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TV picks: 'Parks and Recreation,' the Oscars, 'New Worlds'

Mary McNamara's TV picks: Farewell to 'Parks and Recreation,' the little show with a great big heart

“Parks and Recreation”—One of the best comedies in recent memory ends on Feb. 24, tragically preceded by the death of Harris Wittels, one of its producers. The story of small-town Indiana bureaucrat and eternal optimist Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), “Parks and Rec” too was the little show with a great big heart, giving audiences more and better than many shows with far higher ratings (see my tear-stained review as the finale draws nearer).

Given an amped-up half season to come to the conclusion, the “Parks and Recreation” staff have split up the team that ran the department of the title, sending them on many diverging roads though each appears to be heading toward a happy ending. Leslie will be dividing time between Pawnee and D.C. while Ben (Adam Scott) runs for Congress. April (Aubrey Plaza) has found her dream job at a D.C. nonprofit, where, presumably, Andy (Chris Pratt) can do his cool ninja TV character on public television. Ron (Nick Offerman) is running his own construction company with a wide and wild assortment of Swanson brothers, Donna (Retta) is a newlywed, Tom (Aziz Ansari) is a successful restaurateur in love, and Garry (Jim O’Heir) finally gets his own name and his dream job.

The hourlong finale promises to be a beautiful end for a beautiful show that bucked all sorts of conventional wisdom, including and especially that it’s cool to be about nothing. From the very beginning “Parks and Recreation” was very much about something, many somethings actually, including but not limited to: the actual importance of being earnest, dedicated, loyal, open-minded and as committed to community service as to career and friends.

Flawed and funny, the characters still managed to represent a higher ideal. If any part of government was run by people like Leslie and her gang, the world would be a different, and much more glorious place. NBC, Tuesday, 10 p.m.

"The 87th Academy Awards"—Is it just me or do you feel like all the Oscar  prognostication has completely killed what little fun was left in the old dude? When stories start referencing the oddsmakers' favorites in set design, I think we have reached the obvious limit of too many freaking stories about the Oscars.

FULL COVERAGE: Oscars 2015

Still, there’s always a chance that everyone will be wrong and Benedict Cumberbatch, Kiera Knightley and “The Imitation Game” will clean up because, well, one should never underestimate the power of the ‘batch and old Hollywood’s love for historical bios and Kiera Knightley.

More important, Neil Patrick Harris is hosting, which it seems like he’s done before only he hasn’t — he’s just hosted Everything Else short of the Nobel Prize ceremony, which may not even have a host. So, if ever an awards telecast completely and totally rested on the host and its writers, this would be that show.

So no pressure, Neil. I’m sure you’ll do great. CBS, Sunday, 5 p.m.

“New Worlds”—For those who want yet another side of “Fifty Shades of Grey” star Jamie Dornan (who does much better work as a serial killer in “The Fall,” which is available on Netflix), the streaming service Acorn TV is now offering him up as a 1680s British renegade. Set in England, and America, during the Restoration, “New Worlds” attempts to tell the story of England’s fight for something approximating democracy in the years following the three-tiered Civil War. Charles II is on the throne and just as horrible as he could be while the remaining followers of Oliver Cromwell, here portrayed as a freedom fighter, which should make anyone of Irish descent want to tear their hair out, mutter and plot to somehow rid the country of tyrants and put it in the hands of Parliament.

While Restoration comedy is a wonderful thing, Restoration drama never quite took off and there’s a good reason — it’s all horribly confusing, worse even than the Wars of the Roses, the Battle of Five Armies and even all the factions of Westeros.

A sequel to the popular 2008 series “The Devil’s Whore” and created by the same team, “New Worlds” tries to simplify things by focusing on two pairs of lovers, one in Britain and one in the colonies. It doesn’t help much, but Dornan looks great and there’s something to be said for shows set in the bits of history not already dramatized within an inch of their lives. If only because it will probably force viewers to do a little research on the period and a little research is never a bad thing. Acorn TV, anytime.

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