Parks and Recreation: The Story Behind TV's Cutest Couple
There are some television couples who were always meant to start as nothing and eventually blossom into the greatest romances: Ross and Rachel, Jim and Pam, Sam and Dianne (OK, they don’t end up together, but that was because an actor up and quit the show), Carrie and Mr. Big. Then there are characters who wind up together in later seasons because it just feels right and the producers know it: Chandler and Monica, Michael and Holly, Fox and Mulder.
It turns out the current most adorable couple on television is a mixture of both. Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) was supposed to gain a love interest when Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott) entered in the penultimate episode of Parks and Recreation’s second season. However, it wasn’t certain that he was meant to be the love interest.
“Our initial idea for Leslie was that she was going to have a series of relationships with different men—different kinds of men—over the course of the show and that she would sort of learn something different from each of them,” co-creator and executive producer Michael Schur admits. “And that’s why there was a sort of—she learned a little something from Mark Brendanawicz. She learned something from Louis C.K.’s character. She learned something from Justin Theroux. And we were sort of like ‘oh, Adam Scott, that’s good. She’ll date him for a while and she’ll learn something about herself from him.’”
The relationship between Poehler and Scott’s characters always had the possibility of being more, but no one expected anything too serious to come of it. Scott, however, had an inkling.
“Looking at Leslie and Ben at our first couple of scenes together, it really speaks to the quality of writing of this show that there’s a lot of kind of foreshadowing of their relationship in the sense that these are two kind of three-dimensional characters that really sort of fit together and they see things in each other that no one else really sees and kind of hit these buttons with each other right off the bat," he says.
Schur reveals that he wanted to lay groundwork early on that this had the possibility of being the romance, but not put too much pressure on it, stating, “In that ‘Master Plan’ [Ben Wyatt’s first appearance] episode they have a conversation in a bar. And I wrote this thing into where Ben says to her very casually like, ‘You want to run for office someday, right?’ and she says, ‘Yes, how did you know?’”
The point was for Ben to subtly make it known he understands Leslie and that if the two ever did get together, it would last forever. By the beginning of the third season Schur understood exactly where these two characters needed to go, citing that it was the chemistry between Poehler and Scott that made them so perfect for one another.
Ms. Leslie Knope herself believes it was the writing behind the characters that gave her and Scott such an easy pathway to terrific chemistry. “And I love how [the writers] let characters change and like actually have things happen, like life goes on in the world, like what happens in the real world.” She added that so many shows rely on the “will they/won’t they” aspect, but sometimes that’s not the best way to portray two characters falling in love.
She claims there are so many moments in the two character’s relationship that it is hard to narrow down a favorite, but Scott has no problem noting that “Road Trip” (episode 3.14) was obviously a huge moment for Leslie and Ben.
“It’s kind of where everything culminates and they have their first kiss at the end of the episode," he says. "And I thought that the episode was really well-written and directed and the tension kind of leading up to their first sort of scandalous kiss in private was really, really well-written.”
That’s why the relationship worked so well: It was less than a season from when these lovebirds first met to when they first kissed. Parks and Recreation didn’t have the luxury of stringing viewers along due to NBC’s tendency to cancel fan favorites and critical darlings that aren’t doing well in ratings. But it paid off, and according to Poehler, Scott and Schur, the wedding between the two will undoubtedly be many people’s favorite episode of the show’s run.