A Network Executive Canceled and Uncanceled ‘Parks and Recreation’ During a Single Plane Ride

One bad in-flight meal could have doomed the beloved show
A Network Executive Canceled and Uncanceled ‘Parks and Recreation’ During a Single Plane Ride

Despite the fact that it was beloved by critics, adored by its fans and featured the greatest mustache in the history of television (suck it, Tom Selleck), Parks and Recreation was in constant jeopardy of being taken off of the air. 

NBC treated the show so shabbily that during the sixth season, it was put on hiatus for months, and replaced with episodes of The Voice, an SNL clip show and a live version of The Sound of Music starring Carrie Underwood. As Vulture noted at the time, this was likely because NBC wanted to boost viewership of Sean Saves the World, a Sean Hayes-led sitcom that lasted for just 13 episodes and is remembered by precisely no one.

Well, it turns out that Parks and Rec was even more endangered than many of us thought.

On a recent episode of the Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend podcast, Rashida Jones, Ann Perkins herself, chatted with Conan about everything from her legendary father Quincy Jones, to how she was irrationally terrified of her mother Peggy Lipton’s Twin Peaks co-star Frank Silva, the set decorator who was randomly tapped to play a demonic killer. 

When O’Brien asked about how Parks and Recreation was “on the bubble a bit” during its time on NBC, Jones responded that it was the “whole time. Not even ‘a bit,’ every single season, we were like ‘This is it. They’re not going to want us back.’”

Most shockingly, she revealed that the head of the network actually canceled the show, then uncanceled it, during a flight. “At one point we were canceled and then the president of NBC got off the plane and changed his mind. He was like, ‘Eh, don’t cancel it yet, I guess.’”

It’s possible that this happened in 2013, when it was rumored that NBC was planning to “gently cancel” Parks and Recreation, as well as 30 Rock and Community, by granting truncated final seasons for each. This would have been done to make way for the network's lineup of new comedies, including Save Me, a show in which the late Anne Heche was granted Old Testament-like superpowers. It only lasted for seven episodes. 

Jones says that this was all because Parks and Rec “never succeeded” in delivering huge ratings, although she now sees that this instability may have actually made the show better. “The whole time we were just holding on for dear life, hoping we got to do more,” Jones explained. “Which is probably part of why it was so good. Because there was no stardom. It wasn’t infiltrated by any outside feelings about us.”

While Parks and Recreation may be widely beloved today, that certainly wasn’t the sense anybody had while they were making it. Jones called its current reputation “so awesome,” but added, “we didn't feel that way (at the time).”

Presumably the podcast edited out all the high fives Jones and O’Brien shared while dunking on the embarrassing cluelessness of NBC executives from the early 2010s.

You (yes, you) should follow JM on Twitter (if it still exists by the time you’re reading this).


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