When I started this list, I wasn’t completely sure which characters I was going to pick or how I wanted them to be ordered. I’m still not positive I’d do it in the same order if I started over (*cough* Stewie *cough*). But I always knew that Ron Swanson of Parks and Recreation would be No. 1.
Simply put, Ron Swanson is all that is man. He is an outdoorsman who spends his time hunting, fishing and building things out of wood, and is obsessed with just about anything high in cholesterol. He is a government-despising, Canada-hating, work-shirking god among men.
Ron is the director of the parks department, a position he has held for six years. Yet despite his position, he thinks all government should be privatized and should almost never be visible. This has basically led him to have only one goal in his job: Do as little work as possible.
Part of his job is to see the Pawnee citizens and address their concerns about the city, but Ron does everything in his power to avoid that responsibility. He hires office buzzkill April (Aubrey Plaza) as his assistant, and her only job is to drive people away from the office.
Ron is just about the only character on Parks and Recreation who has stayed very similar since the first episode. As I’ve written before, the first season of P&R was awful. It turned off countless viewers, including me, and it has taken some massive tweaking of almost every character by the writers to give the show the quality it now has.
But at his core, Ron has always been the same. In the pilot episode, we saw the first plan he devised to discourage people from coming to talk to him. He mounted a double-barreled shotgun on his desk that points directly at the chair in which people have to sit to ask him for things, so they’re required to stare down the barrel during their entire conversation.
Ron rarely shows emotion, but when he does it’s almost always extreme. The only time he has shown true joy came when he was told he would help slash the city’s budget, and he has said feeling enraged relaxes him.
With all of the struggles the parks department has suffered through on the show, there has been only one time that Ron exhibited sadness and concern. And that came when he learned that his favorite steakhouse had been shut down.
Ron loved this place so much that he had a complete photo album devoted to it, with pictures of every one of his visits and the steak he ate that day. After discovering that it was no longer in business, the rest of the episode was devoted to him going through the five stages of grief in trying to deal with it.
Ron’s love of food does not extend only to steak. He likes any type of protein derived from animal meat, except that of fish, which he compared to a vegetable as part of possibly the best 90-second span in television this year:
He also is fixated on breakfast foods – particularly eggs and bacon – to the point that the massive poster hung on the wall of his office at one point was just a woman holding a breakfast plate. And he hated his trip to a strip club until he realized they had a breakfast buffet.
Everything about Ron Swanson is as masculine as possible, aided by the deadpan delivery of Nick Offerman. Offerman is almost permanently stoic and even-keeled, which makes the very rare moments of actual emotion that much better. We are so used to seeing Offerman’s blank stare that when he gets giddy or enraged it becomes exponentially more hilarious.
Offerman also has developed excellent chemistry with Amy Poehler, allowing Ron and Leslie Knope to have a believable friendship based on mutual respect. Leslie is just about the only person Ron actually cares about, because he realizes it’s because of her that he is able to avoid doing his job. Offerman’s machismo is at its most intense when Ron is in some way protecting Leslie.
I normally get annoyed when people overuse superlatives, but I’m about to do it myself. In my opinion, Ron Swanson is one of the best sitcom characters ever created, up there with Frasier Crane and George and Kramer from Seinfeld.
Everything about Ron is hilarious, and every line he delivers follows in kind. The character and the actor steal just about every scene they’re in, and regularly provide an incredible number of laughs in a very short amount of time. There’s a reason why he calls himself “Ron ****ing Swanson.”
Programming Note: Parks and Recreation can be seen at 9:30/8:30c Thursdays on NBC. The show currently is on a two-week hiatus before new episodes return.
TV’s Top 10 characters
10 – Stewie Griffin
9 – Sterling Archer
8 – Chuck Bartowski
7 – Manny Delgado
6 – Dexter Morgan
5 – Barney Stinson
4 – Don Draper
3 – Abed Nadir
2 – Phil Dunphy
1 – Ron Swanson
Honorable Mention – April 1