Deadline TV contributor Diane Haithman files this report:
NBC’s Parks And Recreation, which stars Amy Poehler as a small town public servant, has a sterling pedigree for an Emmy. It was created by Greg Daniels and Michael Schur, who respectively are the creator and creative team member for NBC’s multi-award-winning veteran comedy The Office. And The Office was adapted by Daniels from the popular BBC series created by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, who join Daniels as executive producers of the U.S. version.
But there’s a downside to being part of this royal family. While The Office has been crowned with the Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series, Parks And Recreation has not. Poehler was nominated in 2010 but did not win. Plus, out of the box, the show had to live down comparisons to The Office ever since the newer series came on the TV landscape in April 2009. It even airs in the Thursday 9:30 p.m. time slot just after The Office — which won for Outstanding Comedy in 2006 and which in turn follows 30 Rock, which took the crown in 2007, 2008, and 2009. Yet, even as a direct descendent of Emmy-winners, Parks And Recreation remains a commoner, like Kate Middleton before Prince William handed her the wedding ring.
Mike Schur has shared in The Office’s Emmy success, but Parks And Recreation is his own offspring. Nevertheless, he has to constantly correct the popular misconception that Parks and Recreation is an Office spinoff. That’s because the newer show was originally intended to be a spinoff, but then developed with its own original concept. But Schur says the real inspiration for Parks and Recreation came from another multiple-Emmy winner. “I was a huge West Wing fan, and I thought maybe we could think of this as a half-hour comedy version. In The West Wing, it’s about Russia about to invade China. In our show, it’s about your local garbage. We did some research into the lives of municipal government bureaucrats and it was like, wow, this has just not been done. There have been shows about mayors or governors or presidents, but not about the unelected officials doing their day jobs.”
Using the same “mockumentary” style as The Office was a creative choice not intended to mimic, says Schur. “The multi-camera format was based on vaudeville, which was the way a lot of people got into entertainment before TV started. I think the mockumentary is refl ective of the era of YouTube digital video and its very confessional culture. There’s a difference between what you say to a camera and what you say when you are alone in a room, and for our people in government we thought we could get a lot of mileage out of spying on them. We knew we were going to take a hit for being like The Office, but we were trying to make a very long-term decision.”
Schur admits that an Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series is a short-term hope. But for a TV series there is always a bigger prize on the horizon: getting renewed season after season. “I guess if we could last as long as The Office, forget about the awards. To tell enough stories to make 150 episodes, that’s the real goal.”