Jones is trickier. When Parks and Recreation premiered, she was a vital link to its spiritual predecessor, The Office (having been a semi-regular on that show). And in the first couple of seasons, Ann Perkins served a clear purpose: she was the straight woman, the sensible counterbalance to the quirky personalities of Leslie, Ron, Andy, and the rest. Though Parks wasn’t, as originally reported, a direct spin-off of The Office, the similarities (initially, at least) weren’t solely in the mock-doc style; Ann was the Jim Halpert of Parks, the audience’s surrogate and voice of sanity to Amy Poehler’s Leslie Knope, who was originally conceived and played as much more of a Michael Scott figure.
But as time passed and the show stretched its legs, the characterizations deepened. And as Leslie Knope became more established, she no longer needed a straight woman to ground her wackiness; the broadly comic characters (Tom and Andy and April and even Ron, a little tiny bit) have, over the course of five seasons, developed the dimensions and depth that make them relatable and human. And in the meantime, Rashida Jones — an endlessly talented comic actor and writer, as evidenced by her wonderful Celeste and Jesse Forever — has had exceedingly less of interest to do.
This all feels very deliberate, with Jones and Lowe’s simultaneous exit coming at what now seems a carefully choreographed conclusion to their ongoing pregnancy/romantic rekindling arc. “We’ve been working on their storyline (on and off) for four seasons now,” executive producer Mike Schur wrote in a statement on their exit, “and heading into this year, with the two of them contemplating parenthood, it felt like a natural time to move them into the next phase.” He’s right, and if there’s one thing Parks has earned our trust on, it’s knowing when it’s time to send a superfluous character off into the sunset. Don’t believe me? Two words: Mark Brandanawicz.