We all know it’s rare that you meet a person outside your family that you can both love and like. The same goes for TV shows, I think. That’s why I think that Parks and Recreation is so damn special. It’s also why my TCA Winter Press Tour could have very well ended the moment the final Parks TCA panel–ever!–wrapped on Friday.
As someone who watches a lot of TV and takes most of it as seriously as everyone other than Ben Wyatt takes Lil’ Sebastian, the entire TCA tour experience is the best kind of trip and I’m not talking about the fact that I have to fly five hours to get there. At every turn, there’s something to get excited about as all the stars, writers and producers you can think of are on hand to answer as many questions as they can about whatever they’re working on right then and there. But it’s not often that you get to see the people connected to your favourite show of all-time say goodbye to said show and with the same enthusiasm as you will when it finally runs its course.
I know earlier in the week I struggled to feel the same excitement as the rest of the TCA during the Mad Men panel in support of the final season, but I understand them now, two days after taking in that Parks and Rec panel. Here I was seeing the gang behind what might be one of the best shows of all-time (I mean, IMHO) gathered for one final time to reflect on a near-perfect seven seasons (note: I only say “near” because we haven’t seen all of Season 7 yet). Here I was getting to ask not one, but two questions to these people in front of a room of people who mainly share my excitement. Here I was feeling like Leslie when she met Joe Biden: giddy and kind of unsure if what I was experiencing was real life, or just another one of my extremely vivid dreams.
I won’t say that I held off on asking panel questions until the Parks panel, but this was the first time all tour that I felt I simply needed to chime in, perhaps simply because my list of questions for those present (Amy Poehler, Aziz Ansari, Retta, Adam Scott, Jim O’Heir, Chris Pratt and EP Mike Schur) was far too long to be tackled in a series of short scrums. I’m beyond happy I did too, as one of my questions got some really great responses from the people I was hoping to speak with most: Poehler, Scott and Schur. Having come across a Kickstarter hoping to create a real-life version of Parks-created board game Cones of Dunshire, I had to ask these guys for their thoughts and they were not only really excited to talk about it (well, maybe except for Amy, who apparently can’t stand the game for its total nonsensical rules), but also had lots of stories to share about developing Cones for the show. I’m a bit disappointed that Schur didn’t seem as into my first question (Did the three-year time jump change the end vision for the show?), even if I realize that the answer was simple (they didn’t have a vision for the end, really, before now). But I suppose you can’t win ’em all, and hey, at least I got to get to my second question!
The questioning didn’t stop when the panel did either, as I got to ask Scott about a few specific Ben plot points in a scrum afterwards as well. I would have, of course, gone for Ms. Poehler first and foremost, but she was rushed off the stage immediately, perhaps to avoid the mass of critics rushing to the stage to follow up on the Golden Globes and a myriad of other things. I also thought about talking to Ansari, but the fact is, I’ve been itching to talk to Scott since I fell in love with Party Down. And, let’s be honest, I’ve got a huge crush on Ben Wyatt and really, really, really needed to know what’s next for that Letters to Cleo shirt.
In talking to Scott, I missed out on an insane scrum with Pratt. I regret it only slightly, as I hear that he got pulled away by a publicist mighty quick. That said, apparently Pratt was the total delight you might expect him to be, seemingly wanting to answer more questions than he was allowed. You could see how delighted he was to be at TCA talking about this show during the panel too, even if he did spend a fair share of time going off on “commenters,” much to the delight of us professional commenters. It’s clear that despite the fact that he is, as one journalist said, “the biggest movie star in the world” at the moment, he remains a simple guy who just loves–er, loved!–working on a wonderfully heartfelt, yet hilarious series.
Really, all of the cast members on the Parks panel seemed to light up as they spoke about the legacy the show will leave. They almost seemed like fans as they recalled moments that still make them laugh, particularly O’Heir and Ansari, who named very specific scenes as their all-time favourites (O’Heir loves when Joan Callamezzo is “going to powder her vagina,” while Ansari adores the moment where Perd orders an “empty glass” at a bar). Perhaps their overt love of the show was what made it feel so infused with it from start to finish. I mean, it’s either that or the fact that my true love, breakfast food, was on display nearly every episode.
Speaking of breakfast food, I’m pretty sad that an extremely long line prevented me from getting one of the waffles that NBC was giving out in front of a J.J.’s Diner sign (!!!) before the panel. They cut the line off as things were starting and I was about three people away from treating myself to some doughy, syrupy ecstasy. At the very least, I got to snap a photo of the set-up on my way out. And what’s more, they had a stack of Parks and Rec fleece pullovers waiting for us as we passed by the NBC check-in desk and back to our rooms to get ready for that night’s network party. I have to say my sweater is way too big for me (they only had mediums left when I got to them), but I’ll wear it with pride as I remember how lucky I was to be on hand for a super sweet piece (yes, I may be hungry thinking of waffles again) of TCA history.
I’d like to say I got some more time with the Parks crew at that party, but I only caught Retta and O’Heir for one question each. I didn’t really care that much at the time and I’m still pretty indifferent thinking back at it now, as I feel like there will never be enough time to cover everything I’d need to when it comes to Parks. It’s time now to focus on what’s ahead, both for Leslie and Emily Leslie (that’s my actual middle name, coincidentally). There’s only so much time left to plan my finale party and, more importantly, to enjoy the final moments of this press tour.
I’m writing this from the lobby of the Langham Huntington Hotel as I wait to catch a cab to the airport. I wish I could have blogged about what happened over my last two days here, but I was so swamped with nabbing interviews from Fox and FX talent that I barely had time to take a break and eat some pizza dinner with a few critic friends. What I will say is that while nothing quite measured up to that time I got totally Rec-ed, I did pretty well over the past 24 hours. I nabbed some time with people from three of other favourite comedies (Brooklyn Nine-Nine, The Mindy Project and New Girl) at a party. I asked a question about Christian Slater at today’s Archer panel. And last, but not least, I got to speak with a certain Popular Mechanics for Kids alum about his new show. If Parks gets an ending as happy as this one, I promise we’ll all be super satisfied.