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'Parks and Recreation' final season a miracle, creator says

Mike Schur has every right to be a little annoyed. 

Three weeks after filming wrapped on his comedy Parks and Recreation, the executive producer is back at work after the holidays editing the last few episodes of the series when an unwelcome distraction is thrown his way.

"We were weirdly kicked out of our offices and now we're all crammed into this tiny corner of the building where we've been for the past six years while we edit the last few episodes," he tells TVGuide.com. "There's no room for sentiment in the television industry."

Taking a page from Parks' eternally optimistic heroine Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), however, Schur is quick to point out the alternative could have been much worse. "We were all constantly reminding ourselves that this was amazing that we got to do it this way," Schur recalls of filming the finale, "instead of being in the middle of shooting an episode and just getting a phone call saying, 'You're canceled, and everybody has to leave the building.'"

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After seven seasons and nearly as many years on the cancellation bubble, Parks and Recreation kicks off its farewell season Tuesday at 8/7c on NBC. The final 13 episodes pick up right where the Season 6 finale left off, which is to say they start in 2017, three years into Leslie's gig at the National Parks department and three years after Leslie and Ben (Adam Scott) welcomed triplets. "It's made things a little more exciting this year," Schur says of the flash-forward. "We were able to accelerate through three additional unseen years of all of their lives and really get them to a place where they've been through a lot."

Although Leslie is now "playing in a bigger playground" and "dealing with much bigger issues," a new problem will surface in the premiere that will shape the first half of the season. "There's a gigantic battle that is waged for. It's sort of Leslie Knope's final big project," Schur says. "She's fighting a corporation for control over something. The arc of the season is about what I think is probably the most important issue facing America, which is not just public sector vs. private sector, but specifically it becomes about the issue of privacy."

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Although it remains to be seen exactly what the rest of the former Pawnee's parks department is up to — April, Andy and Jerry (now Terry) appeared in the flash-forward, but Ron, Tom and Donna did not — it won't take long for the team to reassemble at, naturally, the behest of Leslie. "Part of the story of the premiere is that this team doesn't work together anymore, and she feels like she needs them back to do this final big project," Schur says. "The closeness of this group of people is fraying at the edges just because people's lives are taking them in different directions, and that culminates in the series finale."

The "scattered" nature of Parks' ensemble is precisely why Schur and Poehler began contemplating bidding adieu to Pawnee in the middle of Season 6. "Because we had written so many season finales that could be series finales and because we were always unsure of our future, we accelerated the characters so dramatically in terms of their personal lives and their professional lives," Schur says. "We got to a point where it's like, what are we going to do? Follow Leslie to Washington? Are we just going to keep going until she's the president?"

So Schur and Poehler went to NBC to request a 13-episode farewell season, but like so much of Parks' run, they had no idea what the network was going to do. "We were preparing for them to say anything from, 'No, you guys are done after this year,' all the way to, 'No, we want a full season and possibly an eighth season,'" Schur says. "They said, 'That sounds great. Let's do that.' And that was the end of the conversation."

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After spending year after year nervously waiting for a renewal every May, Schur laughs at how easy the conversation went down. "That's a rare thing in Hollywood where you make a request from the people who pay you and they say, 'Sounds good,'" he says. "We really were able to put all the pieces on the chess board and arrange them exactly the way we wanted, so it was like a control freak's dream."

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However, NBC still had one last unexpected curveball up their sleeve. After being left off the fall schedule, the network announced in December that Season 7 would premiere in January on a new night, Tuesdays, and air new episodes back-to-back. In a statement, NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt called the scheduling a way to "eventize" the last season, while most critics bemoaned the move as a way to burn episodes of Parks off.

"It feels like just a result of this new era of TV that we're all in. People don't want to wait. People don't want to let seasons unfold slowly over the course of eight months," Schur says. "It wasn't at all what we expected but also, the more we thought about it, the more it was like I see the value in that. Amy is co-hosting the Golden Globes again, and the show will launch two days after she hosts the Globes and, as luck would have it, this season happens to be extremely serialized, especially at the beginning, so airing back-to-back is actually kind of cool."

Once again, Schur finds the upside. "The short answer is: I can't believe our good fortune that we're airing Season 7 of this show at all, so it feels a little bit silly to complain about the specific way that it airs."

Parks and Recreation's final season kicks off on Tuesday at 8/7c on NBC.

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