The 'Parks & Rec' Reunion At PaleyFest Gave Fans A Ton Of New Information
Believe it or not, but it's only been four years since Parks and Recreation aired its series finale on NBC. But after so much time immersed in Leslie Knope's idealistic view of government and politics, the last few years IRL have been a tough awakening. Recent events not quite meshing with Leslie's visions meant that the thought of seeing the Parks and Rec cast together again was especially sweet. Celebrating the show's 10th anniversary, the Parks and Rec reunion at PaleyFest spilled about behind-the-scenes secrets and the chances of a revival. All that was missing was a Li'l Sebastian cameo.
Along with series creator Michael Schur, cast members Amy Poehler, Nick Offerman, Rashida Jones, Chris Pratt, Adam Scott, Aubrey Plaza, Aziz Ansari, Rob Lowe, Retta, and Jim O'Heir appeared together in a PaleyFest panel about their beloved comedy series. Given the fact that no TV series ever really seems to say goodbye nowadays, Schur was quick to address the chances of the show returning for more. Anyone wanting a ticket back to Pawnee is basically out of luck, but there's still a smidge of hope left for a continuation of Parks and Rec.
"I would only say that everyone on this stage and six other people would need to feel like there was a story that needed to be told," Schur said at the panel discussion. "There's nothing I loved more than working on this show. This felt like the most important thing that I would ever do. I would never, ever, ever say never ... [but] I don't want to do it just to do it."
To be fair, it's understandable that Schur is hesitant about returning to such popular material and trying to sustain its quality. We might not have a reboot to look forward to, but the reunion led to tons of other nostalgic information about life on the Parks and Rec set.
Despite its evolution into an ensemble comedy focusing on local government, the series was initially pitched as a story about the friendship between Parks and Rec Department employee Leslie Knope (Poehler) and Pawnee nurse Ann Perkins (Jones). According to Schur, that's why the Parks and Rec pilot episode focused on the two women meeting for the first time. Why else would their friendship have grown so quickly as they tried to fix the hole outside Ann's house? Leslie's supportive friendships with the other characters are definitely admirable, but her bond with Ann is still a series standout.
The cast also discussed how some of the show's most memorable moments were ad-libbed or inspired by real life. Rob Lowe's faultlessly energetic Chris Traeger had the trademark phrase of "literally," but it only came to be after Schur met with Lowe ahead of the actor joining the cast in Parks and Rec's third season. The West Wing star used the word so frequently that its utterance became a quirk of Chris.
Similarly, the production team built in extra filming time for actors to improvise, often resulting in lines the crew found funnier than scripted dialogue.
At PaleyFest, the cast also called attention to how the show made freakishly accurate predictions about the world's changes in the following years. Parks and Rec predicted the Chicago Cubs' 2016 World Series win, and in behind-the-scenes web content, Pratt even foretold his role in the Jurassic Park franchise years before he was cast. The series' political campaign between Leslie and Paul Rudd's wealthy, inexperienced Bobby Newport even drew parallels to the 2016 presidential election.
We might not have new Parks and Rec episodes to look forward to, but with these extra facts in mind, I'm ready for another rewatch. Can the cast record special audio commentary for our streaming marathons?
Parks and Recreation is currently streaming on Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu.