All 'Parks and Recreation' Season 7 spoilers will be posted in this section of the blog. If you would like to read the old spoilers for Season 4, CLICK HERE. The old spoilers for Season 5 are HERE. The old Season 6 spoilers are HERE.
May 23, 2014
Michael Schur interview with Entertainment Weekly:
'Parks and Recreation': Exec producer Michael Schur on the decision to end the show
By Dan Snierson
The final few minutes of last month’s season finale of Parks of Recreation catapulted its characters all the way into 2017, leaving viewers with binders and binders of questions about what happens next. And while they might be wondering about the future on the show, they no longer are speculating about the future of the show: NBC announced last week that the upcoming seventh season of the much-loved, smart-and-sweet local government comedy would be its very last, with the final 13 episodes getting a midseason debut. Why is Parks coming to an end now? What can you expect from the final season? Is there any chance of a spin-off? EW sought answers to these questions and more from series co-creator/executive producer Michael Schur.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So, was this your decision, NBC’s or a little bit of both?
MICHAEL SCHUR: At the beginning of season 6, Amy [Poehler] and I started talking, like, “What’s our endgame here?” We both felt like all we really cared about was that we wanted to be the people who ended the show when we wanted to end it, ideally, if that were possible, and it felt like the time to do that would be at the end of season 7. And that was for a number of different reasons. We knew the basic plot of the season and we hadn’t come up with the idea of the flash-forward yet, but for whatever reason, our gut was saying: One more season. And then, as we talked about it more and more, we felt like the thing that 30 Rock did was the way to go — a shorter season, a manageable season where we can just try to land the plane and stick the landing. So we had a meeting with NBC right before the [Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour in January] where we laid out our plan. We were like, “We know it’s not up to us entirely because you guys own the show, but in our perfect world, here’s how it would go,” and we laid out the whole plan, and they were like, “Sounds great!” [Laughs] It kind of dovetailed very nicely with what they were imagining the future of the show was. I mean, we were preparing for an hourlong discussion and it was like three minutes. … It was just this wonderful thing. I don’t know if I’ll ever be that lucky again, that the creative team got together over the course of many months, picked a plan for how to end the show, and then the network was just like: Thumbs up. … It’s such a happy network-TV story. [NBC Entertainment chairman] Bob Greenblatt and [NBC Entertainment president] Jen Salke are very supportive of the show. They don’t have to be — they’re, like, the fourth regime or something since the show started — but they’re really supportive and great.
How did the other cast members feel about this news when you told them? Did some of them want to do more seasons? Were there tears? Did Nick Offerman’s face change expressions? Has the mustache moved?
You know, the one thing that can get Nick Offerman’s mustache to quiver is the thought of Parks and Rec ending, so I will say yes. As far as I can tell, everybody feels exactly the same way. Which is, contemplating the end of this job that we’ve loved so much and we’ve poured our hearts and souls into is incredibly sad. But everybody is like, “Yeah, this feels right.” I think if it had ended any sooner, people would have been sad and felt like we didn’t quite get what we wanted. I think everyone feels like, “We don’t want to overstay our welcome. We want to go out on a high note.” We did this big creative leap at the end of last year and now we get to pursue that in a fun way for half the year and then we’ll wave goodbye and exit stage left.
Did you feel like you were running out of stories to tell, or was it more that Leslie’s journey just felt almost complete?
That’s really more of it. And not just her journey — a lot of their journeys. Leslie’s journey obviously is the central one and the most important one, and it did feel, especially after we moved her into this big-time job, like the show was bursting at the seams a little bit and it was going to get harder and harder to do the show that we had laid out. The show is called Parks and Recreation, and next year she’ll be working in a much bigger Parks and Recreation department than the one that she started in, so it felt like we had told most of the story. And I think that’s true of a lot of people. Obviously the extreme example is Ann (Rashida Jones) and Chris (Rob Lowe), who we wrote off the show in the middle of six seasons, and then Ben (Adam Scott) has come to a great point — his backstory of being a failed mayor and now he’s the city manager of a town and running it very effectively. It just felt like it was the right time. That’s really the main thing that Amy and I talked about — just that gut feeling like we had made most of our argument and now we wanted to dot the I’s and cross the T’s and make our final statements and shuffle off to Buffalo.
Was there ever any talk of one of the characters getting a spin-off? What about, say, Craig, April, and Xander attending sommelier school? Or behind the scenes at a local news station with Perd Hapley and Joan Callamezzo? Or a prequel with Ingrid de Forest about the gloriously snobby rise of Eagleton before it went bankrupt?
No spin-off was ever discussed in any meaningful way. But I would happily write the pilot for any of those you suggested…. I’ve joked before that I wanted to write a show called The Sapersteins about Jean-Ralphio and Mona Lisa with Henry Winkler as the dad.
Obviously, the show has long struggled in the ratings. How many times have you thought that whatever season you were in at the time was the last?
We had just shot 24 episodes for season 2 and then another six because Amy was pregnant — we had banked six of them [for season 3] — and then we were moved to midseason. And I remember meeting with the writers to break the last 10 and then saying, “Look, this might be the last 10 episodes we ever do so we’re going to leave it out on the court and we’re not going to hold anything back.” And that’s where Andy (Chris Pratt) and April’s (Aubrey Plaza) surprise wedding came from. It’s why Leslie and Ben got together maybe a little sooner than we were originally planning. It was like, “This might be it. We’ve got to make the juiciest, best episodes we can make.” So when we were moved to midseason, I thought that season 3 might be the end. And then I thought that season 4 might be the end. I thought that halfway through season 5 might be the end when we got Leslie and Ben married. Community had only been ordered for 13 and 30 Rock was only ordered for 13 in their final year, and so I had this feeling like, “Look, the writing is on the wall for the old Thursday night comedy block. It’s possible we only get to do 13, so we’re going to make that wedding episode 13 just in case.” And then, of course, I thought maybe the end of season 5 was going to be the last year. So at least four times I’ve written what I thought might be a series finale.
Did you say to NBC: “Just one more request for next season: Can we air in a different time slot?”
I believe that we’ve aired in every half-hour on Thursday — at 8, 8:30, 9, 9:30, 10, and 10:30. And I think we debuted on Tuesdays at some point. Yeah, it’s been a number of time slots but I have to say this: The fact that the show has aired or will have aired 125 times feels like a complete miracle, so I’m far from going to be a person who complains. … [NBC] has a very interesting strategy this year and obviously we don’t know when we’ll be airing, but they’re shifting Blacklist to Thursday at 9. They’re holding a lot of stuff for midseason, and I have to say, the one other year that we were midseason was season 3, and creatively it was fantastic. It was a real huge boon, because we had so much time to craft and edit everything. And then by the time the show came on the air, the crowded fall had settled a little bit and we started in January and people were like, “Oh, okay, the dust has settled.” It was really good for the show overall. So I’m hoping that we follow that same pattern.
How much of the decision to deploy the future twist was tied to the fact that you knew you’d be entering your final season?
When we had that meeting and laid out the plan and it was agreed to almost instantly in the room, that definitely changed the calculus of how we handled the finale. The finale at that point was extremely close-ended, because we thought it might be the end. So we still had maybe five more [episodes] to shoot, and it was all careening headlong toward this giant finale, and we felt like, “All right, we can totally change everything that we’ve laid out and make it more of a cliffhanger. Maybe we can make Leslie turn the job down.” But nothing that we’d thought of really made that much sense, so what we did is we conceived of a way to throw everything into total chaos at the end of the year. And we were very much emboldened by the fact that we knew not only that A) we were coming back, but B) it was going to be 13 episodes or a shorter season, because it made us feel like we can do something this dramatic and world-changing without feeling like we might have to sustain this for six more seasons. [Laughs] Whatever this is, we can handle it for 13 episodes. We know that we don’t have 50 more episodes. It’s a move that you don’t make in season 3 of your show. It’s a move that you make when you’re like, “We’re going into the coda season and we’re going to have this fun, weird new world to play with for 13 episodes.”
The show has been known to take big risks with its stories. Does the fact that we’re three years into the future and this is now the last season mean that you might be taking even more risks than usual? Please tell me you’re not going to kill Jerry/Larry/Terry.
No, I don’t think we’re going to kill Jerry/Larry/Terry. When we talked about what it meant to jump into the future, the biggest thing to me was: Whatever we do, it has to feel like the show. We can’t be writing a science-fiction program. At this point, you think of it as a contract that you’ve signed with the viewers of the show, and if you break that contract and start presenting them something as unrecognizable or in some way isn’t what they’ve come to love about the show over, so far, 112 episodes, then what are you doing? You’re just screwing up. So we feel a little bit liberated creatively because of the leap, and I think there might be some more fun experimental stuff that we do. But it’s not going to be dream sequences and crazy flights of fancy. It’s not going to be like the Sopranos episode where Tony was in the plaza and had the dream about the talking fish. By the way, which was the best ever — I’m not saying that because I didn’t like that episode of the greatest drama of all time, but we’re a little bit liberated in terms of how we show events occurring on the show. But at the end of the day, it’s going to be 13 stories about the same characters in the same world, because I just think doing anything else would be suicide.
What excites you about the final season, storywise, knowing that it’ll take place in 2017?
I think the biggest thing is — and this is something that the writers have already started emailing about — we have the chance to put anybody anywhere we want. If we want to say that Donna (Retta) bought a 5 percent stake in the Seattle Sounders major league soccer team and is now working in their front office, we can do that. You don’t have to lay in stories where you lead up to that. You’ve jumped ahead of a lot of exposition. So we have that opportunity to blow things up a little and to put people in different places and to come up with fun ways that their lives have changed in the three years we missed. And furthermore, if we want to to go back and look at how they got there in flashbacks or in some other way — we can go backward and fill in blanks. So it’s just a kind of storytelling we’ve never done before because we’ve been following the traditional mockumentary format, and then we just gave that traditional mockumentary format a big middle finger [Laughs] and decided to do something else for the final season. We just have to make sure to use it in very measured doses and not go crazy and let things get out of control.
What odd request has Aubrey made knowing that it is the final season?
She’s been desperate to be pregnant on the show. And part of the reason I didn’t ever want to make her pregnant was because I liked that she and Andy represent the young people on the show. But now we’re jumping three years in the future, so that’s certainly a possibility. But I’m sure she’ll start pitching that she’s a zombie — that’s my guess. If I had to guess, it’ll be that she starts pitching soon that she’s an undead person walking the Earth.
How have the negotiations been going to bring back Jon Hamm for more episodes?
He’s been very busy promoting his movie Million Dollar Arm, so there’s been no contact. But I’m sure that an e-mail or a phone call will be made sometime in June or July to suss it out. He’s a great dude who loves comedy and loves Adam Scott and Amy Poehler and Aziz and Aubrey and everybody on the cast, so I’m only optimistic, because I think it’s the kind of thing that he enjoys doing. I think if he’s available and if we have something good worked out for him, he’s probably inclined to come do it. But obviously we’re very far away from having anything conceived of or written.
You told us a little about what to expect next season a few weeks ago. But is there one extra clue that you can give fans to obsess over during the long hiatus?
It’s so hard to say anything because it’s so early and we certainly haven’t committed to anything. The main thing that excites me is that we’re going to get to tell one more big, juicy story about Leslie and all of her co-workers, whom she loves so much, doing something together. It’s why the Unity Concert and the Harvest Festival and the campaign and all of these gigantic group projects where everybody is part of this big goofy team are so fun. And that’s something that [30 Rock executive producer] Rob Carlock and I have talked about: You can really do one big, juicy arced story in 13 episodes in a way that you can’t with 22. That’s what’s really exciting to me. It’s knowing that there’s going to be one more big thing — whatever it is that they’re doing, they’re going to do it together. It’s just so exciting that we have this opportunity to round up the gang one last time, you know?
Source: Entertainment Weekly
I'm worried about why Ron Swanson wasn't in that final scene on Parks and Recreation?! — Kenya
Don't worry, Ron will be back! (Only those working for Leslie were shown in the flash-forward.) However, Ron's life may not be so stable — especially since he'll be dealing with teenagers now! "The reality is that if you're content in life, you're never content for long," executive producer Mike Schur says. "The fact that he has a home life that is very satisfying doesn't mean that there are no new challenges for Ron Swanson." - Source: TV Guide
Question: Any chance Chris and Ann will pop back up on Parks and Rec next season — even if for just an episode? —Joel
Ausiello: At the very least we’ll get an update about them via one of the show’s regulars, per exec producer Mike Schur, who tells us, “They were such a huge part of the show that I don’t think it would be appropriate to go a whole season without knowing what’s happening to them or seeing them.” The fact that their portrayers, Rob Lowe and Rashida Jones, have already booked follow-up gigs — he has the NBC pilot The Pro, she’s starring in a new TBS comedy — could create “practical production” challenges, notes Schur, “But no matter what, the show will keep tabs on the two of them.” - Source: TV Line
Dan: I'm probably one of the few people who likes Billy Eichner's character on Parks and Rec. Whatever, don't hate. Is he coming back next year? He wasn't in the flash forward and I must know!
Was that your best Craig impersonation? Because kudos. We took the question straight to Billy Eichner at the 2014 American Comedy Awards. "I believe I'm coming back, yes," Eichner told us. And he has some ideas for Craig in the future. "I'm excited to see what the writers come up with. They're so smart. We'll see, maybe we'll fast forward and Craig will have taken some Xanax and come down to earth a little bit." We think that's unlikely, but…"I just want to see him married to a lovely woman with kids…just kidding!…I'd like to flesh him out a little bit. He kind of came on as a bit of a novelty almost, not knowing that he would be sticking around so long. He's a very polarizing character, which I kind of love, and we'll see. I'd like him to get fleshed out and figure out where he came from and figure out why he is the way he is." - Source: E!
Michael Schur interview with TV Guide:
Parks and Recreation Boss on the Show's Big Time Jump
by Natalie Abrams
Parks and Recreation has become very adept at surprise storytelling. Case in point: Thursday's season finale jumped ahead three years to find Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) working in the National Parks office, which had moved to Pawnee City Hall's vacant and refurbished third floor.
The final minute of the finale disoriented viewers — and not just because Leslie Knope had bangs. Our small-town bureaucrat had turned into a fast-paced boss dealing with some sort of media lockdown, canceling a trip to South Dakota and firing an employee named Ed (Mad Men's Jon Hamm) who was even more inept than Jerry Terry (Jim O'Heir). Leslie also had a group of people waiting for her downstairs in Ben's (Adam Scott) office to discuss something so important that the parents of three were willing to be late to Ben's big night — all mysteries which were set up for the upcoming seventh and likely final season of the NBC comedy.
What does this all mean for the show? TVGuide.com caught up with executive producer Mike Schur to get the scoop:
The season finale really felt like a series finale. Why did you guys decide to jump ahead three years?
Mike Schur: That's partly why. We didn't want to have an episode that felt like there were no questions left unanswered. We had this episode broken out and were careening headlong into a couple big things — Tom's restaurant opening, the Unity concert — and we had a meeting with NBC and were given some pretty significant insurances that this was not the end. So we had the choice of either quickly undoing everything that we had been working toward for the entire year, or figuring out a way to make it exciting heading into Season 7, and we went with the latter choice. We talked about Leslie actually moving to Chicago to take this job, we talked about a bunch of stuff, but the thing that seemed like the most fun and interesting and creatively exciting was to jump ahead in time.
How I Met Your Mother did a similar big change for the show's final season that ended up being pretty polarizing. Did that make you nervous when making this decision?
Schur: No, not at all. ... We try never to do anything or not do anything based on anything any other show has done. We just try to figure out what's good for us. As far as polarizing goes, so far it seems — from what I've heard, because I try to stay off the internet when the show airs — that people like it or at least think it's an interesting choice. We knew there would be people who don't like it and don't want it to happen. That's OK. Polarizing isn't always bad. It means that people care and as long as people care, then you're doing something right.
Speaking of polarizing: Leslie's bangs!
Schur: That was Poehler's decision, which I thought was really cool. That was Amy's pitch, that she would have a totally different hairstyle.
How different is Leslie in 2017 because she seemed very harried.
Schur: You know there's a thing about goldfish that they grow to meet the size of the bowl they're in? Part of the idea of seeing her in that capacity is that the little goldfish is in a bigger bowl now. She's a very capable person and she's very smart and she's on the ball. The idea was that if she's being put in a bigger bowl, she's not going to swim down and hide next to the color pebbles. She's going to expand to meet the size of the challenge. Obviously, she's being faced with bigger challenges. She's Leslie Knope, so without changing the essence and core of who she is as a person who's very empathetic and cares a great deal about her friends and people she works with, she's got a more important job and a bigger atmosphere.
It was important to us in that moment when she fires Jon Hamm — we had this idea that we would try to get someone like Jon and we actually ended up getting Jon — we thought it was a funny joke as a little wink to the time jump that part of what we just fast-forwarded through was three years of Jon Hamm being on the show. But he says, "Thank you for the literally hundreds of opportunities you've given me." It was important to us that he say something like that because you don't want to think that she's become some kind of callous, unfeeling person who just runs around firing people. She hired this guy, he was a total screw up, she gave him so many chances to improve himself and she finally hit her breaking point. It was important to us to know that she hadn't changed the essence of who she was.
Could we see flashbacks to the three years we missed and maybe see Jon Hamm again?
Schur: Yes, we are reserving the right to pop back through time that we missed to see certain things and how different characters got to where they are. If the stars align, I would certainly imagine that we would try to see another glimpse of Jon Hamm and his very unimpressive career in the National Parks service.
What about flash forwards?
Schur: Part of the fun of doing this is that we've established a new baseline for the reality of the show. I don't have any specific plans at this exact moment to do that, but it's nice to keep the audience guessing and keep them off balance and know that we could do that if we wanted to. There's been some amendments to the contract that we signed with our viewers and those amendments allow us a little more flexibility and freedom as to what we show and why.
How will you guys play with the fact that it is 2017 on the show? Could Hillary Clinton be in office as President?
Schur: There's a lot of decisions that we have to make about that. Do we get into that stuff? How much do we know about the world we're in? That's obviously a huge question going past the 2016 elections and Leslie having a job at the Department of the Interior. We have a lot of questions that we have to answer about what the political landscape is, the social landscape and the cultural landscape. Tom frequently references very, very recent hip-hop songs and artists. That will be less directly possible when we're in the future. The first rule that I laid down to the writing staff was if we do this, no hoverboards or jetpacks! No one is allowed to pitch a storyline about how everyone flies around on jetpacks. It's not going to be a weird, dystopian Blade Runner universe or anything like that. It's very gently science fiction.
How much longer can you feasibly keep Leslie Knope in Pawnee with her level of ambition?
Schur: Obviously that was the big question. She was lucky and she found a loophole. Thanks to Ron's craftsmanship and refurbishing the third floor, he gave her the idea that there was actually a way. This newly merged town with a larger tax space and a fun, new larger size gave her the idea. This is a town that is on the way up now. It would be good for the National Parks Service to move its office here. ... She's bursting at the seams, and she's been bursting for a while now in terms of who she is, what she wants to accomplish in her life and where she lives. That will certainly continue to be a question going forward.
There were a few major hints in the final moment, including the meeting downstairs, the media lockdown, Andy's broken arm and South Dakota. How much of these things will you actually address next season or were they just devices to disorient the viewers?
Schur: A big part of it was taking these neat and tidy papers that we've organized over the years and throw them up in the air and scatter them. Those questions need to be answered. What's happening? Who are these people waiting for her? Why is Ben in a tuxedo? Why did Larry change his name again? I don't know that all of them will be answered, but the big ones certainly have to be and will be when we come back.
Was Jamm (Jon Glaser) trying to throw a succession rally something you will touch upon again?
Schur: No, the point of that was that he was trying to throw his own version of what Leslie and her team had put together. The best he could do was that he maybe had the bass player for a Warrant cover band. The strong implication there was that he was not able to pull off what Leslie and the team had pulled off with voting in the other direction, so that's probably over for Jamm.
Is it safe to assume that Ben being dressed up has to do with the board game Cones of Dunshire?
Schur: There [are] certainly hints about the Cones of Dunshire being a thing that matters in his life, but Ben's also an ambitious guy. He has a lot of mobility in his life. He has dreams and hopes, so I don't think it's going to necessarily definitely be that or anything involving Cones of Dunshire, but he does own the copyright to it and it does seem to be taking off in a small part of Silicon Valley when the first part of the show ends, so that's at least out there as a possibility.
With everything being on a national level, how much will greater Pawnee still play a role in Leslie's stories?
Schur: She still lives there and we still have our set. That's the simplest way to put it. There's going to be some overlap and some dealings with the Parks Department, but at the same time, that's not her job anymore. We really wanted to show her in that talking head at the end of the episode when she's cleaning up her office to show the fact that she has moved on. That's not her office anymore. It's never going to be her office again. She's never going back to work in the Parks Department in Pawnee, Indiana.
What role will Ben and Leslie's kids play on the show?
Schur: They're a part of their life and obviously there's no way to never reference the main character of three kids, but at the same time, this isn't a family show. It's a workplace show and the show is always going to focus on Leslie's professional life. It just now has the added layer that waiting for her at home are three toddlers. We're not going to just pretend they don't exist.
Are you looking at next season as the show's last?
Schur: I don't know definitively at this exact moment. We're all looking at it that we can see the finish line somewhere in the distance. The fact that we're going into the seventh season, which is an incredible fact that I still can't really believe, the end is in a future that we can see at this point. Part of the reason that we could feel like we could make a creative jump like this is because the show isn't going to be on for five more years. This is certainly part of the end game.
With that in mind, will the original park come into play?
Schur: Yeah, it will have been 10 years essentially since Leslie first walked around that pit and decided to turn it into a park. All of the canon and the history of the show is going to be up for grabs in terms of what we show and what we don't. Because that was the instigating incident for the entire show, I would be personally surprised if we didn't in some way deal with that next year.
Source: TV Guide
Michael Schur interview with TV Line
Parks and Rec Boss Discusses Finale's Surprise Twist, Teases 'Gentle Sci-Fi' in (Final?) Season 7
By Vlada Gelman
Parks and Recreation‘s Season 6 finale on Thursday jumped three years into the future — and toward its inevitable conclusion?
Leslie’s “gentle, sci-fi” 2017 adventures — and flashbacks to those missing years? — are still ahead of her, but the NBC comedy’s upcoming seventh season could also mark its last hurrah, executive producer Mike Schur reveals below.
The EP also tackles our burning season ender questions like, why are Ben and his wife in such a tizzy? Will Leslie have a bunch of new faces to boss around next year? What happened to Donna and Tom? Or should we say, where in the world are they? And have Ron and Diane split up?
Bonus: Schur spills where some hints may be hiding about the future of Pawnee’s denizens!
TVLINE | Our comments section was overwhelmingly positive about the episode. But people did note that it felt like a series finale. There was a lot of closure before that three-year time jump. Was any part of this episode part of your plan for the series finale and now you have to change it?
Not really, no. What happened was we were breaking the end of the season and we had a meeting with NBC. In that meeting, we got some pretty strong assurances that we were going to come back for Season 7. At that point, we felt like we could either change everything and completely tear down what we had created or we could figure out a way to jolt the show at the very end. That seemed more fun and interesting, so we left the story the way it was, which certainly had a sense of closure to it in many ways, and then just did something at the end that threw a bunch of stuff up in the air and asked a bunch of questions that we get to pay off next year.
TVLINE | Three years seems like a very deliberate number. Why not one year or two?
We talked about a bunch of different scenarios. We talked about one year because we definitely wanted to jump through the pregnancy and the birth of the triplets. If you don’t do that, then you have to spend the entire season dealing with the pregnancy and wearing pads and, “My feet hurt,” and that kind of thing. We wanted to skip all that stuff.
TVLINE | I imagine Amy [Poehler] was very relieved not to have to wear a triplets pregnancy belly.
[Laughs] She started the show right after having her first child and then was pregnant with her second child for a good chunk of Seasons 2 and 3, I guess. Yeah, I think she was probably really relieved to hear that. [Laughs] Then we talked about five years. Three just seemed right. There’s an added benefit to three, which is that the fictional town of Pawnee was founded in 1817. So by jumping to 2017, it’s going to be the bicentennial for Pawnee.
TVLINE | Will the bicentennial act as next season’s Unity concert or carnival?
I don’t think so. We don’t a hundred percent know. But a big part of the reason to do the time jump was because Leslie is starting a new job, which is a much bigger deal than her previous jobs. Her energy and time, as you see in that last minute of the finale, is not focused on Pawnee. She’s barking out orders, and she’s talking about traveling to South Dakota. It might play out in the background. It might be part of the fabric of the season. But that’s not her purview anymore. She doesn’t work for the town of Pawnee anymore. It’s not going to be up to her to plan the bicentennial.
TVLINE | Are we still going to get Pawnee Parks and Rec stories? Some of the characters might still be working in that old office…
We were very deliberate in who we showed in that jump forward. The only people you see are Ben, Andy, April and Gary/Larry/Terry/Gerry. We didn’t say where Andy and April were working. We don’t know where Ron is or Tom or Donna or any of the other characters we don’t see. We still have our [old] set. [Laughs] Obviously, she’s working two floors above her old stomping grounds, so I would imagine we’ll spend at least a little bit of time there next year.
TVLINE | So a whole new group of people could be working in that office?
That’s part of the fun of doing something that shakes up the world like this. You get to conceive of new characters and new worlds and new journeys. We definitely have our work cut out for us, and we don’t want to leave behind the parts of the show that people have come to really love and enjoy over the years. But at the same time, we get to explore the possibility of adding new people. … At the very least, there’s the opportunity to create an entirely new office for [Leslie] filled with new people who are recurring. We haven’t made any final decisions about that or who those people would be or how they would fit into the world. But I would imagine you’ll be seeing some new faces, certainly.
TVLINE | Craig was heavily featured toward the end of the season. Will Billy Eichner be back in the same recurring capacity or will he be a regular next year?
We’re definitely hoping so. He obviously has his own show [Billy on the Street], and he’s got a bunch of stuff going on. But we’ve made it known to him and everybody else we’re certainly interested in having him be part of the show next year.
TVLINE | As a regular?
He was really just a guest star, but we put him in a lot of episodes. He would, hopefully, be a big part of the show.
TVLINE | Are we going to go back in time next season to see what happened in that three-year span?
We certainly reserve the right to do so, to jump back and pop through those three years and see little bits and pieces of what happened and how we got to where we are.
TVLINE | Will next season pick up in the same place it left off?
I’m not sure if it’ll pick up in that moment, but this isn’t a fake-out. This is real. This is when the show takes place now — 2017. That’s where a majority of the season is going to take place. We’re not going to fake everybody out and just go back to real time. We’re committing to the jump and the fact that we’ve fast-forwarded through a lot of the stuff that happened in those three years. It’s going to be a very gentle, sci-fi season. [Laughs]
TVLINE | Since you have the ability to go back in time, can we get Jon Hamm back? Please?
It was so nice of him to do this for us. They had just wrapped Mad Men, and I’m sure all he wanted to do was sit on his couch. He and Amy are very good friends. He and Adam Scott are very good friends. He was very happy to do it. We talked at the time [about] maybe there’s another opportunity for Ed the incompetent moron to show up next season. I hope that’s the case, because he’s the best.
TVLINE | When we see Leslie and Ben in the three-year time jump, they seem to be dealing with quite a bit. Are there any hints you can offer about what’s going on with them?
Not really, no. I don’t want to spoil anything. To be perfectly honest, we have three different scenarios that we mapped out for what exactly is going on, and we haven’t committed to one yet. We won’t get back into the writing and planning for another month.
TVLINE | Tammy returned and threatened to destroy Ron in her pants. Should we be worried about Ron and Diane?
I don’t think so. The purpose of that cameo was to put it into Ron’s mind that he maybe needed to demonstrate, officially, for everyone to see that he wasn’t the exact same person he used to be and that he’s not susceptible to the same kinds of moral failings that Tammy II brought out of him. We had a whole other mini plotline that’s going on be in an extended cut on NBC.com [later] today where Ron and Diane conspire to get Councilman Jamm and Tammy II together. They run a little bit of a long con on the two of them. [Laughs] It’s pretty enjoyable. But I don’t think you need to worry about Ron. Ron is not the cheating type. And his history with Tammy II is that if he’s in a relationship and is in a stable place in his life, her wilds and charms don’t tend to work on him so well.
TVLINE | We get a good sense that Leslie’s gone through some big changes in her life. How drastically different are everyone else’s lives going to be?
The reality of life – this is part of what we built the Ann and Chris farewell around in the middle of the season – is that people come and go. People don’t stay in the same place all the time, especially when they’re people like Tom and Donna, for example, who are very ambitious and have these big, rich full lives and like to travel and get out and do things. So that’s going to be a big issue in Season 7, explaining where everybody is and what they’re doing and figuring out how to get them back into the main, center core of the show.
TVLINE | Are there any hints peppered in the background or in the set design of that last sequence?
That remains to be seen. If there were, I wouldn’t want to discuss them now. [Laughs] It’s sort of like telling people before a DVD comes out that there’s a bunch of Easter eggs. Part of the fun of that stuff is discovering it as you go along.
TVLINE | How are you approaching Season 7? Do you see it as being the last one?
I would certainly say we’re nearing the end, yeah. That was part of the reason why we felt like we could make a big move like this. You probably don’t do this thing after Season 2 of a show. You do it at a time when you feel like you can see the finish line over the horizon. It’s not 100 percent definitive or anything, but there’s certainly a sense that we’re heading in that direction.
Source: TV Line
Michael Schur interview with Hitfix:
'Parks and Recreation' Mike Schur on the eventful season finale
Why the writers wanted to do 'something at the end that would shake everything up'
By Alan Sepinwall
"Parks and Recreation" just concluded its sixth season in memorable fashion (here's my review), with the Pawnee/Eagleton unity concert, a trip to San Francisco, big cameos and then a very crazy idea at the very end of the finale which could give us a very different show in season 7.
As usual when "Parks" wraps up a season, I emailed co-creator Mike Schur some questions about what went down, and why. It goes without saying that big big spoilers are coming, immediately.
When, how and why did you come up with the idea for this three-year time jump?
Mike Schur: We were breaking the final batch of episodes and had begun discussing the finale story. Some of it was sort of pre-destined, because we had the Unity Concert, which was going to put the merger storyline to rest, by showing that the town en masse would speak louder than the naysayers. And Leslie was going to accept the job, but figure out a way to stay in Pawnee (set up much earlier in the season by Ron's discovery of the third floor and his subsequent refurbishing of it). Then we had a conversation about the show's future with NBC, and got a very strong indication that we would be back for season seven, so we turned our minds toward doing something that would inject another season's worth of story into the finale. That either meant rebreaking the main action, in certain ways, to make it more forward-thinking, or doing something at the end that would shake everything up, and since we liked the stories we'd broken we went with the latter.
What percentage of the decision was made just to avoid showing Leslie and Ben dealing with baby triplets? And given the spotty track record of sitcom characters having kids, why did you decide to triple down on the experience? And was the triplet decision made before or after you knew you'd be skipping over colic and night feedings?
Mike Schur: The decision was made simply because we felt like Leslie is an overachiever, and it seemed funny and over achiever-y to have her and Ben create an insta-family. Triplets was one step beyond the traditional sitcom plot of "too much to handle," and seemed a little more fun and crazy-making, and when we researched it we found that the odds are about 1 in 8000 (the title of that episode) which didn't seem so nuts as to be implausible. But once we committed to that, we began imagining ways to avoid repeating what we had already seen with Ann -- pads and foot pain and sleepless nights and so forth. The jump forward allows us to avoid a lot of things that (I would imagine) fans were fearing about getting Leslie pregnant, in terms of the stories we tell going forward. That was a big reason I liked it.
Prior to the time jump, the rest of the finale feels very much like a conclusion to the series. Leslie takes this new job, Tom's restaurant is a big success, Ron is now comfortable enough in his own skin to appear in public as Duke Silver, Ben meets Kay Hanley, everybody sings the Lil Sebastian song one more time, etc. Is the idea that you had taken this iteration of the show and these characters as far as you could, and the only real way to keep things going is radical change?
Mike Schur: I don't think it's the only way. The cast is so good, and the world keeps expanding and moving forward, so I have no doubt that the creative team would've executed another batch of good stories and interesting dilemmas if we had stayed in real time. But this seemed more exciting and challenging. Plus, we have already seen a lot of what the finale up to that point would've suggested -- Leslie figuring out a new job, someone pregnant, etc. -- and now we get to see some new stuff.
How much have you figured out about the new set-up, both in terms of what kinds of stories you can tell now that most (all?) of the characters are working for National Parks, and what's happened to everybody in the last three years? Or did you just decide to put this out there, take a few weeks off and figure it out over the summer?
Mike Schur: We never make these moves unless we have at least discussed the basics, and have come up with a few plausible plans of attack for what is happening when we come back. That doesn't mean we know everything, or even most of it, but we at least discussed paths we can wander down with all of the characters. Amy and I had breakfast a week ago and I laid out the scenarios the room has discussed -- who is working where, how everyone is doing, and so on -- and we began what will now be a three month-long trial balloon process where we figure out which balloon flies highest. They're all working at a balloon factory, is what I'm getting at.
The conventional wisdom has been that season 7 will probably be your last. Is that what you're assuming? Do you feel like this new direction gives you multiple years of material, or is it simply something fun to do for a bonus year?
Mike Schur: The likelihood of season seven being our final one gave us an extra boost of confidence that we could make a big move like this. That was part of what we discussed with NBC a couple months ago.
Other shows have done time jumps before (“BSG,” “Desperate Housewives,” “Lost”), or done major revamps (“Laverne & Shirley” goes to California, Roseanne wins the lottery, “HIMYM” spends a year on a wedding weekend) very late in their runs. What do you see as the advantages and potential pitfalls of doing this? How different do you feel the show will actually be?
Mike Schur: The “BSG” move was my personal inspiration, right down to the way we shot it, which is the “Parks and Rec” version of Gaius Baltar putting his head down on his desk and picking it up one year later. I found that creatively thrilling, as a fan, so that was our template. For a while we discussed the Laverne and Shirley version, where everyone moves to Chicago, but as we discussed it, it didn't make sense that anyone would move with them (which is why part two of the finale is Leslie excitedly asking for takers and getting none). The advantages are obvious -- it's a jolt of creative energy, and if you don't jolt your show with a bolt of electricity every so often it can get stale. The pitfalls are that it's a risk to shake up a world that fans have been invested in, in a certain way, for a long time. But we felt like it wasn't so massive so as to violate the contract we've made with our viewers, as long we're still telling stories with the same characters. Except that next season four of them are Cylons.
Is this the only time we'll ever see Jon Hamm as Ed? Will we get flashbacks to this three year gap, or just stray references explaining things like how Garry Gergich is now called Terry?
Mike Schur: Don't want to say definitively. We wanted to keep his cameo as secret as possible, and Jon is such a mensch that he agreed to shoot it based on just Amy and me inviting him, without going through the normal channels of guest star appearances. He just loves doing stuff like this, so he does it. We discussed possible ways to go back and fill in the gaps of Ed the Incompetent Goof and his great three-year run at National Parks, but we have no idea if we'll be able to get him back.
Speaking of which, do you feel there's any difference between "Jerry" (an honest mistake made years ago that Garry was too sheepish to correct) and "Larry" (the group actively ignoring what they know — or think — is his real name)? Is there a point you cannot push his suffering past?
Mike Schur: I have gathered that you, personally, are maybe not such a huge fan of his name changes. Which I understand, how someone might feel that is too cruel. (On the other hand, he did print expensive menus for Tom's Bistro with pictures of his dog's butt instead of the dishes being offered, so maybe it's karma.) I will only add that Garry/Larry/Jerry/Terry still has the best life of anyone on the show, in many ways, and I would bet that when the show sails off into the sunset, his ending will be a happy one.
I know you're not reading much, or any, online reaction to the show anymore, so I don't know if you're aware that Craig has been a polarizing character. Does that surprise you? Does it bother you at all? Is there anything you can or will do to modulate the character, or do you just like what Billy Eichner is doing and figure people will either like him or not? Given how much more human all the other regulars have become over the years (other than maybe Andy), how do you work in a bigger and broader personality like this? And is Craig working in the new office?
Mike Schur: It would surprise me far more if Craig were not polarizing. I find Billy Eichner to be hilarious, though I also imagine that for many, a little goes a long way. (In one of his Billy on the Street interviews, that was actually a question he asked strangers: "For a dollar: does a little of me go a long way?") I would far rather add a character who generates strong feelings than someone who just kind of floats along, generating medium-warmth smiles of gentle affirmation. Billy provides a kind of comedy the show did not have -- an insane person screaming at everyone, and our job going forward, as it is with all of our characters, is to develop him and make him more three dimensional.
How do you feel the show changed without Ann and Chris for most of the second half of the season? Was it easier because you had fewer characters to service? Harder because you couldn't rely on Rashida or Rob to do the things you were used to having them do? Do you intend to add anybody of note to the cast for next season, or will the time jump bring enough change that it's not necessary?
Mike Schur: Things certainly changed, and there were many times when we wished those two were still around. But this cast is so deep, there are always people to turn to for story moves. And we had more room to develop some other characters who hadn't been explored enough. 21:30 is not a lot of time to showcase the number of talented performers (and guest performers) on our show every week. It just isn't. (Or even 43:00 -- there is a whole mini-plot in the finale wherein Ron and Diane concoct a way to get Jamm and Tammy, two of the most loathsome people ever showcased on television, to make out with each other, and we had to lose it for time.) So the silver lining to losing Ann's level-headed pragmatism and friendship and Chris's boundless enthusiasm and manic love of the mundane was that, for example, Donna got a boyfriend. And we got Keegan-Michael Key on the show, and Sam Elliott, and Blake Anderson, and The Decemberists, and so on.
There were a lot of stories this year about how terrible the people of Pawnee can be, and Leslie took a lot of abuse from the citizens, from Jamm, etc. Is that material largely out the window now that she's working on a national scale? Or will the stupidity and fatness of the town still be an integral part of the show?
Mike Schur: I'm not sure, but I think we're more inclined to have Pawnee recede into the background a little. Leslie has always wanted to fix the town and make it perfect, and part of her maturation was learning that it's impossible -- there is no perfect utopian town, 100% full of learned, thoughtful citizens who actively contemplate the interests of society. She came to terms with that slowly over six seasons, left the town better than she'd found it (as per classic camping ground rules), and made the decision to focus her energies on bigger projects. The decision to leave her physically in Pawnee, though, means that she can still dip her toes into that water, if we are so inclined.
Getting back to the idea of having provided so much closure in the finale, what do you do with Ron Swanson from here? He's happily-married, enjoys being a father, does all sorts of things he would have been horrified to consider back in season 2 or 3, and can even resist Tammy 2. Nick Offerman is still Nick Offerman, but is Ron still Ron Effing Swanson? And if not, what role do you see him serving on the show now?
Mike Schur: Ron will always eat bacon, drink whiskey, build things, hunt, rail against the government, fight for individualism and self-reliance, hide his gold, and reluctantly provide wisdom in succinct word chunks. But now he has three kids in a blended family, and a wife he loves (and who loves him for who he is), and if that didn't nudge him in a new direction the tiniest bit (and he really has changed very little, all things considered), I'd personally find it sad. Of all of the characters whose futures are undecided, Ron's has been on my mind the most, I think. I have an idea of his story for season seven, and I solemnly vow that he is not going to become Eagleton Ron, in any way shape or form.
Since you bring up Eagleton Ron, was his appearance in "Flu Season 2" deliberately written to evoke Rust Cohle on "True Detective," or is it just that any loner philosopher character on TV is going to evoke that guy for a while?
Mike Schur: There was no intentional nod there -- I want to say that that script was written before True Detective even aired. Eagleton Ron is more of an Eastern thinker than Rust.
Who created The Cones of Dunshire, and how thoroughly have the actual rules been mapped out? Could the writing staff play an actual game right now with the props that have been built, or is it like True American on “New Girl,” where you're not worried about the rules beyond an excuse for characters to say silly things?
Mike Schur: It's a true team effort, though Dave King (active gamer and Settlers of Catan enthusiast) has been a driving force. When we decided to bring it back as a key plot point, and have Ben and others actually play it, all I cared about is that I wanted like 50 new gameplay terms, because I want it to seem like the most complicated and impenetrable board game ever invented. The actual rules and terms are modified chunks of a bunch of different existing games. We worked directly with Mayfair Games, who actually designed the pieces for us, and there has been talk of releasing an actual version, though at this point based on what we've seen I have no idea how you'd create an actual functioning set of rules that includes all of the nonsense we've written.
Looping back to Leslie and Ben's kids, how much are you expecting them to be a part of the show next season? You've jumped past the real sleepless period of it, but how much have you thought about how having these three will affect Leslie's superhuman energy levels?
Mike Schur: We have thought about it a lot, and our operating principle is that we do not want it to disrupt the show as it stands -- this will not become a show about their home life and the raising of their children. It's another part of their life and there are questions to be answered about how they balance their time, whether they have help, and how they manage. But it's a workplace show and will remain so.
Your characters went through a lot of jobs this season. Ben worked for Sweetums, worked for the accountants, became city manager, and may or may not have a new job when we see him in the tux at the end of the finale. Tom created a new job for himself at City Hall, and sold one business and started another, April and Donna were splitting time between the parks department and the animal control stuff, Leslie was a councilwoman and then back in the parks department and now runs a National Parks office, etc. What was motivating all of that, and will things next season have to be more stable once we find out what everybody is doing in 2017?
Mike Schur: A million years ago, when doing research about the world of municipal government, one thing that struck me is how often people's job titles changed -- from one department to another, from the public to the private sector and back again. People move around a lot, everyone has her eye on some other, slightly better situation in some other corner of city hall. Plus governments are constantly shuffling and reorganizing and shuttering or condensing departments -- they are often byzantine hodge-podges of fractured org charts lying atop a bed of shifting sand. I also think in general, these days, people don't do one thing. People like Tom Haverford (nevermind his striver nature and big dreams) simply don't go to work at Mutual of Omaha, stay for 35 years and retire with a gold watch. Professional mobility has been part of the show's DNA for a while and I don't think that will change.
Also, how much, if at all, are you planning to deal with the 2017 of it? Will everyone be wearing Google Glass and shiny jumpsuits?
Mike Schur: Rule number one for the writers when we committed to the jump was: no hoverboards. No one is allowed to pitch that everyone is on hoverboards. It's going to be very very gently sci-fi.
Are you going to have to be vaguer about references to politics and pop culture next season, as a result of the jump? And, if so, will it be harder to write for Tom as a result?
Mike Schur: Yes, we will have to be vaguer, obviously, though it also seems fun to do some David Foster Wallace-style projecting into the near future. That's what I mean by "gently sci-fi" -- there will be the opportunity, should we be so inclined, to make jokes and references to what we imagine the cultural and political landscape to be in 2017.