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"Oh captain, my captain - Ron Swanson, a swan song"

By Seth Freilich | Industry | March 14, 2010 |

By Seth Freilich | Industry | March 14, 2010 |

No, it’s not the awesome Nick Offerman, whose Ron Swanson is quickly become one of my favorite comedy characters. I just can’t resist the excuse to post a Swanson picture and quote. Rather, it’s Paul Schneider (Mark) who’s saying adios to the show. The folks over at TV Squad suggest that some fans may be disappointed by this news, but don’t count me among them. I’ve professed my love for “Parks and Recreation” before, as it has quickly become the most consistent of the Thursday night NBC comedies (“The Office” and “30 Rock” have been very hit and miss this season — though when they hit, they can still hit strong — and “Community” just isn’t quite as laugh-out-loud funny).

But I’ve consistently found Schneider the weak link. Not because he’s bad in the role of the straight man — he’s been perfectly good at it, rather. It’s just that it feels like the writers never really figured out what to do with Schneider’s Mark or how to use him. Which seems to be confirmed by the fact that his character wasn’t originally envisioned the way we’ve come to know him: “When we first cast Paul, we told him that the idea would be Mark would leave and then ideally he would come back in a different capacity working for a different company. And then he would leave again and come back, and so on….” And now, with a burgeoning movie career, Schneider is leaving the small screen behind.

Of course, even if you are a fan of Schneider, you most surely feel some consolation in the fact that Rob Lowe will be making a guest arc later this year and into next season coupled with the fact that Adam Scott is leaving “Party Down” (boo!) to join the show as a possible love interest for Amy Poehler’s Leslie Knope (yeah!). As co-creator and exec producer Mike Schur explains it:

[Lowe] and Adam come in as part of a team sent in from a distant land to try to help the town of Pawnee through a rough patch. There are all these stories in the news now like Kansas City is closing half of their public schools now, and, I don’t know if this actually happened, but the entire state of Idaho was threatening to shut down the Parks department…and Idaho is essentially just one large park. Most cities and towns in the country right now are going through these rough patches involving plummeting tax revenue and layoffs. So we’re doing a torn-from-the-headlines thing about Pawnee and Adam and Rob’s characters come in to help them fix their budget problems.

Works for me. Particularly because I can already smell the tension between Swanson and the changes that Lowe and Scott’s characters will try to implement. “The whole point of this country is if you want to eat garbage, balloon up to 600 pounds and die of a heart attack at 43, you can! You are free to do so. To me, that’s beautiful.”

Seth is a Senior Editor and sometime critic. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.

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