When the showrunners for NBC’s hit The Office pitched the idea for another show, Parks and Recreation, they were met with a resounding, “Yes!” And for good reason.
Greg Daniels and Michael Schur (who also played Mose on The Office) clearly knew what they were doing regarding writing, producing, and casting.
As audience members, we were all delighted to see Rashida Jones (Karen from The Office) take on a bigger role, playing across Amy Poehler and a relatively unknown (at the beginning of the series) Chris Pratt.
For as many times as most of us have watched and re-watched Parks and Recreation, there are still things we see for the first time. We know we’re not alone! You’ve also watched the series more than one time, and there are things you’ve missed, too. Don’t worry; we’ve got your back.
Here are the things you either missed or didn’t know about Parks and Rec.
The Accidental Star
Chris Pratt is a huge star now. We’ve all seen him on the small and big screen, with starring roles in The Passenger, Jurrasic World, and Guardians of the Galaxy.
Did you know he wasn’t even supposed to be a regular on Parks and Rec? That’s right, Pratt’s inauspicious introduction to the world of TV was as a regular on a short-lived series called Everwood, after which he transitioned to a longer running series, O.C.
The character of Andy was supposed to be written off the show after season one. The writers assumed Ann’s deadbeat boyfriend would see his way off the series, leaving way for other love interests. Instead, the audience’s reaction to Pratt’s portrayal was too big to ignore. So, Pratt transitioned from playing Ann’s deadbeat boyfriend to April’s loveable husband. He was on the show until its teary-eyed finale at the end of season seven.
April and Jerry
April and Jerry are both loveable and cringey. We can all agree that while they both make us uncomfortable at times, they also make us laugh. They’re loveable and a little strange–perfect characters for a long-running comedy!
You may not have known that both April Ludgate and Jerry Gergich were written with the actors who played them in mind.
That’s right, both Aubrey Plaza and Jim O’Heir were written onto the show because the creators liked both of them as actors so much. Michael Schur (co-creator) said meeting Plaza made him “more uncomfortable than [he’d] ever been,” which made him want to cast her right away.
O’Heir initially auditioned for the role of Ron Swanson. While Daniels and Schur knew he wasn’t right for that role, they enjoyed his audition so much that they created a perfect role for O’Heir. That’s how Jerry was born!
Ann’s Love Interests
Can you imagine Nick Offerman (Ron Swanson) or Adam Scott (Ben Wyatt) playing Ann’s love interest on the show? Neither can we. Neither could those who cast the show!
Initially, both Offerman and Scott auditioned to play Ann’s love interest–a character named Josh. Later, this character became Mark Brendanawicz, which was played by Paul Scheider.
According to Nick Offerman’s book, “Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man’s Fundamentals for Delicious Living,” he didn’t get the role of Mark because he wasn’t handsome enough.
Scott told GQ in 2011, “I actually auditioned for [‘Parks and Recreation’] before it was even on the air. I really wanted it and didn’t get it; I actually kind of blew it, and so I was obviously pretty upset […] So when the opportunity popped up again a couple off years later, I was really excited. I went and had a meeting with Mike Schur, and then it all just kind of fell into place from there.”
We’re glad things worked out the way they did.
Leslie’s Book About Pawnee
In season four, we learn a dastardly secret about Leslie Knope–she’s actually from Eagleton, not Pawnee!
As you know, when Leslie tries to get her book approved by Joan Callamezzo (Mo Collins), the smoldering talkshow host produces an elaborate “Gotcha” moment to out Leslie as an Eagletonian.
What you may not know is that you can actually buy a copy of Leslie’s fictional book! The book is credited to Leslie herself, and it features quotes from characters in the show.
You may not want to refer to “Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America” for any real-life reports on the town, but we think it would make a great coffee table book for any fan of the show.
Chris Pratt’s Best Improvised Line
We can all agree Michael Schur is an excellent writer. He’s been cracking us up for years, and we thank him for it!
Did you know that Schur’s favorite line in the entire Parks and Rec series was not written but improvised?
During season three’s episode, “Flu Season,” Andy is helping Leslie diagnose her illness by entering her symptoms into the computer. He says, “Leslie, I typed your symptoms into the [computer] thing up here, and it says you could have network connectivity problems.”
Schur loved the line so much he wished he had written it himself! While on a PaleyFest panel in 2012, he said, “I’m not kidding, as a writer, it made me furious. […] The camera happened to be on him, he did it once, and I think it’s the funniest joke that’s ever been on our show.”
Good thing they kept Andy around for the entire series!
Leslie and Ron Made Out Once a Season
You know how you pass an accident on the side of the road, you want to look at, but you want to look away simultaneously? We imagine that’s what it would be like if Leslie and Ron made out. Well, apparently, those scenes exist.
Michael Schur and Amy Poehler were on a PaleyFest panel in 2014 when Schur explained that Leslie and Ron were never romantic options for one another.
Poehler added, “I will say every year there’s a scene, just for the gag reel, where Leslie and Ron make out.”
Schur quickly joked, “And it never makes the gag reel because it’s super disgusting to watch.”
We’re glad we didn’t have to. Thank you, Mr. Schur.
Aubrey Plaza And Her Sister
It may not surprise you to know that Aubrey Plaza based her character off an angst-ridden teenager. What might be of interest is that the teenager that inspired her character was her real-life sister.
April’s sister on the show is named Natalie (played by Minni Jo Mazzola), which also happens to be the name of Plaza’s real sister. In an interview with Latino.com, Plaza told the reporter, “I have a 17-year-old sister, Natalie, and I get a lot of material from her for my characters. Just the way that she interacts with her friends and talks about what’s cool and what’s not cool, are people on Facebook or are they on MySpace.”
Minus the reference to MySpace, this is new information to us!
Jerry’s Life Outside the Office
“Can you photoshop your life with better decisions, Jerry?” When Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari) said this line to Jerry, he obviously wasn’t taking Jerry’s at-home life into consideration. As we know, Jerry (O’Heir) was married to a gorgeous woman (Christie Brinkley) and they had three beautiful daughters.
The idea to create the perfect life for Jerry developed organically.
Writer Michael Schur explained the motivation when he was sitting on the PaleyFest panel in 2014. He described feeling bad about all the jokes at Jerry’s expense and felt the only way to balance out the meanness was to make Jerry’s life outside the office as picture-perfect as possible.
Schur says, “He should be married to Christie Brinkley. He should have three adult daughters who are the most beautiful women in the world. He should have a beautiful home. […] Outside the office, everything goes perfectly. That’s the only way I can emotionally cope with all the jokes.”
We think this was a great strategy because it also allowed us as audience members to have a few laughs at Jerry’s expense, and then feel happy for him when he left for the day!
Jumping Into the Future
Seasons one through six depicted life in Pawnee from day-to-day with no big jumps into the future. Between seasons one and six, however, the show jumps ahead two years. Obviously, we all noticed the time jump because we went from Leslie and Ben finding out they were going to have triplets to the time in which their triplets were two years old.
The impetus for this choice came from actor Amy Poehler. Poehler was raising two small babies of her own during this time and she didn’t want to also work with babies on the set. Especially three babies!
We think this was a good call because it probably gave the entire cast and crew the extra stamina they needed to continue shooting for two more seasons!
World Series Prediction
The seventh season of Parks and Rec aired in 2015. It was set, however, in 2017. In season seven Tom and Andy go to Chicago to visit Tom’s ex-girlfriend, Lucy (Natalie Morales). So, what’s the big deal?
The big deal is that the writers of the show had to make a prediction about the future to pull off this episode!
When Lucy mentions how her fellow Chicagoans are all hyped up because the Cubs just won the World Series, the line was unlikely. It was unlikely because the Cubs hadn’t won a World Series in 100 years! Fortunately for the Parks and Rec team, the Chicago Cubs did, indeed, win the World Series in 2016, which made the line an accurate prediction.
We’re thinking of asking the writers for next month’s Lotto numbers.