As NBC's Parks and Recreation returns tonight, Amy Poehler talks women, TV, sex and loins. Really.
As everyone focuses on the one-two disaster debuting tonight that is Whitney and Prime Suspect, I'd like to fill a little blog space with something NBC will air that won't make you want to jump off a high cliff with a small parachute: Amy Poehler and Parks and Recreation.
The show hit its stride last season as Aziz Ansari, Nick Offerman and the always-surprising Rob Lowe blew up on and off the show.
I spent a little time chatting up Poehler in July during a party NBC held for its talent at a cool restaurant featuring so-called molecular gastronomy. Standing next to a stand handing out cotton candy wrapped around foie gras -- yup feathery sugar goodness swirled around a hunk of duck liver -- Poehler and I talked quickly about women on TV and show's new season within earshot of Saturday Night Live mastermind Lorne Michaels and her husband Will Arnett.
(At right is Poehler with Arnett and co-star Adam Scott on the same night; she's probably warning them to stay away from the guy who looks like Randy Jackson carrying the digital recorder)
I started by asking her about all the new TV shows starring women:
Poehler: Well, television’s always been a great place for women. You know, growing up, a lot of my television shows that I loved were female-driven comedies. I think the best and most interesting characters for women are in TV right now in drama and in comedy. So it’s a great home for interesting characters. And so I’m with you in that. I get excited when I see that because, I don’t know, I just like … I like stories told from different perspectives and …
D: More women watch TV than men and if you look at … you know, I just did a story about this. I’m a nerd about it, but if you look at the top 30 shows and you take out football, other than The Office and like Family Guy, they’re all majority women audiences.
D: Yes. I’m surprised TV hasn’t tried to cater to women more.
P: You’re right. I totally agree. And, you know, and maybe the same kind of thing that happens in films where men kind of decide what … like, you know, men still decide what films people are gonna go to, maybe it’s the same in television. But I have to say that there’s a nice kind of moment of great talent and good writing and lots of really strong writing for women that don’t have to be necessarily by women, you know? Mike Shur’s the creator of my show and he can write for women better than anyone I know. But it’s a nice kind of dovetailing of women in TV and good parts for them, so I hope it continues.
D: I was gonna say, a lot of people are crediting Tina and you and the work that you guys did on SNL and now the work that you’re doing on your own shows would help to spark this. I mean, do you feel at all like you may have inspired this a little bit?
P: No (laughs).
D: That’s honest. That’s good.
P: But that’s nice to hear, but I feel like the stuff that inspired it came way before me, you know? And I don’t know, I think about, you know, the female-driven sitcom is like its own … it’s kind of an American tradition, you know? And you’ve got Mary Tyler Moore …
P: Rhoda, and all that stuff, and it’s been a real template that I think we just kinda jumped on the backs of, in many ways, so …
D: You know, a lot of people are saying, or a lot of critics are saying, your show hit its stride this past season. Do you feel that way?
P: I did, yeah. We felt a great moment where we were finally getting our groove on the show and people were noticing it, and it meant a lot to the people, to us, that people were writing about it and liking it. In a world where network stuff can be so mercurial, we just kind of put our heads down and tried to make a good show and, to be honest and not to be too cynical, that rarely pays off. So the optimism of Leslie Knope somehow won out. It somehow won.
D: Validation of the character, yeah.
P: It was, like, oh my God. ‘Cause I’ll tell you, Leslie was always believed everything was gonna be okay, you know. Amy Poehler is a lot more sarcastic than that.
D: Do you have any sense about … can you tell us anything about what we’ll see next season?
P: Next season will be a lot of struggles. Leslie trying to figure out if she should run for office. If she does, how will her personal life change? Will she have to leave the Parks Dept.? Big jumps, I think, next season, really good juicy stuff. And then your just everyday funny character, Parks craziness.
D: You guys have just cast Patricia Clarkson (as Tammy, the first wife of Offerman's character Ron Swanson), by the way.
D: So what sort of energy can we expect out of that?
P: Well, Patricia is gonna be … you know, Megan Mullally (playing Swanson's second wife, also named Tammy; also Offerman's actual wife) is all sex and loins, and Tammy …
D: Sex and loins?
P: Her character (laughter), as well as her. Then (Clarkson's) Tammy is very measured, cold, and manipulative, and what’s so funny about that character, Ron Swanson, is he is his own man except for the two women that come in and control his life, so I’m psyched to work with Patricia. She’s an awesome actress and I’ve never worked with her, and I think she’ll be great.
D: Well, as an Indiana man, I’m here to tell you, I'm liking the show.
P: Oh, hey! Go, Hoosiers. Thanks, man. Thanks a lot. I appreciate that.