‘Parks and Rec’ Producer and Writer on Emmys, Season 5 and the Magic of Ron Swanson


Parks and Rec Emmy ChancesAs the announcement of 2012’s Emmy Awards nominations rolls up, one series’ name can be heard in every single pre-announcement conversation: NBC’s small town government ode Parks and Recreation. The little-series-that-could has churned out some of the best comedy on television since it hit its stride in 2010, and last year the Emmys finally recognized that achievement with a Best Comedy Series nomination in addition to Amy Poehler’s second nomination for Best Actress in a Comedy. And while Modern Family took just about every comedy award that night — and three quarters of the Best Supporting Actor nominations — 2012 could actually be Parks’ year. Much like Leslie Knope, who fought and bested her own political Goliath this season, the NBC series could be the underdog who goes all the way. 

Hollywood.com spoke with supervising producer and writer for Parks, Emmy-winner Daniel J. Goor, about whether Parks will get its due praises this year. “We really, really don’t do it for the awards and I know that sounds so stupid, but it’s true,” said Goor, whose experience ranges from writing Emmys telecasts to whipping up jokes for Conan O’Brien and Jon Stewart on The Daily Show. “A lot of people watch the Emmys, so it would be a tremendous amount of exposure and it would be incredibly validating to get that kind of recognition,” he adds.

And it seems that Parks may have already benefited from its Emmy exposure from last year. The series, whose ratings hover in the three or four million range alongside other NBC Thursday night critical darlings like 30 Rock and Community, was given a full season order while its compadres will both enjoy only half seasons on NBC’s fall schedule. The Emmys buzz could be behind the larger episode order, but of course, on that issue, Goor remained appropriately diplomatic.

Of course, his discretion regarding nominations only goes so far. “We’ll take any and all awards that [are] offered to us,” he laughs, adding that the Emmys are “the crowning achievement.” But what about last year? Was he sore about not making it up to the stage for the big Comedy Series award? 

For that, he referred us to the 17th episode of Season 2 titled “Woman of The Year,” in which Leslie (Poehler) is driven crazy when Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) is nominated for a coveted women’s award as a PR stunt. “You shouldn’t care about awards, but the point of it is that, like Leslie, we all care so much about the award,” he says. And Parks’ loss to Modern Family in 2011 was no different. “You can’t help it when you inevitably don’t win. You’re like, ‘Come on! That hurts so much,’” Goor laughs.

And this season, the series heads into nominations with the benefit of having been nominated last year. Poehler, whom Goor aptly refers to as simply “amazing,” is all but locked in for another nomination and the series itself has nabbed its spot in the regular lineup of Emmy-worthy comedies, so we can expect a nomination there as well. But now, other players are entering the arena.

Offerman’s name and Adam Scott’s (who plays Leslie’s love interest, Ben Wyatt) have been tossed around in the pre-nominations shuffle, with Offerman’s as a likely and overdue nomination. Ron Swanson’s equally manly portrayer is all but primed for the nod. Goor notes that he’s already “gotten a lot of love” in the forms of Television Critics Association awards and nominations. But now, it could be Offerman’s year and Goor has plenty of ammunition for Emmys voters.

“Nick Offerman has created one of the all-time iconic TV characters. I really think that what he’s doing is amazing,” says Goor. “He’s a national treasure.” And July 19 will tell just how heavily his amazing work has impacted the world of television.

But nominations or not, the show must go on and Season 5 offers up a bevy of big questions. Most pressing for the series’ fans is likely regarding what will happen to Ben and Leslie now that Ben’s going to Washington, D.C.. “We’re actually taking a different turn and he will be wearing the Batman suit and fighting crime in Washington,” jokes Goor. In actuality, that divide will be a big part of next season. “We’re going to have them have experience the stresses of a long distance relationship and hopefully try to find some comedy in that. We’re going to try to play that story,” he teased.

How far might “that story” go? Leslie has always had big dreams — just look at the veritable women’s history museum/inspiration board that is her office wall — and with Ben in Washington, could we eventually see our Pawnee heroine contract the federal bug? “That’s a thing that we talk about in the writers room a lot … Leslie loves Pawnee and that’s such a critical element of who her character is … she’s not going wind up being the secretary general of the United Nations this season,” he assures us. “She’s a big dreamer but she also lives in a small town and loves living in a small town and we’re not running away from that.”

But fans’ reactions to another Parks heroine and her on-again, off-again beau hasn’t been so warm. The Tom (Aziz Ansari) and Ann (Rashida Jones) dilemma has had many fans scratching their heads (and some shaking their fists in anger in Zorp’s general direction). Chill out, anti-shippers — Goor promises us it’s all in good fun. “We said all along that we were playing it as a comedy relationship and I think people reacted to it because they thought we were trying to play it for more than a comedy relationship, but that was really never the intention,” he says, adding, “I think people will be happy with what we do with it this season.”

Season 5 also dangles the prospect of finally meeting the Pawnee mayor in front of us; now that Leslie is moving up the ranks in local government, could we finally meet the elusive politician? Goor didn’t confirm it, but he did mention a few names he’d like to see take the role. In addition to the much whispered about option — Bill Murray, whom Goor says is everybody’s top choice for mayor — he’d love to see former president Bill Clinton or Game of Thrones star and Emmy-winner Peter Dinklage as mayor. “He’d have to come out as [his Game of Thrones character] Tyrion. Tyrion would be a great mayor. Though I kind of like the idea that Joffrey is the mayor,” Goor jokes.

While we won’t be seeing Joffrey Baratheon handing Leslie Knope any tokens of recognition any time soon, we may see Parks and Recreation up on that 2012 Emmys stage come September. After all, Season 4 was the most Emmy-worthy season of the show… sort of. “Wait, I think that since we didn’t win for Season 3, I definitely think Season 4 is the most Emmy-winnable season. I think people would be fools not to vote for it. Fools, I say!” laughs Goor. Solid.

And with a case that strong, how can the Television Academy resist?

Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler.

[Image: Courtesy of NBC]


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