This article is part of Indianapolis Monthly’s 2016 Indiana Bicentennial coverage, which includes our list of the 200 Hoosier Hall of Fame picks, designated throughout in bold or highlighted. For more on this celebration of the state’s first two centuries, click here.
Parks and Recreation, 2009–15
Quintessential: The dedicated Hoosier public servant anyone would hire—enthusiastic, idealistic, indefatigable, and gets stuff done.
Quirky: Optimistic (sometimes to the point of delusion) and ambitious but stuck in the sleepy Indiana town she loves.
Quintessential: Following the semiautobiographical path blazed by Louie, Gaffigan plays a down-to-earth, self-deprecating Hoosier comedian making it in show business.
Quirky: Why does that plot sound so familiar?
Quintessential: Polite, big-hearted, and wide-eyed: the empathetic epitome of country mouse in the big city—played, no less, by Woody Harrelson, a real-life alum of Indiana’s Hanover College.
Quirky: So dumb.
Quintessential: A likable kid from humble beginnings—son of a stonecutter-turned-car-salesman—not afraid to dream big.
Quirky: Come to think of it, an unemployed townie sneaking away to hit on college girls in a fake Italian accent is kinda creepy.
Quintessential: Growing up in fictional Hohman, Indiana (read: Hammond, author Jean Shepherd’s hometown), he’s the picture of American middle-class childhood circa 1940.
Quirky: He’s a gun nut.
Quintessential: Ostensibly residing in Muncie, Indiana, where creator Jim Davis attended Ball State, the lazy cat’s sardonic humor is a refreshing counterpoint to industrious Hoosiers.
Quirky: Famous struggles with weight hit close to home—Indiana ranks seventh in the nation for obesity.
Quintessential: Strong, silent, and unimpressed—everything you want in the director of a strapped city agency—he is a rugged man’s man with flashes of sensitivity.
Quirky: Collared shirt barely hides the redneck.
Quintessential: Indy author Johnny Gruelle went from rags to riches with this iconic pair whose names were inspired by two James Whitcomb Riley poems.
Quirky: You’d think by now they could afford some decent clothes.
Quintessential: The farm boy who learns to shoot on a dirt court—inspired by Milan’s Bobby Plump and created by Bloomington product Angelo Pizzo.
Quirky: An idiot savant: the basketball equivalent of the banjo player in Deliverance.
Quintessential: Another of Pizzo’s iconic “inspired by” underdogs, he perseveres despite being undersized and unnoticed—much like Indiana itself.
Quirky: Too bad he sucks at football.
Quintessential: Tina Fey created this Hoosier heroine as trusting and trustworthy, spirited and relentlessly upbeat—only in a dark, cult-survivor milieu.
Quirky: Elevates hayseed naivete to a new level.