Last night, Parks and Recreation jumped forward three years in its season finale, setting us up for a seventh season where Leslie is the mother of adorable three-year-old triplets and running a branch of the National Parks Service. It was a bit of a jarring move for the comedy to make but in retrospect seems like a wise choice, sparing us from a Leslie pregnancy subplot in what will probably be the show’s final year next season. “Moving Up” would have functioned fine as an official end to the series, considering that a peek at every character’s future is a much more common way to end a show, but instead it may provide a jolt of life to Parks as it begins its victory lap. But is creator and showrunner Michael Schur overreaching with the time-shift? Which other shows have attempted the same gambit, and how did it work out for them?
Battlestar Galactica, “Lay Down Your Burdens”
This is the show Schur cited as his primary inspiration for the time-jump, and he sort of borrowed its visual motif to do it. In Parks, the camera zooms in on a picture Leslie puts up on her bare office wall, and zooms out to reveal a wall crowded with photos and an office busy with activity. In Galactica, then-President Gaius Baltar puts his head down on his desk, weary from the mistakes of colonization on the barren if sustainable New Caprica, and pulls his head up to reveal we’ve jumped a year ahead and the Cylons are about to invade. For such a heavily plotted show, it was a brilliant twist, and exactly the kind of shake-up needed after two years closely following the minutiae of the surviving Colonial fleet, fighting for humanity’s survival after the destruction of their home worlds.
Did it work? Mostly yes. It was a devastatingly smart twist, deployed so effectively that showrunners continue to pay homage to it eight years later. Skipping over the bleak life of colonization and plunging us into the occupation and resistance to Cylon rule gave the show numerous new story avenues to explore. But this may have been the point at which Galactica became too miserable for its own good, as the following season was a much more flawed affair with several episodes that just felt like pure drudgery.
Desperate Housewives, “Free”
Needing a storyline shake-up, with ratings for the ABC smash hit beginning to go stagnant, its 2008 fourth season finale jumped forward five years to put several cast members in different romantic situations and age some of their annoying kids to a more interesting age. Whole soap opera plotlines had played out without us seeing them: Gabrielle (Eva Longoria) had divorced her husband, married the Mayor, and then returned to her husband and had two kids.