- “Parks and Recreation” aired from 2009 to 2015 and starred Amy Poehler as mid-level Indiana public official Leslie Knope.
- Insider combed through interviews with the show’s cast and creators and rounded up some fun facts about the beloved series.
- For example, the sitcom was originally pitched as a spin-off of “The Office.”
- Also, Leslie’s book “Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America” actually exists and is available to read.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
“Parks and Recreation” – NBC’s workplace sitcom about a group of city government employees in the fictional small town of Pawnee, Indiana – aired from 2009 to 2015 and soon became a beloved cultural phenomenon.
But even the most devoted fans may not know some fun facts about the series, like how it was originally pitched as a spin-off of “The Office,” or how ambitious protagonist Leslie Knope’s (Amy Poehler) book actually exists and is available to read.
In honour of the show’s recent 11-year anniversary, here are 22 things you may not have known about “Parks and Recreation.”
The show was initially conceived as a spin-off of “The Office.”
“Parks and Recreation” was originally announced as a spin-off of “The Office,” with Steve Carell slated to appear on the series premiere (presumably as Michael Scott).
But co-creator Greg Daniels wanted the comedy to be an unrelated show with an “Office”-like tone, and his idea eventually won out over NBC’s insistence on a spin-off.
The show’s original title was “Public Service.”
When The New York Times asked NBC Entertainment co-chairman Ben Silverman why the show’s creators decided to change the title to “Parks and Recreation,” he explained, “Can’t make fun of public service! Worried because we don’t want to seem mean about it.”
Chris Pratt was cast because of his work on “The O.C.”
The actor played an activist on nine episodes of the teen drama “The O.C.” Co-creator Michael Schur’s wife, J.J. Philbin, wrote on the show at the time and recommended Pratt for the role of Andy Dwyer.
Ron Swanson is based on a real government official.
In order to make sure that the world of “Parks and Recreation” was grounded in reality, Daniels and Schur spent time visiting different local governments while developing the show. One anonymous Burbank official ended up inspiring Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman), Leslie’s anti-government, libertarian boss.
“We were talking to one official about wanting to make Leslie’s boss opposed to government,” Daniels told The Los Angeles Times. “Like, ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if she’s trying so hard to get stuff accomplished but her boss […] doesn’t believe in the mission of the branch of government he’s supposed to be overseeing?’ And she looks at us and goes, ‘Well, I’m a libertarian, so I don’t really believe in the mission of my job’ […] And she goes, ‘Yes, I’m aware of the irony.’ “
Andy wasn’t originally supposed to be a main character.
The character was initially only written as Ann’s deadbeat boyfriend, who would be written off “Parks and Recreation” after season one. However, the writers liked Pratt’s performance so much that they decided to make Andy a loveable series regular for the rest of the show.
Main characters like April Ludgate and Jerry Gergich were created specifically for the actors.
Schur was introduced to Plaza after “Parks and Recreation” casting director Allison Jones called him and said, “I just met this girl, and she’s the weirdest person I’ve ever met.” Minutes later, the actress visited his office, and after an hour of making Schur “more uncomfortable than I’ve ever been,” he decided to write a character for her on the show.
Jim O’Heir, who plays Jerry Gergich, initially auditioned to play Ron. However, Daniels and Schur told the actor that they wanted him on the show regardless and came up with the part of Jerry.
The exterior of Pawnee City Hall is a real city hall building.
In reality, Pawnee City Hall is actually Pasadena City Hall in California. The building has also appeared in Charlie Chaplin’s classic movie “The Great Dictator,” and on other TV shows like the “Mission: Impossible” series and “The Big Bang Theory.”
The theme song was selected via a contest.
When “Parks and Recreation” still didn’t have a theme song mere weeks before its series premiere, the producers hired music company BMI to send out a mass email requesting themes from composers (who only had five days to submit).
The winners were songwriters Gaby Moreno and Vincent Jones, who were later nominated for an Emmy for their upbeat, cheery theme.
Nick Offerman and Adam Scott both auditioned for the role of Ann’s love interest, who was named Josh. That character eventually became Mark Brendanawicz.
Offerman didn’t get the role of Josh because he reportedly wasn’t “handsome” enough (according to the actor’s book, “Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man’s Fundamentals for Delicious Living”), and played Ron on the sitcom instead.
Adam Scott, who played Leslie’s eventual husband Ben Wyatt, auditioned for the same role.
“I actually auditioned for [‘Parks and Recreation’] before it was even on the air,” Scott told GQ in 2011. “I really wanted it and didn’t get it; I actually kind of blew it, and so I was obviously pretty upset […] So when the opportunity popped up again a couple years later, I was really excited. I went and had a meeting with Mike Schur, and then it all just kind of fell into place from there.”
The character of Josh eventually became Mark Brendanawicz (Paul Schneider), a Pawnee city government employee who appears on the first two seasons of the show.
Nick Offerman and Aubrey Plaza share a birthday.
Both actors were born on June 26. Plaza was born in 1984 and Offerman in 1970.
Some cast members’ real-life partners appeared on the show.
Poehler’s then-husband Will Arnett appeared on season two, episode 13 (“The Set-Up”), playing an eccentric MRI technician who goes on a blind date with Leslie. The ex-couple had previously acted together on Arnett’s show “Arrested Development,” and in the comedy film “Blades of Glory.”
Offerman’s real-life wife, Megan Mullally, appears throughout the show as Ron’s toxic second ex-wife Tammy Two. The pair have also appeared on Mullally’s sitcom “Will & Grace.”
NBC got away with spoiling April and Andy’s wedding.
At the end of season three, episode four (“Ron & Tammy: Part Two”), on which Ron and Tammy Two (Mullally) briefly got remarried, NBC aired a promo about a wedding registry. However, the registry was for April and Andy, not Ron and Tammy.
This was because NBC accidentally aired the promo weeks before April and Andy actually got married on season three, episode nine (“Andy and April’s Fancy Party”). To cover for the mistake, the network said that the registry was meant to include Ron and Tammy’s names instead, and that a writer put in the wrong names.
You can actually buy Leslie’s book about Pawnee, Indiana.
On the season four episode “Born & Raised,” Leslie tries to get her new book “Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America” on local media personality Joan Callamezzo’s (Mo Collins) book club – and you can actually read it in real life.
Leslie is the credited author of the book, which recounts Pawnee’s fictional history. The back cover includes blurbs from characters like Tom, Andy, and Chris Traeger (Rob Lowe), who declares that it is “literally the greatest endeavour of human creativity in the history of mankind.”
Three alternate endings were filmed for the season four finale.
The overarching plot of season four is Leslie’s campaign to win a seat on the Pawnee city council, which she successfully does on the season finale. But during filming, three different endings were shot, in order to avoid spoilers and give the producers more time to figure out how they wanted the election to turn out.
One of Schur’s favourite lines of the series was improvised by Chris Pratt.
During the season three episode “Flu Season,” a perpetually busy Leslie develops the flu. Andy tries to help, saying, “Leslie, I typed your symptoms into the [computer] thing up here, and it says you could have network connectivity problems.”
The line was actually improvised by Pratt during a single take.
“I’m not kidding, as a writer, it made me furious,” Schur said of the moment during a 2012 PaleyFest panel. “[…] The camera happened to be on him, he did it once, and I think it’s the funniest joke that’s ever been on our show.”
“Parks and Recreation” correctly predicted the Chicago Cubs winning the 2016 World Series.
Because “Parks and Recreation” season seven aired in 2015 but was set in 2017, the writers made a series of predictions about how the next few years would unfold. On season seven, episode two (“Ron & Jammy”), Tom visits his ex-girlfriend Lucy (Natalie Morales) in Chicago.
She makes a throwaway comment about how Chicagoans have been friendlier since the Cubs won the World Series, which seemed unlikely given that, at the time, the team hadn’t won in over a hundred years. But one year later, the Chicago Cubs did in fact triumph in that year’s World Series.
Chris Pratt predicted his future starring role in the “Jurassic World” franchise during a “Parks and Recreation” behind-the-scenes video.
During a behind-the-scenes video that Pratt filmed for “Parks and Recreation,” the actor unknowingly predicted his future starring role as Owen Grady in the “Jurassic World” movies.
“I just got a text message from Steven Spielberg,” he jokingly tells the camera in the video. “God, it’s so annoying.”
Pretending to text the director back, Pratt says, “I’ll have to get back to you later about ‘Jurassic Park Four.'”
Amy Poehler said she and Nick Offerman shot a makeout scene for the gag reel of every season.
During “Parks and Recreation’s” 2014 PaleyFest panel, Schur explained that Leslie and Ron were “never romantic options for each other.”
Poehler, who was also in attendance cut in to add, “I will say every year there’s a scene, just for the gag reel, where Leslie and Ron make out.”
“And it never makes the gag reel because it’s super disgusting to watch,” Schur joked.
Aubrey Plaza based April Ludgate on her sister Natalie.
On the show, April has a sister (played by Minni Jo Mazzola) named Natalie Ludgate.
Plaza has also said that her younger sister (who is also named Natalie) influenced her deadpan, apathetic performance as April.
“I have a 17-year-old sister, Natalie, and I get a lot of material from her for my characters,” the actress told Latina.com. “Just the way that she interacts with her friends and talks about what’s cool and what’s not cool, are people on Facebook or are they on MySpace.”
Leslie and Ron were originally supposed to represent Democrats and Republicans.
“Leslie and Ron were like opposites, and still are,” Poehler said during a 2014 “Parks and Recreation” PaleyFest panel. “But at first, we were really showing the two sides of government work.”
“There’s an old adage – that I don’t think is really true – but the adage is when people want a dad they vote Republican and when they want a mum they vote Democrat,” she continued. “At the beginning, the main conception of the show was that there would be a dad and a mum in the office, but the idea was like a stern, but loving dad and a loving mum.”
The writers gave Jerry a “perfect life” outside of the office because they felt guilty about his character constantly being the butt of jokes.
Throughout the series, bumbling parks department employee Jerry (O’Heir) is the butt of many jokes made by his coworkers. Because O’Heir was so widely loved by the cast and crew, Jerry was given a relatively picture-perfect life outside of the office.
“When we started running a million jokes about Jerry when he would fart or trip, I said the only way we can do this is if we find out he secretly has the best life of anyone,” Schur explained during the 2014 “Parks and Recreation” PaleyFest panel. “He should be married to Christie Brinkley. He should have three adult daughters who are the most beautiful women in the world. He should have a beautiful home. […] Outside the office, everything goes perfectly. That’s the only way I can emotionally cope with all the jokes.”
Amy Poehler suggested the time jump for season seven.
At the end of season six, “Parks and Recreation” surprisingly jumped two years into the future, just after Ben and Leslie found out that they were going to have triplets. Poehler suggested the time jump because she was raising two young children in real life and didn’t want to work with babies on the show.