The half-hour network sitcom may not be dead, but it’s been looking jaundiced and dehydrated. There’s one man, however, who’s been helping to keep the genre alive in recent years: showrunner Michael Schur, the co-creator of the beloved Parks and Recreation and the dynamic cop comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine. In this writer-producer’s hands, both a small Indiana town with an obesity problem and a grungy Brooklyn police station feel like places you’d be happy to spend years of your life.
Both shows are cutting without being cynical; both pay as much attention to character development as punchlines; both are built around a likable star from Saturday Night Live (Amy Poehler on Parks and Rec, Andy Samberg on Brooklyn Nine-Nine) but surround them with a deep cast, who then get the chance to shine. In the past seven years of Parks, Nick Offerman, Aubrey Plaza, and Aziz Ansari have all become stars — while the one-time schlub Chris Pratt lapped them all last year by playing the lead in two movies that did over a billion dollars of business (Guardians of the Galaxy and The Lego Movie).
Schur previously wrote for SNL, The Comeback, and The Office (where he had a recurring role as Mose Schrute, the beet-farming cousin of Dwight). In addition, working under the pseudonym “Ken Tremendous,” he spent years skewering inane sports journalism on a genius blog called Fire Joe Morgan (which ended in 2008 without sportscaster Joe Morgan actually getting fired). We caught up with him in Los Angeles while he was on a break from editing the seventh and final season of Parks and Recreation, which premieres tonight.
Did you expect that the show would make it this far?
No. That’s an almost unequivocal no. We ended up making a 125 episodes and [originally] it looked pretty possible that the number would be six. We felt like we were going to get canceled, every second of every day.
What can you tell people about the final season?
The whole season takes place in the year 2017 — we did a time jump into the future at the end of last year. So there is a slight tinge of science fiction that permeates everything and a lot of fun jokes about how the world has changed in three years. The first half of the year is Leslie Knope’s last big project that she takes on; the second half of the year is wrapping up, tying up loose ends. And there’s a couple of interesting form-breaking episodes. I haven’t even begun editing the finale yet, but I believe and hope that the finale is one of the best episodes that we’ve ever done.