Top 50 Power Showrunners 2011
Mike Schur is having a revelation. "How have I never heard of this? A snow globe that goes on your lawn that you plug in and has snow blowing around?" He scours his iPad web browser for a visual.
"Hey, maybe Andy can put one in his living room?" offers one art department guru for the dim-bulb character played by Chris Pratt. Schur, whose boyish face belies his graying temples, says: "Seriously, the game on Christmas has really changed. Where have I been?"
And so goes a meeting in Pawnee headquarters as the crewmembers of NBC's Emmy-nominated comedy find themselves in a schedule as thick as Ron Swanson's mustache. Led by Schur, alumnus of The Office and Saturday Night Live, they are shooting episode nine, locking episode five, preparing for a table read for episode 10 (the Christmas-themed "Citizen Knope") and breaking story -- or hammering out the plot -- for episode 12. It's a workload that Schur, 35, manages with an eerie calm. He says it's a trick he picked up as a staff writer at SNL, where one "routinely has your ass handed to you."
"My one rule is: don't panic," says Schur an hour later, now tucked inside a dark edit bay as a poster of basketball coach Bobby Knight oversees the room. He and his editor John Valerio have to shave nine seconds off the forthcoming Halloween episode. "I saw people panic at SNL, and it looked like a bad idea," says the Harvard grad, who points to his Office mentor, Greg Daniels, as his showrunner model. "He never raises his voice -- ever," he says, checking his e-mail. He laughs. "My wife and I share an Amazon.com account," says Schur, whose son is 3 and daughter is 15 months. "And last night, during a very high-stress work moment, I got this e-mail that said, 'Your order of six pairs of Green Lantern underwear has been shipped.'" He says the strain of late nights is "awful," but he's been bridging that gap a little better. "I drive my son to school and he's been requesting The Beatles," says Schur, beaming.
At 2 p.m., the Parks cast is assembled for a table read of the Christmas episode. "I just edited the Halloween episode," Schur tells Rob Lowe. The actor asks, "Ooooh! How is it?" Schur replies: "Your costume is amazing." At 2:05, Schur leaves the room briefly and returns. "Would you find it off-putting if I always left and came back just to make another entrance?" Schur asks the room. The crowd erupts into a swell of chants: "Mike! Mike! Mike!"
"OK, OK," Schur says, grinning. "Let's get to reading our second-ever Christmas episode, shall we?"