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.

Alan Sepinwall has been reviewing television since the mid-'90s, first for Tony Soprano's hometown paper, The Star-Ledger, and now for HitFix. His new book, "The Revolution Was Televised," about the last 15 years of TV drama, is for sale at Amazon. He can be reached at