'Parks and Recreation' Mike Schur on the eventful season finale
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.
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org