As part of this year’s Television Critics Association press tour, NBC opened up the set of “Parks and Recreation” for a tour and a preview of the third season. The show’s return on Jan. 20 is actually long awaited by fans, since it went on hiatus over the summer. This year, get to meet the rival city to Pawnee, IN.
“Every now and then, there’s been occasional jokes where we allude to the city called Eagleton,” Aziz Ansari said. “It’s kind of supposed to be this rich town that’s like the rival of Pawnee that has all the money and everything. In this season, there’s an episode where we go to Eagleton, and it’s such a funny contrast to Pawnee.”
Creator/executive producer Michael Shur expanded on Eagleton. “The whole town is like a country club basically,” Shur said. “Every man looks like a guy in a J.Crew ad. He’s got a sweater tied around him.”
Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) would be jealous of Eagleton’s government. “Their town meetings are beautiful,” Poehler said. “Everyone is beautifully behaved.”
Other Pawnee characters get some juicy new roles. Office punching bag Jerry (Jim O’Heir) unleashes his dark side. “In a couple episodes of Season 3, he turns into a bit of a bully,” Poehler said. “It’s like when you’re bullied, sometimes you turn into a bully. There’s a couple of people that Jerry bullies.”
Ultimately, that storyline redeems Jerry. “It’s also caused him to have, like, good qualities,” producer Greg Daniels said. “He’s painting a beautiful landscape just so that it can be thrown into the water.”
O’Heir chimed in himself, “I have amazing talents that they don’t give a crap about: piano playing, I’m an artist.”
The big scoop of season three though is the Harvest Festival. Press who rode the TCA bus to the set got to see the episode on the ride to Studio City. The set remained dressed for the Harvest Festival, with photo ops with miniature horse Little Sebastian. The cast joked about the episode with references to one of our favorite obscure bad movies, The Wicker Man (Labute/Cage version).
Nick Offerman: It’s a little creepy through the Wicker Man’s segment. Then there’s sort of a happy dénouement.
Aziz Ansari: Someone gets killed by a swarm of bees.
Nick Offerman: The harvest is a harvest of blood.
I guess I can’t hope for a Nic Cage cameo in a bear suit beating up women. At least the Harvest Festival gives a big thrust to the show.
“Leslie sort of gambles the entire future of the parks department on this one big project,” Shur said. “So that’s the arc of the first half of the season, almost exactly half of the season. Then, if there’s an arc to the second half, it’s sort of the aftermath of that project and what happens after that project is done.”
And wait ‘til you get a load of Little Sebastian. “I think that it’s a fairly common phenomenon in small to medium sized towns that there are just unlikely local heroes that spring up,” Shur continued. “It’s one of those things you see on weird and whacky news on CNN where it’s like the world’s smallest horse, and you’re like, ‘Why am I reading this and not spending time with my family?’ I honestly think my two favorite moments of the entire show are back to back, and they’re Aziz’ and Nick’s reaction when Little Sebastian walks in the first time. Aziz lights up like a light bulb and then Nick Offerman in real life has a very funny giggle.It rarely comes out when he’s playing Ron Swanson because it’s not a Ron Swanson giggle. If you have the chance to watch it again, just focus on those two reactions. They make me laugh every time I see them. Nick claps his hands together like an old-time prize fighter or something. It’s really delightful.”
“Parks and Recreation” returns January 20 on NBC.