During a year when a lot of comedies were inconsistent, “Parks and Recreation” kept humming along, giving viewers a consistently funny fourth season that centered on parks department deputy Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) and her run for Pawnee city council. Along the way, though, viewers have seen growth and change from the entire cast, with born wonk Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott) leaving his city job to run Leslie’s campaign (and be her boyfriend), Chris Traeger (Rob Lowe) go from perpetually positive to perpetually depressed and an unusual romantic relationship between oh-so-normal Ann Perkins (Rashida Jones) and diminutive playa Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari).
Before the show wraps up its fourth season with an election-themed finale on May 10, executive producer Michael Schur answered some questions about the season and about the “big moves” he will once again make with his ensemble.
Take us inside your approach to the finale, and what you wanted to accomplish.
This whole season was about Leslie running for office, so the most important thing about the finale was sticking the landing, so to speak. We really wanted to craft a story that gave a satisfying resolution to a 22-episode arc. (23, really, if you count the season 3 finale.) After that, our preference is always to make big moves with characters that throw forward to next year, so we tried to build in a juicy story for everyone else. Which isn’t easy, because we have a big cast.
Preview the “Parks and Rec” Finale:
Did anything disappoint you about this season? Anything you wish you could have done, but didn’t have the time, forethought, or resources?
There really isn’t. I’m incredibly proud of the whole year, and I think the conclusion will be very satisfying for old and new fans alike.
What should fans look forward to next season? And if you haven’t gotten that far yet… what would your dream season be?
We try to create new and exciting scenarios for everyone — to make it the same show, but different. I want viewers to come into each year knowing they get the same amazing cast and the same themes and comedy, but with new challenges and storylines. That’s what keeps a show fresh, to me. So, I guess fans should look forward to: same great taste, new exciting package!
What were the high points of the season?
I think Chris Pratt had an exceptional year. Some of our cast members have been well-known in the comedy world for a while, but I think this is the year Chris staked his claim to being one of the funniest people on TV. The high points of every season, to me, all involve the cast being great. Amy, Rashida, Adam, Rob, Aubrey (Plaza), Aziz, Nick (Offerman), Chris, Jim (O’Heir), and Retta — everything we as writers throw at them they run with, and improve on. I think ten years from now, people are going to remember that they were all in a show together and their heads will explode. Aside from that, Amy wrote and directed “The Debate” episode, and watching her bring her particular brand of genius to all three main phases of the creative process made me so happy. It turned out exactly as great as I imagined it would.
Do you have a favorite episode, line, or scene from this season? If so – what?
Too many to count, honestly. Listing them all would result in a weird display of fanboyism for my own cast. Just one tiny one, at random — I loved it when April asked Ann if she wanted her office door open or closed, Ann says “Open is fine,” and then April slams the door and walks off with her hands thrust into the air triumphantly. Which I believe was improvised by Aubrey Plaza.
“Parks and Recreation” airs Thursdays at 9:30/8:30c on NBC.