Parks and Recreation‘s Season 6 finale on Thursday jumped three years into the future — and toward its inevitable conclusion?
Leslie’s “gentle, sci-fi” 2017 adventures — and flashbacks to those missing years? — are still ahead of her, but the NBC comedy’s upcoming seventh season could also mark its last hurrah, executive producer Mike Schur reveals below.
The EP also tackles our burning season ender questions like, why are Ben and his wife in such a tizzy? Will Leslie have a bunch of new faces to boss around next year? What happened to Donna and Tom? Or should we say, where in the world are they? And have Ron and Diane split up?
Bonus: Schur spills where some hints may be hiding about the future of Pawnee’s denizens!
TVLINE | Our comments section was overwhelmingly positive about the episode. But people did note that it felt like a series finale. There was a lot of closure before that three-year time jump. Was any part of this episode part of your plan for the series finale and now you have to change it?
Not really, no. What happened was we were breaking the end of the season and we had a meeting with NBC. In that meeting, we got some pretty strong assurances that we were going to come back for Season 7. At that point, we felt like we could either change everything and completely tear down what we had created or we could figure out a way to jolt the show at the very end. That seemed more fun and interesting, so we left the story the way it was, which certainly had a sense of closure to it in many ways, and then just did something at the end that threw a bunch of stuff up in the air and asked a bunch of questions that we get to pay off next year.
TVLINE | Three years seems like a very deliberate number. Why not one year or two?
We talked about a bunch of different scenarios. We talked about one year because we definitely wanted to jump through the pregnancy and the birth of the triplets. If you don’t do that, then you have to spend the entire season dealing with the pregnancy and wearing pads and, “My feet hurt,” and that kind of thing. We wanted to skip all that stuff.
TVLINE | I imagine Amy [Poehler] was very relieved not to have to wear a triplets pregnancy belly.
[Laughs] She started the show right after having her first child and then was pregnant with her second child for a good chunk of Seasons 2 and 3, I guess. Yeah, I think she was probably really relieved to hear that. [Laughs] Then we talked about five years. Three just seemed right. There’s an added benefit to three, which is that the fictional town of Pawnee was founded in 1817. So by jumping to 2017, it’s going to be the bicentennial for Pawnee.
TVLINE | Will the bicentennial act as next season’s Unity concert or carnival?
I don’t think so. We don’t a hundred percent know. But a big part of the reason to do the time jump was because Leslie is starting a new job, which is a much bigger deal than her previous jobs. Her energy and time, as you see in that last minute of the finale, is not focused on Pawnee. She’s barking out orders, and she’s talking about traveling to South Dakota. It might play out in the background. It might be part of the fabric of the season. But that’s not her purview anymore. She doesn’t work for the town of Pawnee anymore. It’s not going to be up to her to plan the bicentennial.
TVLINE | Are we still going to get Pawnee Parks and Rec stories? Some of the characters might still be working in that old office…
We were very deliberate in who we showed in that jump forward. The only people you see are Ben, Andy, April and Gary/Larry/Terry/Gerry. We didn’t say where Andy and April were working. We don’t know where Ron is or Tom or Donna or any of the other characters we don’t see. We still have our [old] set. [Laughs] Obviously, she’s working two floors above her old stomping grounds, so I would imagine we’ll spend at least a little bit of time there next year.
TVLINE | So a whole new group of people could be working in that office?
That’s part of the fun of doing something that shakes up the world like this. You get to conceive of new characters and new worlds and new journeys. We definitely have our work cut out for us, and we don’t want to leave behind the parts of the show that people have come to really love and enjoy over the years. But at the same time, we get to explore the possibility of adding new people. … At the very least, there’s the opportunity to create an entirely new office for [Leslie] filled with new people who are recurring. We haven’t made any final decisions about that or who those people would be or how they would fit into the world. But I would imagine you’ll be seeing some new faces, certainly.
TVLINE | Craig was heavily featured toward the end of the season. Will Billy Eichner be back in the same recurring capacity or will he be a regular next year?
We’re definitely hoping so. He obviously has his own show [Billy on the Street], and he’s got a bunch of stuff going on. But we’ve made it known to him and everybody else we’re certainly interested in having him be part of the show next year.
TVLINE | As a regular?
He was really just a guest star, but we put him in a lot of episodes. He would, hopefully, be a big part of the show.
TVLINE | Are we going to go back in time next season to see what happened in that three-year span?
We certainly reserve the right to do so, to jump back and pop through those three years and see little bits and pieces of what happened and how we got to where we are.
TVLINE | Will next season pick up in the same place it left off?
I’m not sure if it’ll pick up in that moment, but this isn’t a fake-out. This is real. This is when the show takes place now — 2017. That’s where a majority of the season is going to take place. We’re not going to fake everybody out and just go back to real time. We’re committing to the jump and the fact that we’ve fast-forwarded through a lot of the stuff that happened in those three years. It’s going to be a very gentle, sci-fi season. [Laughs]
TVLINE | Since you have the ability to go back in time, can we get Jon Hamm back? Please?
It was so nice of him to do this for us. They had just wrapped Mad Men, and I’m sure all he wanted to do was sit on his couch. He and Amy are very good friends. He and Adam Scott are very good friends. He was very happy to do it. We talked at the time [about] maybe there’s another opportunity for Ed the incompetent moron to show up next season. I hope that’s the case, because he’s the best.
TVLINE | When we see Leslie and Ben in the three-year time jump, they seem to be dealing with quite a bit. Are there any hints you can offer about what’s going on with them?
Not really, no. I don’t want to spoil anything. To be perfectly honest, we have three different scenarios that we mapped out for what exactly is going on, and we haven’t committed to one yet. We won’t get back into the writing and planning for another month.
TVLINE | Tammy returned and threatened to destroy Ron in her pants. Should we be worried about Ron and Diane?
I don’t think so. The purpose of that cameo was to put it into Ron’s mind that he maybe needed to demonstrate, officially, for everyone to see that he wasn’t the exact same person he used to be and that he’s not susceptible to the same kinds of moral failings that Tammy II brought out of him. We had a whole other mini plotline that’s going on be in an extended cut on NBC.com [later] today where Ron and Diane conspire to get Councilman Jamm and Tammy II together. They run a little bit of a long con on the two of them. [Laughs] It’s pretty enjoyable. But I don’t think you need to worry about Ron. Ron is not the cheating type. And his history with Tammy II is that if he’s in a relationship and is in a stable place in his life, her wilds and charms don’t tend to work on him so well.
TVLINE | We get a good sense that Leslie’s gone through some big changes in her life. How drastically different are everyone else’s lives going to be?
The reality of life – this is part of what we built the Ann and Chris farewell around in the middle of the season – is that people come and go. People don’t stay in the same place all the time, especially when they’re people like Tom and Donna, for example, who are very ambitious and have these big, rich full lives and like to travel and get out and do things. So that’s going to be a big issue in Season 7, explaining where everybody is and what they’re doing and figuring out how to get them back into the main, center core of the show.
TVLINE | Are there any hints peppered in the background or in the set design of that last sequence?
That remains to be seen. If there were, I wouldn’t want to discuss them now. [Laughs] It’s sort of like telling people before a DVD comes out that there’s a bunch of Easter eggs. Part of the fun of that stuff is discovering it as you go along.
TVLINE | How are you approaching Season 7? Do you see it as being the last one?
I would certainly say we’re nearing the end, yeah. That was part of the reason why we felt like we could make a big move like this. You probably don’t do this thing after Season 2 of a show. You do it at a time when you feel like you can see the finish line over the horizon. It’s not 100 percent definitive or anything, but there’s certainly a sense that we’re heading in that direction.