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Years of living hilariously: Mike Schur reflects on milestones, assumptions he's had to correct and that 100th episode.

OVER SIX YEARS ON THE AIR, "Parks and Recreation" experienced more highs (acclaim, awards, 100 episodes) and lows (a rocky launch, near-cancellation) than the audience at a Mouse Rat concert. Co-creator and show-runner Mike Schur talks Variety through seven of the show's key turning points.

APRIL 9, 2009

"Parks and Recreation" premieres to incorrect assumptions that it's a spinoff of Peacock lead-in "The Office."

"(Co-creator) Greg Daniels is very fond of saying, and I think he's right, that the cast was great before the show was great. ... It didn't matter how many times we gave interviews or talked about how it wasn't an 'Office' spinoff. I think there were probably a number of people who watched the pilot and were like, 'I don't understand. Is this a different branch of Dunder Mifflin somehow?' ('Parks') was a little bit brighter and a little bit louder and a little bit sillier probably. We needed six or 10 episodes to figure that out."

JAN. 30, 2010

Despite so-so ratings, the show scores a mysteriously early pickup for season three.

"We did 24 episodes in season two, and they picked us up in January for season three largely because Amy was pregnant and the only way to be on the fall schedule was to keep going right into season three. Then they ended up holding the show for midseason. It was sort of all for naught. I'm very happy that happened because the writing staff was really in a groove. We did a bunch of episodes at the end of season two where they just were breaking really easily and we felt like we had figured something out. (The beginning of season three) is when we conceived of the Harvest Festival, and then that became a real template for the rest of the run of the show: these big projects that (Leslie) took on."

MAY 11, 2012

The renewal for season five comes down to the wire, after several stories report erroneously that the show is canceled.

"I don't think I ever felt like, 'Uh-oh we're getting canceled.' We always felt like we didn't know. Every season finale was (written as) a series finale starting with season three on. In season five we did it twice, when we did Leslie and Ben's wedding hallway through the year. We never took anything for granted. I felt at a certain point that the worst feeling to have would be if we got canceled and hadn't properly written an ending for the show."

MAY 9, 2013

Another renewal means the show will hit a major milestone 10 episodes into season six, so long as Creenblatt is kept happy.

"When we got picked up for season six it was like, 'Oh my God, we're going to hit 100.' I remember thinking, 'Everyone be quiet. As long as no one insults Bob Greenblatt ... it's right in front of us.' It was pretty amazing to realize that and then to count it down and get a big giant fun cake with a number 100 on it (1). Just contemplating 100 episodes of the show at that point was mind-blowing. It easily could have been six (episodes) and out."

JULY 31, 2013

News breaks that Rashida Jones and season two addition Rob Lowe wilt exit the series midway through season six.

"We knew we wanted to get (Ann and Chris) back together and we were plotting that arc long in advance. It was the natural end. The first day we had that discussion, Rashida called me and said, 'Hey, do you want to have lunch?' She said that she had gotten this offer to write for Pixar (on 'Toy Story 4'), which was then kept top secret for two years. It was a nice, slow easing out of their characters, which I think is appropriate because they were a huge part of the show."

JAN. 12, 2014

Amy Poehler wins a Golden Globe for lead actress in a comedy, the same year she co-hosts with Tina Fey for a second time.

"I am not ashamed to say that I started crying a little bit. I mean, the ironic thing with her to me is that at every awards show she's the funniest person at the show ... and yet they're always handing statues to other people. I hope that that's not the last time someone calls her name from a podium."

MAY 11, 2014

NBC renews "Parks" for a seventh and final season of 13 episodes. Series gets to go out on the showrunners' own terms.

"Amy and I started talking about it in the middle of season six. We both just had the same feeling, it seems like it's the right time. So, we had a meeting at NBC and we told them that's what we were thinking. They were like, 'That's what we were thinking too.' It was about something so monumental, at least for us monumental. ... We wanted 13 (episodes). '30 Rock' had done 13 and I had talked to Rob Carlock, who was an old friend of mine from 'SNL,' about what that was like. There's something that feels very manageable about doing 13 instead of 22. You can just pack all of the emotional stuff into a shorter time period."

Allocations

Some facts and fiction about the Indiana town

$1k

Amount Leslie Knope spends annually on waffles.

200 Number of minihorses sired by Li'l Sebastian.

10 Mike Schur's favorite character names:

* Officer Randy Killnose

* Mona-Lisa Saperstein

* Trodd Frankensteip

* Typhoon Montalban

* Tyrion Fonzarelli

* Gretzky-Susan Pelligrino

* Judy Zappossoppaz-zappossopaz

* Summer Ole-Kracken Frogfrong

* Toni Tone Strunkfuster

* Ssassandra Ssassnorp

A GALAXY OF GUEST STARS: VARIETY ASKED THE CAST TO REFLECT ON A FEW FAVORITE PARKS AND REC GUESTS

NICK OFFERMAN ON MEGAN MULLALLY

"My life on the show has been such a sequence of skipping up the ladder of my dreams a couple rungs at a time. To be handed this episode where for the first time (my wife and I are) a comedy team ... I felt like a kid in a candy store with an unlimited tab. I kept wanting to giggle at my good fortune that I was getting to make such nasty comedy with my hero."

ADAM SCOTT ON KATHRYN HAHN AND PAUL RUDD

"In season four when Hahn and Rudd were both doing episodes at the same time, we're all just hanging out at work doing that campaign storyline and it's just like, 'I can't believe my luck. I'm sitting here with these friends who I just adore and admire and on top of all that we're making this show. It was a perfect moment."'

AMY POEHLER ON JOE BIDEN

"He was OK with me, as Leslie, leaning in for a kiss. [Loughs] I always appreciated that. He went along for the ride. I think we proved we did a good job of letting people score and be funny on the show. People liked to work on our show and I think that kind a gets around."

NICK OFFERMAN ON SAM ELLIOTT

"He wasn't totally sure-footed coming into our sloppy, half-improv comedy style because lie's such an accomplished film actor. We said, 'Sam, as long as you talk with your voice and let us photograph your face and body I believe we're golden."'

ADAM SCOTT ON JK SIMMONS

"JK's the best--he deserves everything he's getting and more. Every take is so good and funny, then he does something weird. He cuts an intimidating figure, but lie's really just a sweetheart."

MIKE SCHUR ON PATTON OSWALT

"He is one of my favorite performers. I think his brain works unlike anybody else's brain. We invented that character for him ... (He did an improv for) 10 uninterrupted minutes about his crazy 'Star Wars,' Marvel crossover movie. It would have been almost exactly half the length of the show. We asked him for permission to put it A online and he was like, 'Sounds great!'"

AUBREY PLAZA ON PATRICIA CLARKSON

"She was so hot and funny and terrifying. We made out, but it didn't make it onto the show. Everyone was just staring at us and I said, 'I couldn't help it, she's the sexiest person alive!' That was a full-on and magical improv."

AZIZ ANSARI ON BEN SCHWARTZ AND JENNY SLATE

"Those characters are so outrageous that they can just do anything. It's always a battle to not lose it when those guys are together and just go insane. I've known both of them for years doing comedy and it was so cool to work with them"

AUBREY PLAZA ON PARKER POSEY

"What I remember is wanting so badly to have more interactions with her because she is such a big hero of mine. Just being around her is so fun because she's such a lunatic in the best way."

AMY POEHLER ON LOUIS C.K.

"Louis C.K. coming in and playing my boyfriend was a big deal. Louis' show hadn't even aired yet at that point and I don't think he knew anything about our show. I remember a lot of late nights cracking up with him on set. He looks really natural in a police uniform and he felt really comfortable in it. He liked it a lot."
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Title Annotation:CLOSE UP: 'PARKS AND RECREATION'
Author:Berkshire, Geoff
Publication:Variety
Article Type:Interview
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 14, 2015
Words:1530
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