Parks and Recreation fans got a sweet, unexpected treat in this week’s Halloween-themed episode: a marriage proposal so perfect, we named Amy Poehler TVLine’s Performer of the Week. And the trick to nailing such a momentous scene, say the people involved, was making it as quirky and lovable as the Pawnee politicos themselves.
The decision to have Ben propose in Indiana was made long before the pivotal scene was shot, says showrunner Mike Schur. “What we realized was that we wanted Ben to do a good job in Washington, and what that meant was that he was going to get an opportunity to keep going with that job and with Kathryn Hahn’s Jen Barkley.”
The show then needed a pretty compelling reason for him to give up big-time politics. “There’s only one thing that would really do that, and that’s Leslie,” Schur says. “We just decided to shape the episode around him deciding that Leslie is [his] priority and that everything else is in second place.”
Just like Ms. Knope wanted a moment to recognize how perfect her life was as Ben knelt before her, Poehler needed a minute when she first received the “Halloween Surprise” script. “When I read that scene, I cried because I was so happy that I had my job at Parks and then I got to do that scene with Adam [Scott] and Mike wrote it. I knew it would be great,” she says.
The day they shot the scene, “The mood on set was a really joyous one,” Poehler adds. After all, Scott adds,”We, of course, are well aware that these are fictional characters we are playing on television, but we also want them to be happy and all right.”
Now that the engagement is official, both Poehler and Schur balk at the idea that Leslie might turn into a bridezilla (“It’s fun to think about how Leslie’s going to deal with the planning of it, and there’s some surprises about how everybody handles it and deals with it. But I wouldn’t maybe use that term, no,” she says) and instead put the focus on Ms. Knope’s community spirit.
“Leslie would want her wedding to be as much of a celebration of the people that she’s friends with and the town she’s in as she would in making it about herself,” Schur says.
But don’t expect a save-the-date just yet. Part of the proposal’s power was that it caught viewers unawares, and Schur says he wants to achieve the same thing with a wedding – if indeed there is one. “The essential element of both comedy and good storytelling in general is surprise,” he notes, “so I would like to believe that the path that we’re choosing to take will be satisfying, but also surprising to people.”