The One Story Line Parks and Recreation Can’t Figure Out

PARKS AND RECREATION -- "I'm Leslie Knope" Episode 401 -- Pictured: (l-r) Aubrey Plaza as April Ludgate, Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope, Nick Offerman as Ron Swanson -- Photo by: Ron Tom/NBC Photo: Ron Tom/? NBCUniversal, Inc.

The Parks and Recreation writers' room is haunted by an underappreciated MTV reality show from 2010. According to Alan Sepinwall's extended look behind the scenes of the show, the Parks writers have been trying to come up with a story line about a "Challenge Day" for quite a while — since Paul Schneider was still on the show, and Leslie and Ann were still sort of fighting over Mark. Challenge Days are deeply familiar to fans of MTV's documentary series If You Really Knew Me, which followed team-building and secret-sharing days at various cliquey high schools. (Think trust-fall scene from Mean Girls, except really intense and earnest.) "We would send rooms of people to work on [the story]," showrunner Mike Schur says, "and they would come back and be frustrated and annoyed. For whatever reason, we can't break it." It's still a fun idea, though, to think of Leslie and Ann trying to help teenage girls with self-esteem and communication skills, so Schur et al. haven't completely removed it from the index-card wall of possible stories ... though maybe they should. "[As] a joke, we put the Challenge Day index card way up in a corner of the room, way up above a door, very far away from the other index cards that haven't caused us misery and agony," Schur says. "The funny thing was, the office painted in the summer, and they took all the cards down, and after they painted the walls, they put the Challenge Day card back up where it had been. It was like somehow they wanted to taunt us too. If they had left it down, the nightmare would have been over, but instead, it's back up on the wall, still taunting us." Other story lines in the works: Leslie gets blackmailed, the weird Pawnee cult returns, and, most charming, Leslie builds the smallest park in Indiana. [What's Alan Watching/Hit Fix Part I and Part II]