Sometimes life just sucks. Even though I try to be as positive as I can be as a writer and as a person, there’s no denying that some days are just bad days. Whether you had a bad day at work or are sick with a cold or feeling sad for no real reason, there are days when you just need comfort—comfy clothes, comfort food, and comfort TV.
We all have those episodes of certain TV shows that we watch when we need a little dose of instant happiness. They’re the episodes that act like a warm mug of tea and a soft blanket on life’s rainiest days. A good comfort TV episode makes you smile, laugh, and maybe even cry when you really need to.
When I’m having one of those days where I feel like nothing will cheer me up, I reach for my Parks and Recreation DVDs. I’ve spent many hours curled up on my couch, starting impromptu marathons of this show to get through sick days and sad days. But sometimes you just don’t have time for a marathon. Sometimes you have to choose just one episode that you know will do the trick—one episode that warms your soul and lifts your spirits. And, for me, that episode is “Leslie and Ben.”
Love makes me happy. (I’m 99.9999% positive that the verb I use most frequently both in my writing and in life in general is “love.”) So it seems fitting that the episode I turn to most frequently when I’m in need of a spark of happiness ends with this gem of a quote:
I love my husband. I love my job. I love my friends…even though they really can’t handle their booze.
“Leslie and Ben” isn’t just a wedding episode; it might be the most perfect wedding episode in TV history because of the way it celebrates not just the love between the two people getting married, but also the love all of their other friends have for them. Whether it’s Chris giving Ben literally the most thoughtful wedding gift imaginable (the letter that sent them to Pawnee) or Ron telling Leslie how much her friendship means to him, there are so many little character beats in that episode between friends that make me happy cry every time I watch them. And the way all of Leslie’s friends came together to make her wedding a beautiful, personal event was the perfect embodiment of this show’s heartwarming ethos: No one achieves anything alone.
Ultimately, “Leslie and Ben” makes me feel optimistic. I relate to Leslie Knope more strongly than I’ve ever related to another female character. We’re both passionate people, but sometimes we can be a little much for the average person to take (especially the average guy). That’s why it matters so much to me that Leslie got her happy ending; she found not just one man but a whole group of people who see her for all that she is and choose to love her anyway. And this episode celebrates that like none other.
“Leslie and Ben” reminds me to never give up hope. Even on my most downer days, I watch this episode and feel like I’ll find someone who will help me, support me, surprise me, and make me happy. I feel like I don’t talk enough about Leslie and Ben, but they’re my favorite TV couple because they’re completely devoid of overwrought angst. Even in a wedding episode where nearly everything initially goes wrong, it all ends as it should—with “I love you and I like you,” a plate of waffles, and one amazing sing-along.
No matter how many times I watch the main cast singing “5,000 Candles in the Wind,” I will never get tired of it. There’s just such warmth there, such unabashed joy and love—not just between the characters, but between the actors, too. It lifts my spirits like nothing else; no matter how long or trying a day was, I know that I can watch this scene and instantly feel better.
That’s the thing about “Leslie and Ben” (and Parks and Rec in general); it’s not shy about its purpose, and that purpose is to make people smile. On days when it feels like the world isn’t a very nice place, it’s always comforting to watch an episode of a television show devoted to the idea that good things can happen to nice people.
What’s your ultimate comfort TV episode?