‘Parks & Recreation’ Showrunner Talks About Last Night’s Game-Changing Season Finale & Where The Show is Heading

By April 25, 2014

If you haven’t yet watched last night’s season finale of NBC’s stellar comedy series “Parks & Recreation” then you would be wise to wait until after you’ve seen the special hour-long conclusion to the sixth season before reading the rest of this story.

Everyone good? All right, so how about the last few minutes of that finale last night? Flash forward to the future, and suddenly Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) looks like she’s part of ‘The West Wing,” complete with new bangs and a well-oiled machine of a regional parks department. And then there’s Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott) getting some kind of honor that he needs to wear a tuxedo for, and also our introduction to the adorable Knope-Wyatt children. It was just so much to soak in.

So what’s going on with the show after this? At the very end of last night’s broadcast, the announcer mentioned that “Parks & Recreation” would be back next season, and when showrunner Mike Schur recently spoke extensively with EW, he revealed that the wild flash forward coda to last night’s finale came about because, “We had a meeting with NBC to talk about the future of the show, and we were given really every assurance that we would have another season.” However, the bittersweet side of that decision is that the next season will likely be the last. When asked about that possibility, Schur confirmed:

It’s fairly likely that next year will be the last. The natural rhythm of the show and the big creative jump we take at the end of this season certainly suggests that we’re moving in that direction.

Parks & Recreation - Amy Poehler

So with this flash forward in time, do they know exactly where they’re going? The stakes may not be as high as a show like “Lost” when a similar flash forward happened and changed the game entirely, but fans definitely care about where “Parks & Recreation” is heading. Schur explains:

Chunks of [the final season] are mapped out. We have signposts and stuff, but other parts are wide-open and are very much up in the air. I’m sure that some of the chunks that we felt are mapped out are going to change. We just have a general idea of what is going on in the world, and we have some general ideas for what happens to those people over the course of this future season, but until we really get back in the room, I’d really prefer not to try to commit to anything too soon. It just sort of like shuts up creativity…I have an idea for the final image, the final scene and the final image of the show, and I have no idea whether that’ll be the final image or not.

So how will the final season unfold? Will it take place firmly three years in the future, or is that something the show is leading up to? Schur answered:

The majority of the season is going to take place in that time period, and that is allowing for certainly the possibility of episodes that fill in certain gaps that go back in time a little bit. That, who knows, go forward in time. Now we’ve established this as a possibility. But we’re not going to see Leslie pregnant for the whole year, we’re not going to see her give birth. The whole season is not going to be about filling in those gaps — the main action of the season will take place in that slightly futurescape. We may go back and see a couple of things here and there of what happened in the interim, but we’re not faking you out. This is a real shift for the show in terms of when it takes place.

Parks & Recreation - Cast - Third Floor

We’re hoping there’s at least some kind of acknowledgment of how the birthing process went for the meticulously planning Leslie Knope, because that was likely a unique experience for everyone involved. But we’re also happy that we get to see Leslie and Ben being parents to their three triplet toddlers. This opens up a whole possibility of things if you pay attention to the flash forward, mainly Andy’s (Chris Pratt) broken arm and the absence of Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) and Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari). But don’t worry, the whole cast is coming back. But after three years, some of them are in very different places in their lives.

But what about that Jon Hamm cameo? Any chance we get to see any of the work he did during the three years he worked in Pawnee before getting unceremoniously fired? Schur talked about the fun cameo:

When we conceived of this scene — this kind of crazy, chaotic 60-second coda to the year — I felt pretty strongly that one of the fun things would be to see someone really famous and to have them get fired immediately. I think Hamm may have actually improvised the line ‘It’s been a great three years.’ He either improvised it or we worked it out on the floor. But it just made us laugh that you would say: ‘Oh my God, we just missed three years of Jon Hamm!’ And he made the decision, which I thought was so funny, to play the entire thing with a smile on his face. It was not the way it was conceived at all, and it’s so much funnier that he’s just like, ‘Yup! Totally understand. Goodbye!’ He and Amy are friends, he and Adam are friends, and I knew him a little bit from various things, so it was a series of furtive phone calls and emails and just like, ‘Can you be at the Radford lot [where “Parks & Rec” is shot] for this hour of your day?’ And it just all worked out.

Parks & Recreation - Jon Hamm

Perhaps the funniest thing about Hamm’s cameo is that he gets fired for being even more incompetent than Jerry (aka Larry, aka Terry), so he has to be a complete screw-up. Schur would love to have him come back for any potential flashback episodes saying, “If I have my way, every episode where you see events that take place before that moment — which, who knows how many that will be? — will include a shot of him doing something insanely incompetent.”

And finally, the most important question for hardcore “Parks & Recreation” fans out there, when the hell can we play The Cones of Dunshire?

Well, I’ll tell you this: Mayfair Games, which is like the biggest gaming company — they make The Settlers of Catan — they were basically consultants on every aspect of Cones of Dunshire for us, and they actually manufactured the game that you see in the finale. We have certainly had discussions with them about further ways to explore the completely impenetrably dense game Cones of Dunshire, and it remains to be seen if it will all come to fruition. But I just couldn’t be happier with how byzantine and dense that game is. It really delights me, so hopefully there will be more Cones of Dunshire in the future somewhere.

“Parks & Recreation” doesn’t have a return date yet, but we’ll keep you posted as the presumed final season develops. And in case you want to watch the awesome performance of “5000 Candles in the Wind” again, here you go:

What did you think of last night’s season finale?

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Ethan Anderton
Some of his favorite films include Ghostbusters, The Empire Strikes Back and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, while his favorite TV series include LOST, Mad Men, 30 Rock, Parks & Recreation, Arrested Development and Saturday Night Live.
  • This was such an awesome episode. I think I would have been OK with it if they decided to use this as a series finale, but since I love these characters so much, I’m glad they’ll be back for one more season. Here’s hoping their eventual series finale lives up to last night’s spectacular episode.