Rutherford Falls gives Parks and Recreation fans so many reasons to sign up for Peacock (if they haven’t yet)
Colleen Hayes/Peacock; Chris Haston/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images
If there was one show that fully embodied early 2010s, Obama-era optimism, it has to be Parks and Recreation. Created by two of Hollywood's most prolific producers, Michael Schur and Greg Daniels, Parks and Rec was the sunnier cousin to the duo's other ensemble mockumentary, The Office. Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman), and the whole Parks Department gang showed that nothing, even the chasm separating political ideologies between Leslie and Ron, could beat the uniting power of friendship, Li'l Sebastian, and breakfast food.
Like Friends, Parks and Recreation's enduring reputation as a feel-good ensemble comedy has remained strong over the past 12 years, and the series' pandemic reunion special further cemented its legacy as the ultimate uplifting show for hard times. Schur has since taken his formula for shows about oddballs working together to become the best versions of themselves in Brooklyn Nine-Nine and The Good Place, both perfect for Parks and Rec fans. But with the former taking a final bow this August and the latter having ended in 2020, there's a gaping hole for those in need of a spiritual successor to Parks and Rec. Thankfully, the solution is closer to find than you'd think.
Head over to Rutherford Falls, Schur's latest show created with Sierra Teller Ornelas and Office star Ed Helms that's exclusively available at the same streamer as Parks and Rec — Peacock. Set in the eponymous (fictional) upstate New York town, the 10-episode, half hour-each series follows Helms' Nathan Rutherford and Jana Schmieding's Reagan Wells as they discover secrets and long-simmering conflicts in their community, which sits on land belonging to the fictional Indigenous Minishonka Nation.
Colleen Hayes/Peacock Ed Helms, Dana L. Wilson, and Jana Schmieding in 'Rutherford Falls'
Watch it! Rutherford Falls, free with a subscription at peacocktv.com
The show puts Native American representation (one of Parks and Recreation's most "oof"-worthy gags) center stage while reinforcing the best fan-loved themes from Parks and Rec — all of which make Rutherford Falls its ideal successor in spirit. With Rutherford Falls only available on Peacock (also home to The Office and Brooklyn Nine-Nine), it's all the more reason for Parks and Rec fans to sign up for the streamer.
Although Peacock is available for free, original content requires a paid subscription that starts at $4.99 per month. You can sign up for Peacock here, and read on for the themes that make Rutherford Falls a must-watch for Parks and Rec fans.
1. Familiar faces and favorite bands
Colleen Hayes/Peacock Ed Helms and Helen Slayton-Hughes in 'Rutherford Falls'
Although Helms never appeared on Parks and Rec, he had a significant role on The Office as well as a memorably annoying guest spot on Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Schur has also brought in familiar faces from Parks and Rec onto Rutherford Falls, most notably Helen Slayton-Hughes, who played court stenographer Ethel Beavers (and the lover of Mayor Gunderson) on Parks. In Rutherford Falls, she's Nathan's great Aunt Ida, and a whole episode is set at her 90th birthday. Plus, there's a blink-and-you'll-miss-it shout-out to Neutral Milk Hotel in episode 3 where Regan mentions her love for April Ludgate's favorite band (sorry, Mouse Rat).
2. Friendship goals
Colleen Hayes/Peacock Ed Helms and Jana Schmieding in 'Rutherford Falls'
"We need to remember what's important in life: Friends, waffles, and work," said Leslie Knope. While Nathan and Regan might not be as obsessed with waffles as Leslie, their bond with each other and their devotion to their work is just as fierce. After all, the series' main premise evolves around Nathan, the town historian, and his friendship with Reagan, the head of the Minishonka cultural center, as they both passionately (sometimes too passionately — just like Leslie) fight to promote and preserve the legacies of their ancestors. Although they bicker and disagree constantly, even at the surprising end of season 1, their support for each other endures.
3. A top ensemble cast
Evans Vestal Ward/Peacock Jesse Leigh and Michael Greyeyes in 'Rutherford Falls'
Reagan and Nathan's unwavering support of one another might be at the heart of the show, but Rutherford Falls wouldn't be nearly as good without its diverse, eclectic, and hilarious group of oddball supporting characters. Josh the Journalist (Dustin Milligan doing his best dreamy nerd boyfriend portrayal here again after Schitt's Creek), Terry Thomas (Michael Greyeyes' mercurial Running Thunder casino owner), Bobbie Yang (Jesse Leigh's hilarious intern to Nathan), and Mayor Deidre Chisenhall (Dana L. Wilson's power-hungry politician) bring just the right amount of goofiness as well as plot devices (i.e. Terry's lawsuit) to keep the show watchable. Bobbie's ruthless comebacks are worth a Peacock subscription on their own, but it's Greyeyes — the indisputable breakout star of the show — and Terry's underdog backstory that you'll regret missing out on.
4. Native American representation
Colleen Hayes/Peacock Dustin Milligan and Jana Schmieding in 'Rutherford Falls'
One of the darkest running gags on Parks and Rec was the sheer amount of cruelties Pawnee's founders committed against the Wamapoke people. "This is a map of all the atrocities inflicted upon the Wamapoke," said Leslie in front of a map that was all blue. "The atrocities are in blue." Parks' lighthearted, banter-filled depictions of a kindhearted government employee working with Indigenous tribal leaders, such as Jonathan Joss' Ken Hotate, never went deep enough to actually provide commentary on Native rights and their relationships to government-owned land. Rutherford Falls dives headfirst into these topics. Featuring a Native-majority writing team with Native actors like Greyeyes and Schmieding taking center stage, the show gives room for Indigenous talent to explore their own complex, humane, and constantly evolving narrative. In fact, Rutherford Falls is as much Reagan's story about the Minashonka as it is about Nathan and the Rutherfords (if not more), and exactly why it's a breath of fresh air on streaming television today.
5. The greatest town in America: Rutherford Falls vs. Pawnee
Danny Feld/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images; Colleen Hayes/Peacock Amy Poehler in 'Parks and Recreation, and Ed Helms in 'Rutherford Falls'
Leslie Knope's pride in her hometown, Pawnee, is well documented — after all, she literally wrote the book on it — but the eventual Governor of Indiana might have stiff competition in terms of the level of love for one's hometown in Nathan's and Reagan's for Rutherford Falls. The last Rutherford family member to reside in the town, Nathan lives and breathes Rutherford Falls (guy even turned his house into a museum-cum-cultural center dedicated to his family's history in the town). Nathan has what his brother Dez calls "tunnel vision" when it comes to rallying its citizens to find the love within them for Rutherford Falls. "This is what I want, but also it's the best idea, and you know it," said Nathan when he encouraged Reagan to keep promoting her plans for a Rutherford Falls cultural center. Remind you of anyone?
6. A love of history (plus, signage)
Colleen Hayes/Peacock; Colleen Hayes/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images Ed Helms in 'Rutherford Falls,' and Amy Poehler in 'Parks and Recreation'
Not only does Leslie Knope love Pawnee, but she's also a devoted fan of American history and politics, so much so that her favorite celebrities to meet were senators and federal bureaucrats, and her best plan for establishing a Pawnee national park even involved America's shortest-lived president, William Henry Harrison. It's a passion shared by Nathan and Reagan — with the latter declaring that "the history of Indigenous people is the greatest story never told" in America, and the former completely obsessed with colonial American history. Plus, all three characters strongly believe in using signage when it came to declaring their love for history and politics: "Proper signage is the sharpest arrow in one's quiver," said Nathan to Reagan after making signs for her presentation proposing the cultural center in episode 1. Sounds like an idea that a woman who loves the "high-stakes world of banner making" would approve.
Watch Rutherford Falls on Peacock here.