PARKS AND RECREATION: Mike Schur on the Season Finale, Passionate Fans, and More - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

PARKS AND RECREATION: Mike Schur on the Season Finale, Passionate Fans, and More

May 10, 2012 by  

On tonight’s season finale of PARKS AND RECREATION, viewers will find out whether Leslie Knope was successful in her season-long election campaign.

I talked with PARKS AND RECREATION executive producer Mike Schur about what their thought process was behind the election results (and subsequent panic over whether they made the right call), the very, very, very passionate fans of the show,  the evolving relationships and more…

I think it’s fair to say most of us love Leslie Knope and want her to succeed. But as writers, do you think the best thing for her character at this moment is to win this election?
Mike Schur: We talked about that a lot. Ever since we decided to have her run, we’ve been debating if she should win or lose. There were many pros and cons for both sides. And we ultimately shot both endings because we were so nervous about the idea we made the wrong decision. [Laughs] We wanted to be able to change our minds one last time.

But I think the key for us when we were discussing what the ultimate fate should be was let’s figure out a way the character can have an interesting life scenario and we can go forward to something interesting, regardless of whether she wins or loses. Obviously if she wins, she would have a new — it’s a part-time job at the City Council, but it’s a big job. That part of it is obvious. But if she loses, what else could happen to her that would make her future just as interesting as if she won. And we figured out a bunch of different possibilities for that. And our show is also both about people’s professional lives and their personal lives, so we also said, regardless of whether she wins or loses, what can we do with her personal life that would be interesting and that would cause there to be some tremors or vibrations. Not just her relationship with Ben, but her friendships with everybody else. The idea going into the finale was there’s this big question of whether she wins or loses this election we’ve been following all year — and we will find that out — but also, how do we introduce new other things? Because she’s never been a person whose life is only about her job; she’s a person who very much values her friendships and her relationships. We just decided to really shake it up in many different ways. Winning or losing the election is just one of the changes that happens to her in the finale.

I know you said it’s not just about her relationship with Ben, but will there be a change in her relationship with Ben before the year ends?
Well, I think it’s certainly safe to say there’s a new development in their relationship that’s significant.  It’s a little interesting with them because the original design of this show was she would have a lot of different relationships over many years or however long the show was on. We sort of thought of it as instead of the model where you find Jim and Pam on THE OFFICE or something, we kind of felt she is a very ambitious person and a very particular person and we thought it might be interesting to show her date a lot of different kinds of men to see what she would get from those different relationships and what she would find lacking. That’s why we had Mark, that’s why we had Louis C.K.’s character, we had Justin Theroux’s character. And then we had Ben. And Amy and Ben are such dorky soulmates, that it’s hard to continue down the path that we had been on.

All of this is just to say we’re trying to find ways to keep their relationship interesting when they love each other so much and they’re so good for each other and they’re seemingly so perfect for each other, we’re just trying to figure out — from the beginning with them — we’ve been trying to figure out ways that we can just not make it be them sitting around on their couch just cooing at each other because I don’t think that’s very interesting to watch. [Laughs] As much as some fans might like to see it, and I know there are some people who would like that. And frankly, to them, I’m a little bit mushy myself, so I do, too. But for storytelling purposes, we’re always trying to figure out new things that could happen to them, or new ways they could approach their relationship to keep it interesting.

Does it help to have other couples on the show who are more will they/won’t they or off-on to balance out the possible happiness of April/Andy and Leslie/Ben?
Yeah, that’s totally my theory on this. We had Andy and April as these will they/won’t they in season 2, and then we figured out they should get married right away in season 3. And the only fear that I had was that kind of two people circling around each other is so fun to watch, that every great comedy certainly in the last 50 years has had an element of that somewhere in the cast. But the reason we did that with Andy and April was because we were like, “Oh wait, Leslie and Ben have started. Leslie and Ben will be that for a long time so that energy can be replaced.” Now that we have Leslie and Ben together, it’s like, what are we going to do now? So that was part of the idea behind Ann and Tom getting together, even though their relationship is very silly and on the surface, we were still [thinking] there needs to be some kind of relationship development that you are following a little bit at the end of this season and certainly next season.

For me, I feel like what do people care about in the world? People care about work, who their friends are and who they are dating. Those are the only thing people care about really. So for me, that’s what the story should be about — what’s happening with your job, who are your friends and who are you dating? Those are the three central [marks] of human existence. And on a day-to-day basis. I don’t ever want to be in a situation where either everyone is paired up or everyone is single. That seems kind of sad to me. [Laughs]

Yeah, that might not be so amusing to watch.
You’re right, for generating comedy, that would be a problem. If you look at — the most basic example of this, and one of the most well-executed example of this is FRIENDS. There’s six people and from the pilot all the way to the finale, there was always some relationship that you were incredibly invested in just among those six people. And you know, we have 10 characters, and I don’t see any reason we can’t make it, why we can’t pull off the same feat, which is having a relationship that is either funny, that you care about, or both, happening all the time. Why would you ever be in that situation? It seems crazy.

One of the things that has stuck out to me recently are the changes in April. Is this something you guys plan on sticking with whether Leslie wins or loses?
Well, part of the DNA of this show — not to get too theoretical or anything — but part of the DNA is that people don’t just reset. I don’t like it in shows when something wacky happens and then everybody is just like, ‘Oh well, that was fun.’ And then they go back to where they were were before. As a viewer, I’m disappointed by that. I feel like if people learn a lesson on a show, they should remember them in the future. And if people make changes in their lives, they should continue in that direction if that helps them.

Like Andy. Andy started off with two broken legs and sitting on a couch. And then he lived in a whole in a ground. And then he got a job as a lowly shoe-shine guy and then he got a job as an assistant and we’ve put him on this upwards trajectory. And if we were to put him back at the shoe-shine stand, that would be kind of a bummer, because he’s growing up. Everybody grows up and learns things every year. So it’s our kind of personal preference as writers and producers and actors that the characters don’t revert. I don’t think April will ever be really sunny and bright and cheery and happy all the time, but I also don’t think she’s going to go back to doing nothing and reading magazines because that’s just not interesting to me. I’d rather people’s lives change and shift for the better as they grow up.

You’ve mentioned “next season” a few times. Are you thinking optimistically about the show returning?
There’s no choice but for me to be optimistic. If I were pessimistic, I wouldn’t be able to function. I’m cautiously optimistic. I think the show speaks for itself and it’s a show that people like and has very passionate fans that we’re eternally grateful for. Every day when I turn on my computer, there’s a new thing a fan has generated that really, really genuinely makes me laugh; it makes me happy. So I think in this day and age, there are so many TV shows out there, so much consumable entertainment, that the passion of our fans is such a good signal to me that people care about the show. And I’ve always felt that people who start watching the show, in my experience, often stick with it. That’s a really good sign. I’m just choosing to be optimistic because that’s what Leslie would do.

So now that you mentioned you have seen some of the fan-created things, has there been any PARKS AND RECREATION creation that particularly tickled your fancy?
Yeah, oh, there’s many. There’s a tumblr site that took quotes from GAME OF THRONES and put them over screenshots of PARKS AND REC or vice versa and I’m a gigantic GAME OF THRONES fan, so that particularly delighted me.

I really love…there’s been this thing recently where this goofy bit started on our set where Kathryn Hahn (Jennifer), Rashida [Jones (Ann)], Amy [Poehler (Leslie)], and Adam [Scott (Ben)] took a picture of themselves looking like lawyers and said it was from a 2003 pilot called PHILLY JUSTICE. Are you familiar with this?

I am. I saw the start on Twitter and I was at PaleyFest when you guys ran with that.
Yeah, so now, people have created opening credits sequences for PHILLY JUSTICE. There’s one of those confession Tumblr sites where people are making confessions about it. And it’s just like so funny to me. So fun and so great. This is literally just actors on our set killing time and making each other laugh and then now it’s like a thing that exists in the world. We’ve been talking about how do we pay this back? What can we do? What about the people who care about this dumb fake show [the actors] created? It’s one of those things that is completely unexpected. And what I love about it is that it came out of the fact that our set is the happiest place on Earth. And the actors love each other and have so much fun with each other and everybody gets along and they all goof around and have fun all the time. So when something out of that spirit hits the internet and people pick up the ball and run with it, it just delights me to no end. It’s impossible for me to tell you how delightful and charming I think that is.

The PARKS AND RECREATION season finale airs tonight at 9:30 PM on NBC.

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