Thursday, January 13, 2011

Report from the Set: 'Parks and Recreation'...

It was anything but a typical day over at the CBS-Radford stage in Studio City yesterday for the Parks and Recreation TCA set visit. The cast and crew came out to chat with reporters and give us a tour of their facilities even though they wrapped their third season (which begins airing next Thursday) before the holidays. But more than that, the newest show star-- no, not Rob Lowe or Adam Scott, though the latter was in attendance, too-- was there: Lil Sebastian, a miniature horse who is a BIG part of Pawnee pop culture.

You'll understand when you see the first few episodes of season three, which set up the arc of throwing a Harvest Festival (which was filmed at Pierce College's own annual fall festival just miles from the My Life, Made Possible by Pop Culture headquarters) in order to attempt to save the parks department.

In fact, though, the Harvest Festival was the whole theme of the set visit, from photo ops with Lil Sebastian, to the Belgian waffle stations set up inside, to a whole slew of props on display, including the Ron and Tammy bobbleheads from the top of their wedding cake, the time capsule, the Andy/April cover for the Summer Catalog, and a collection of Duke Silver and Mouse Rat CDs (every journalist in attendance received a copy of the latter. "Sex Hair" may or may not be my new ringtone).

The cast took turns taking journalists on a short tour of the offices and town hall sets, during which Aziz Ansari told us we could steal whatever we wanted, even if we just wanted to sell it on eBay later. That is a dangerous thing to tell me; I love swag! But Amy Poehler poked her head out of Leslie Knope's office, where she was doing interviews to tell us not to "touch her sh*t." Hmm, but she didn't say anything about hands-off of Ron's framed version of the "Pyramid of Greatness."

Rashida Jones pointed out the wall of photos of female politicians in Leslie's office: at the top is a photo of a young girl with an American flag behind her. It is meant to be one of Leslie's school pictures, a little politician in training, and in actuality, the prop department used a real life school photo of Poehler's. It's an adorable picture, but Jones told us to pay close attention to how the other women in frames all have the same, "I don't exude any sexual energy" haircut, and now that we saw that, we can't not notice it when it's in the background of scenes!

After the set tour, the cast and producers got mic'ed up and took questions, press conference style. And yes, we were in the town hall meeting room. Poehler joked that it was the largest turn-out for a Pawnee Town Hall meeting...well, ever. And we were the most well-behaved, too (she didn't say that, but we were).

So what can you look forward to in season three of Parks and Recreation? There will be some out of office moments to prove this show is so much more than just a simple workplace comedy. Donna (Retta) and Ann (Jones) have some fun scenes "wingman-ing" each other at the Snakehole and again during the Harvest Festival; the gang takes a trip to a rival town that is really just like "one big country club filled with beautiful people and where all the guys look like J. Crew models with sweaters tied around their necks"; and it will become even more apparent that Ben (Scott) really doesn't fit in, as he just doesn't get some of the "in jokes" and mentality of Pawnee citizens. Also, Megan Mullally will reprise her role as Ron Swanson's ex-wife Tammy, getting him into even more trouble than the first time she came back around; there is an episode devoted to figuring out what to put in a time capsule for the town that delves into the significance of Twilight in our culture; and the show even takes a subtle (maybe not entirely intentional) jab at the guys of Jersey Shore with a "gorilla" that hits on Ann.

Oh yeah, and then there's Jerry (Jim O'Heir), who actually becomes that bullied person who turns around and bullies someone lower on the totem pole than he. "If you can believe there is such a person," O'Heir, who added he was more than willing to be the on-screen punching bag, laughed. For the record, executive producer Mike Schur considers himself the office punching bag, so at least he's in good company.

According to Poehler, Leslie is also finally realizing just how her seemingly simple dream of making a park really comes with a lot more work and red-tape. She wouldn't say her sunny demeanor is going to be darkened, but for all of her optimism, she can no longer completely ignore all of the obstacles she knows in the back of her mind she may come up against. But if anyone can do it, it's little terrier Leslie; she's scrappy!

But luckily for the neighbors of the pit, it has at least now been filled in for good. "We felt so bad for the people who lived around here," Jones said. "We really did go in there and tear it apart to make that giant hole."

Parks and Recreation is currently on hiatus again, awaiting a decision from the network on if they will receive a fourth season. Retta shared with me that she doesn't do well in such long periods of down time, even though she does perform stand-up to keep her creative juices flowing. She said that just like Donna in the third season premiere, "She wants to get back with her peeps!" She misses the schedule-- idle hands and all that-- and finds herself watching television and eating and sleeping for long stretches of time. Hmm, maybe she should take a part-time, summer gig as a TV blogger because what she described is basically my whole life!

And yes, I did get a few minutes alone with Ron Swanson aka Nick Offerman. Look for that full feature interview next week over on my Examiner page!

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