[03/10/11 - 12:40 AM]
Live at the Paley Festival: NBC's "Parks & Recreation"
By Jim Halterman (TFC)

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7:04 PM - Night five of the 28th Annual Paley Festival at the Saban Theater in Los Angeles kicks off right on time with a panel featuring NBC hit sitcom "Parks & Recreation." Tonight's archival clip is from a 2002 episode of the Judd Apatow series, "Undeclared," featuring none other than Amy Poehler.

7:11 PM - The Paley Center's Betsy Scolnick welcomes the crowd by reciting some of the best lines courtesy of April (Aubrey Plaza) and Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) before introducing TV Line's Michael Ausiello, who will be moderating the panel tonight.

7:15 PM - Co-creator/executive producer Michael Schur is introduced and, tongue in cheek, addresses some of the rumors swirling around about his cast. Rob Lowe will be taking over for Scott Caan at "Hawaii Five-0," Amy Poehler is taking over for Jason Ritter on "The Event" and Chris Pratt is taking over for Sean Hannity on "The Sean Hannity Show." (The jokes are in lieu of the rumors that Lowe could replace Charlie Sheen over at "Two and a Half Men."). The episode being screened is a new episode that airs next week, "Harvest Festival." Great episode, folks.

7:38 PM - As the episode ends, Michael introduces the panel for tonight: Jim O'Heir (Jerry)! Retta (Donna)! Aziz Ansari (Tom)! Rashida Jones (Ann)! Michael Schur! Greg Daniels (fellow co-creator/executive producer)! Chris Pratt (Andy)! Aubrey Plaza (April)! Nick Offerman (Ron)! Adam Scott (Ben)! Amy Poehler (Leslie Knope)!

7:44 PM - Michael Schur makes certain everyone knows he was teasing about Rob Lowe joining "another show." He is not present on the panel because he's looking at colleges with his kids. Schur confirms he is a series regular on this show and he has a long-standing contract.

7:45 PM - "That's the essence of the show," says Michael about the show celebrating small towns but not making fun of them. For example, a lot of small towns have heroes that are not human, like Li'l Sebastian, the mini-horse/town hero in the "Harvest Festival" episode. Michael says seeing Ron Swanson's gleeful reaction to Li'l Sebastian is "my favorite moment I think we've ever shot... it's the first time Ron Swanson has lost his cool!"

7:47 PM - In describing Leslie Knope, Amy says that Leslie is "kinda part girl scout, part pioneer, she's got a good spirit but zero game."

7:48 PM - On the fact that people regularly knock the six-episode first season, Amy says things changed because "people luckily started watching the show instead of reading about it. I recommend that to anyone!" Did the cast notice a difference once season two started airing and people responded more positively? Retta says she realized it because people started tweeting about it. Aziz and Michael talk about the first season of "Seinfeld," which was very different from what it became.

7:50 PM - "Your baby was ugly but now it's really cute," says Amy on how she likens people's reaction to the short first season and where the series is at now. She states she's very proud of those first six episodes.

7:52 PM - Adam was initially intimidated in joining the cast because he was a fan of the show. "Being the new kid in school is always a little frightening at first but everyone was really sweet." Of the Leslie/Ben potential romantic relationship, Amy jokes that she invited Adam over to her house a month before he started work and Adam says, lowering his voice an octave or two, "What's up? Wanna kiss?"

7:53 PM - Amy sums up the potential for a Leslie/Ben relationship - "I think Pawnee is like Leslie's child. Leslie is like a single mother and Pawnee is the kid. If Ben starts to like Pawnee and you start to like my kid, I'll have sex with you." Hilarious.

7:55 PM - "I love to eat meat and eggs," says Nick Offerman on how he's like Ron Swanson. He also talks about the realization he had when his real-life wife, Megan Mullally, returned to the show this season as ex-wife Tammy. "What a lucky bastard I am. You're my wife, I'm in a scene with you, you're rubbing your tits on me and I can go have a sandwich in a minute."

7:57 PM - Aubrey asks to make a statement to Charlie Sheen. "Charlie," she begins, "I am available for any fucked up shit you want to get into..." With Aubrey's delivery, it's always hard if she's kidding or serious.

7:58 PM - Michael explains how he first met Aubrey and she made him so uncomfortable staring at him like, "You're old and I don't like you very much." When she left, Michael immediately wrote a scene where Leslie tried to get the college intern to do some work and she made Leslie feel the way Aubrey made Michael feel that day. Michael confirms she is very different from her character, though there are similarities. With spot-on timing, Aubrey says, "I don't remember any of that." Big laughs.

8:03 PM - Is Ann Perkins the most sane person of all the "Parks And Recreation" characters? Rashida says, "I think the writers have done a great job creating this stable, sensible character but the fun thing about that is that now that that has been established, they can break it all down, which is kind of what's happening." Amy also says that in coming episodes, Ann is going to become a real slut. Rashida agrees.

8:05 PM - Of Tom's many inventions, does Aziz have a favorite? In a future episode, Tom's story is that he tries to host a game show that's he's created called "Know Your Boo." DJ Roomba is another favorite and he is also going to invent his own liquor called "Snake Juice." Schur says that maybe one of these inventions will be a success - maybe - in season nine.

8:08 PM - On the renewal front for a fourth season, Amy says, "The support we got - I would say probably most of the people who support us are in this room tonight - it was so incredible and it made such a difference, I think, in the path of the show and such a difference in our lives and how we did our work... it's so cheesy but it's been a constant gift to be able to do the show." Amy also thinks it's a good sign that the show will be around for a long time. Huge applause!

8:10 PM - Michael adds that they shot all of season three not knowing when they'd get on the air but "I honestly feel in my heart that every episode is better than the last. Every episode - and I may be biased - gets better and better and better."

8:12 PM - There seems to be more Jerry and Donna this season. Jim says, "Every time there's a Jerry slam, I'm happy." Retta says she doesn't read the whole script before the table reads because she loves the show so much and wants to experience it for the first time when everyone is reading it. She also adds that "Chris makes me pee all the time" and everyone agrees Chris makes everyone laugh at the table reads.

8:15 PM - On how well the cast gets along, Chris gives kudos to Amy for setting the tone that trickles down to everyone. "You make everyone feel good, you always laugh at jokes, I've never seen her in a bad mood, it all rolls down. This whole family vibe and everyone getting along well comes from you." Amy is genuinely touched.

8:17 PM - What's to come the rest of the third season for Leslie? Schur says it will focus on Leslie post-Harvest Festival (watch next week to see if it's a success or a failure) as well as her personal life, which will include Adam's Ben. "She's had tunnel vision about the Harvest Festival for so long and she has been a little bit blind that Ben is into her... and they do a tap dance around each other."

8:19 PM - When the panel is asked whether they think Andy is the character most changed since the first season, Nick offers, "Andy met a man named Ron Swanson and now he has a lot better manners." Chris is just happy he's no longer just a "dickhead."

8:22 PM - With the variety of guest stars that have appeared on the show, Schur reveals that Paul Schneider (who left the show after season two) will be back for a few episodes but not until next season. Amy would love to see Louis C.K. return as Leslie's boyfriend... and from the audience's response, they'd like to see him return, too!

8:23 PM - More family members to come on upcoming episodes. Andy's five brothers will turn up and they're all much taller than he is. "I'm the runt," says the not-short Chris. Aziz would like to see Usher play Tom's brother just so people will say, "Usher is your brother?!" Michael is not sure when we'll meet the oft-mentioned/never seen Pawnee Mayor Walter Gunderson. Amy suggests Bill Murray would be perfect for the role.

8:26 PM - Q&A time with the audience and a fan asks who the cast's favorite fictional characters are. Michael says the Cookie Monster. Aubrey says Esther Blodgett in the original "A Star Is Born." Nick says Reverend Jim Ignatowski (from "Taxi") or Jack Aubrey from the Patrick O'Brien novels. Amy says that she, Adam and Aziz can agree on Omar Little from "The Wire." (Upon hearing this, Michael asks if he can change his choice.)

8:30 PM - Amy and Adam speak of Rob Lowe's "Filing While Acting" method. For example, you begin a scene reading a file so when someone comes in to talk to you, you can stop reading and set it down. (Rob told them he learned this on "The West Wing.")

8:32 PM - Was anyone nervous when Rob joined the cast? Rashida said she had to kiss him on his first day and she was blushing all day. Rob is also game for anything, including the viral meltdown that the cast filmed as an extra for the internet.

8:34 PM - Michael compliments the cast and says every one of them "is a Swiss Army Knife." For example, the usually hilarious Aziz had a dramatic moment in the "Indianapolis" episode and Michael says "Aziz knocked it out of the park!"

8:37 PM - Aubrey is not joking when she says one of her comedy heroes has always been Amy Poehler. Even Aubrey saying this was when she was in high school doesn't take away from the compliment for Amy. Aubrey also was a part of the Upright Citizens Brigade, which is the comedy troupe Amy helped begin.

8:39 PM - Aubrey shares a story from when she was 15 and attended a day of listening to speeches by politicians including Vice President Joe Biden and the kids were told they could also speak but they never got the chance. After Biden's speech when he asked if they could do anything to help, Aubrey said he could keep his word and let them speak. She said she and Biden had a stare-down.

8:42 PM - Craft services is one difference Adam sees between working on the low budget sitcom "Party Down" and a network show. However, he says this series "does not seem like a fancy show. It feels like a group of friends coming up with funny stuff. It couldn't be a better place to go to work."

8:44 PM - Final question - when the show has a guest star, do they write to that star or do they write the role first? Michael says "mostly you write the part and then figure out who to play it." Michael says Amy offered up a very smart producer idea (she's a producer on the show, too) and that when casting a guest role to just get the funniest person.

8:48 PM - That's a wrap from the "Parks & Recreation" panel at the Paley Festival. I'll be back Thursday night covering the "East Bound & Down" panel.

And for more PaleyFest coverage - past and present - visit our Paley Center topic page.

  [march 2011]  


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