And although we're as excited as when The Office's Jim and Pam said "I do" — twice — we're a little worried about how the Parks and Recreation power couple will get their wedding together in a mere two hours after deciding to get hitched at the black tie gala to raise money for their park project. Will everything come together in time? TVGuide.com caught up with executive producer Mike Schur to find out about Thursday's eventful back-to-back episodes (airing 8:30/7:30c and 9/8c on NBC). Plus: Will Leslie finally get to build her park?
Why the decision to go with an impromptu wedding?
Mike Schur: I fully believe that at this point in history after, I don't know, 65 years of sitcoms, that the only real weapon that you have as a writer/producer of a TV show is surprise. We always had this plan. Andy (Chris Pratt) and April (Aubrey Plaza) got married with no warning at all. They'd been dating for three weeks, and we didn't want to do the same thing, so what we did is we had Ben propose and then we did a lot of the stories that you normally associate with an engagement. They had bachelor parties and they chose the caterer and then we sneak-attacked everybody. It was really just to try to do something surprising that would catch people off-guard so we starting having them talk about how their wedding date was May 16 and my hope was that savvy TV viewers would go, "Oh that must be the season finale!" and then that was all set up to try to just sneak-attack people in February.
What snags will they hit on the way to actually getting down the aisle?
Schur: There's a lot of them. They have about two hours until they're supposed to get married from in the opening moments of the episode. It's a nice Parks and Rec moment because Leslie and Ben say, "We're going to get married!" and everyone unquestioningly just goes, "All right, what do we do, how can we help?" Everyone rushes around and they have a lot of stuff to do. They have to get a marriage license signed. Marriage licenses in Indiana — we looked it up — I think are only good for like 60 days so they'd have to do that, and they have to get rings, and Leslie's dress isn't finished and they need someone to be the officiant. What usually takes people six months or a year to plan, they have about two hours to do it, so there are a number of snags including some very unexpected and surprising ones that occur which I won't give away.
What was behind having some of these bigger moments play out, like having Ron (Nick Offerman) walk her down the aisle?
Schur: We just sat down and said, "OK, if they were going to get married and here are their eight closest friends, who would do what?" The roles very naturally emerged. Ron walking Leslie down the aisle is something that we have been talking about for a long time. There's a Leslie/Ron scene in the episode where the two of them are talking and walking her down the aisle is the subject that's up for discussion. I think it's my favorite Leslie/Ron scene maybe that we've ever done, and it is yet another example of the fact that Amy Poehler has never won an Emmy and Nick Offerman has never even been nominated for an Emmy is one of the more absurd aspects of the entertainment culture in America in 2013. By the way, I don't want to say what it is, but Ron also performs two other extremely important tasks in the episode which are surprises.
When we see Leslie and Ben go to his hometown, will his family be upset about not being at the wedding?
Schur: That's something we discuss in the opening seconds of the episode because they get very excited about the idea of getting married tonight. Then, some of the realities of what that would mean kick in and it's something that we don't dwell on too much. We've met Ben's parents (Jonathan Banks and Glenne Headly) and they're a disaster so the fact that his parents won't be there doesn't give Ben much pause, but in [an upcoming] episode where they go to Partridge ... you get the sense that they're on a little tour of their families and of the people who mean a lot to them who weren't able to be at the wedding just to say hello and share in their newlywed bliss. It's something that obviously we had to deal with because we didn't want people to think that with them getting married in a flash that they were going to end up hurting anyone's feelings, which would kind of take some the joy out of the occasion. So the subject comes up, and they kind of answer it and then they move on and we don't dwell on it too much.
What will their trip to his hometown be like since Ben essentially ruined that town?
Schur: That's very much the point of the episode. It's been 20 years since the Ice Town debacle and the town is reaching out to him to make amends and present him with the key to the city, which is something that every mayor of his town gets and that he never got because he was unceremoniously booted out of office. Leslie loves her hometown so much and she wants him to love his hometown too because that stuff's important to her, so it's about her going with him to try to close that chapter of his book.
But is the town really planning to forgive him?
Schur: What we've heard of the Ice Town disaster has not been over-exaggerated. It's not something that people in Partridge, Minnesota have easily forgotten or moved past. The real analogy of it to me is Bill Buckner in Boston. Bill Buckner made an error in the 1986 World Series, which, side note, came on the heels of like seven other terrible blunders made by other members of the team. But the error that he made happened to be embarrassing, and Boston, which is not the most forgiving town in the world, essentially never let him forget it. It was only much later, almost 20 years later, when they won the World Series that there was a sense of closure with that episode. That was the model for Ben and Ice Town and going back to his hometown.
Leslie was able to raise the money for the park, so how soon will we actually get to see that come to fruition?
Schur: The reality of large-scale municipal projects, even when it's a small park, is that it takes forever and ever and ever, and you're not going to suddenly see kids swinging on a swing set on that lot. The story of them trying to convert that lot into a park will be complete now that they've gotten the money, and getting the money means that they've gotten approval, but it's not a huge factor for the rest of this season. Going forward in a theoretical future season, I'm sure that we'll keep tabs on it and we'll see it continue to grow and we'll see it slowly get developed, but it's not like the season finale this year is going to be a ribbon cutting. These things take a really, really long time because you have to test soil and you have to do an environmental impact report and you have to have a lot of meetings with the public and do a ton of stuff. Most of which we won't see. The rest of the season is not about the Pawnee Commons project. However long the show lasts, I think it's something that we will continue to sort of see in the background and occasionally in the foreground too.
So maybe the series finale is the ribbon cutting?
Schur: Yes. The way the series will end, if I have my druthers, is that the very end of Season 19, there will be a huge ribbon cutting and Leslie and her 19 kids will all go and play on the playground. A lot happens.
Wow. Spoiler alert!
Schur: She has two sets of octuplets. She adopts three kids and that brings the total up to 19.
Well, that raises the question of where the rest of the season is headed and whether a baby might factor into that.
Schur: The really great thing about this show is that there are a lot of characters who have a lot of stuff going on in their lives. Leslie is always at the center of the show, but the show isn't only about her. It's about everybody. She's still in her first year as a City Councilor. Tom's (Aziz Ansari) got a business that he's trying to get up and running and splitting his time between the Parks Department and that. Ron's got a serious lady friend (Lucy Lawless) and there's new girlfriends and boyfriends that will come into the mix with various characters. Andy is going to be wondering what he's going to do after failing his Police Academy exam. We are never at a loss for ongoing story lines on this show. In the episode at [9/8c], we immediately jump into what's next for Andy and how he deals with the news that he's not going to be a police officer, which starts a new arc for him.
And Ben will have a new job with Sweetums?
Schur: Yes. He starts running this charitable foundation, which is a really good job for Ben. It plays to a lot of his strengths of accounting and of wanting to be still in some kind of civil service. There's a lot of interesting challenges and aspects of running a charitable foundation that he has never dealt with before.
Are you excited for Ben and Leslie to get married? Hit the comments! And stay tuned for more scoop from Schur next week!
Parks and Recreation airs Thursday at 8:30/7:30c and 9/8c on NBC.