting and entertaining us with some of the funniest moments in television history? 

Well, YouTube video essayist Entertain the Elk did an entire episode pinpointing that moment. 

Check it out, and let's talk after the jump. 

What Episode of Parks and Rec Changed the Entire Series (for the Better)?

The idea for Parks came from Greg Daniels, who was working on The Office. He teamed up with Michael Shur to use a mockumentary style to form another sitcom. Originally titled Untitled Office Spinoff, their first season of Parks and Recreation took a while to shed the shadow of the other successful show and to figure out what it was all about. 

Those first six episodes feature a manic Leslie, a prankster Tom, a deadbeat Andy, and a beleaguered Ron. The reviews were not great, and the stars and writers had to be a little frustrated. Still, when they reached the season one finale, they made strides allowing each of these characters to be looser. 

Andy got to be a charming dope, Leslie was good at her job, there was chemistry with April and Andy, and Ron was delightfully weird. 

As season two came about, the show seemed to hit a stride. They figured out that the best forms of conflict came from the wild and wacky Pawnee town, and not from the way the Parks office ran. It built out characters who had wants and desires and course-corrected the romances by getting rid of Mark Brendanawicz and ending Andy and Anne's brief on-screen relationship.  

It also introduced us to Adam Scott and Rob Lowe as wacky out-of-town government employees there to help out. Their introduction allowed us to get deeper into the issues surrounding Pawnee and gave the show fertile ground to explore hilarious standalone episodes.  

But as the above video argues, where the show really came into its own was the second episode of the third season. "Flu Season" is the 32nd overall episode of the series, but it gets everything right. Everyone is getting sick, Leslie is giving her all, and hilarity ensues. Not only are there funny moments, but it charts a course that the season will not be about single episode goals, but about planning and executing the Harvest Festival. 

We also got the iconic scene of Lowe's character, Chris, yelling at himself in the mirror, "Stop... pooping!"

And we get a hint of romance between Leslie and Ben, Anne and Chris. In fact, instead of returning to Indianapolis at the end of the episode, Ben and Chris stay in town to make sure the Harvest Festival happens. 

Outside of the plot points, this episode also made each character feel like they had come into their own. Reviewers took notice, with Eric Sundermann of Hollywood.com saying, "The most recent installment of Parks and Rec showcased itself at its finest, giving each of its characters unforgettable moments to further prove that when it's on its game, it's [sic] is one of the finest comedies on television." 

The episode altered the course of the show. With all these new directives and steady characters, it charted its direction toward television royalty. 

What do you think? Is this the episode that changed the show, or do you think it happened earlier (or later)? Let us know in the comments.      

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