Parks & Rec Showrunner Michael Schur on Jerry, Donna and Needing That Second Season

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I’m not going to lie; I was one of those people who saw the first episode of Parks & Rec and thought, “Eh, we’re doing this again? With the cameras?” Now I sleep in a sleeping bag I sewed to look like Jerry, so the joke’s on me. Veteran of SNL and an original writer on the American version of The Office, Parks & Rec showrunner Michael Schur talks with the A.V. Club about how to create a successful show, and why docu-comedies might need a second season to truly win over an audience: “There’s another big thing — and I think it’s more applicable to The Office and Parks than to Community and 30 Rock — which is that those shows are essentially character comedies. Until you know who the characters are, you just won’t find them that funny. Very often, people say to me, ‘I went back and watched those first six episodes, and they’re a lot funnier than I remember.’ Well, now you know who Tom Haverford is, and you can laugh at what he does.”

While Parks is clearly hitting its stride now, Schur explains two major charges that had to be worked out after their initial six episodes: “Leslie was reading to people — completely unintentionally — as ditzy. That was never our intention. We always thought she was really smart and good at her job. We realized we had screwed it up a little,” Shur explains. “And another big thing was that we’d originally designed the character of Andy to be there for six episodes, then be gone. Ann was going to wise up and realize he was a loser and get rid of him. But Pratt auditioned, and we were like, ‘This guy’s too funny to not use.’” Schur also admits that the writers didn’t exactly have the characters of Jerry or Donna prepared. “We just liked those actors and figured we’d work it out later,” he explains. “So we threw them in desks — this is something Greg had a lot of success with on The Office: Just populate the world with other people, and let those characters naturally develop.” And I’m getting the best sleep of my life.