Photo: Dan Goor And Michael Schur
There are certain shows my friends refuse to let me talk about anymore. These series are the ones that I could constantly reference, show them clips, or have binge-watched multiple times. All of them have a shared trait; not only are they all heartwarming, character-centered comedies, but either Dan Goor or Michael Schur has involvement with the production.
The two of these individuals have had a part in some of the most renowned comedy series for over two decades including ‘The Office’, ‘Parks And Recreation’, ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’, and ‘The Good Place’.
To begin with, it might be easier to separate the two geniuses.
Michael Schur is a creator, writer, director, and producer behind many of the most iconic television shows in recent years. “There are a few showrunners in the medium of television who have become auteurs in their own right. One such example is Michael Schur, who has become a comedy legend on the small screen and essentially has a blank check to create whatever show he desires,” according to Screenrant.
In the late 90s up until 2004, Schur worked as a producer and writer for ‘Saturday Night Live’. He then became a key writer and producer for the hit NBC series ‘The Office’ which ran for nine seasons. While there, he worked under Greg Daniels who would have involvement in many of his future projects.
Schur was the mastermind behind many of the Jim vs. Dwight pranks in addition to making appearances as Moses, Dwight’s cousin and fellow beet farmer. On the ‘Office Ladies’ podcast from Jenna Fischer (who plays Pam) and Angela Kinsey (Angela), the two discuss the episode ‘Branch Closing’ which cold opens with a prank. Jim sends Dwight a letter, which he believes is from his future self, telling him not to drink the coffee because it was poisoned. Believing it’s true, Dwight knocks Stanley’s cup away from him. “It’s so good. The first thing I thought after I watched this cold open was ‘Did Mike Schur write this episode?’ He did because that’s Mike Schur,” Fischer said. “He did such a good job of writing these Jim/Dwight pranks.”
In the 2010s Schur went on to become a principal figure in network TV comedy in his own right with shows including ‘Parks and Recreation’ and ‘The Good Place’. In 2020 he wrote ‘A Parks and Recreation Special’; raising money to help feed low-income Americans throughout the ongoing Covid pandemic. Schur is also the co-creator of ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’. Can you guess the other co-creator/ showrunner?
If you guessed Dan Goor, you’d be correct! Congratulations!
Dan Goor, like his creative partner, is a writer and producer. His career started in the late 90s, most notably writing for Stephen Colbert for the special ‘Stephen Colbert Across America’ which came out in 1998. He would go on to write for several more late-night shows, including ‘The Daily Show’, ‘Last Call With Carson Daly’, and ‘Late Night With Conan O’Brien’ until 2008.
While he went to Harvard to study biochemistry (hence the reason his production company is Dr. Goor Productions), his passion had always been comedy. After working on ‘Late Night’, Goor decided he wanted to try his hand at longer-form writing. He moved to Los Angeles to work on a new show with former classmates Michael Schur and Greg Daniels. To prepare, he spent months in ‘The Office’ writing room. “It was a wonderful apprenticeship in an all-star writers’ room. I learned the Mike Schur-Greg Daniels vocabulary for breaking stories,” Goor said according to the Harvardwood.
The new show they were working on would eventually become ‘Parks and Recreation’, and by the end of season two, Dan was running the writers’ room. By 2012 he would be an executive producer. Goor said, “Mike and I had a shorthand partly because of ‘The Office’ and partly because we’d known each other since our time doing plays in college.”
During its fifth season, Schur told Goor that if he had a new idea he would work on it with him. The two quickly came up with the premise of a detective squad in an NYPD. “The show [‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’] largely belongs to the creative vision of Dan Goor and his writing staff. Still though, the Schur sensibility is all over the Andy Samberg vehicle. Smart, gentle humor with satisfying pay-offs, lovely character dynamics, and a few well-written archetypes. That’s the Schur way and it works wonders in the nine-nine,” reviewed Screenrant. The show was a major success right out the gate, even scoring an upset at the Golden Globes by snagging Best Musical/ Comedy Series and Best Television Actor In A Musical/Comedy Series despite tough competition.
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According to The Hollywood Reporter, Universal TV executive vice president Bela Bajaria said, “Dan Goor is a gifted writer and showrunner who has delivered for us in a big way with our critically acclaimed and growing hit ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’.”
‘Parks And Recreation’
If, for some miraculous reason, you have not seen any of these shows, or even further don’t know what they are about, I can give you a brief rundown. But also, what have you been watching?
Let’s start with ‘Parks and Recreation’ because it was the first show that the duo really had the majority control. Similar to its predecessor ‘The Office’, ‘Parks’ is a mockumentary-style workplace comedy starring Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope. Leslie is an ambitious and overly eager deputy director of the parks and recreation department in a small, fictional, local Indiana government. Her boss, Ron Swanson, played brilliantly by Nick Offerman, is an apathetic director of the department who, in many ways, becomes her mentor. Other employees include Aziz Ansari, Aubrey Plaza, Adam Scott, and Rashida Jones. “‘Parks and Recreation’ was a tribute to the idea of a kinder, more loving America, just barely holding off a dark and horrifying one,” writes Vox.
‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ features Andy Samberg as Jake Peralta, a talented but childish detective in the 99th precinct of the NYPD. After a new captain replaces previous management, serious changes are made to the precinct. The show premise is similar in theory to many police procedurals, which revolve around different cases in each episode. What makes this series different from ‘NCIS’ or ‘CSI’ is the humor so deftly incorporated. According to NPR, “It’s a deeply warm, deeply funny office sitcom. The police at the precinct care about their jobs, they care about each other. It’s not the most realistic cop show. But it’s definitely one of the funniest.”
‘The Good Place’
The only show I have ever seen to combine advanced ethics and philosophy concepts with pop culture jokes is ‘The Good Place’. In this version of the afterlife, Eleanor, played by Kristen Bell, wasn’t a good person while she was alive. By some mistake, she has made it to the good place, but now must figure out how to stay there. She recruits the help of Chidi, a former philosophy professor and another inhabitant of the good place, to teach her how to become a better person. “One show that has Schur’s identity written across it much more clearly is ‘The Good Place’, the first truly blank check Schur received from NBC… Quickly, though, this comedy morphed into a treatise on philosophy and what it means to be a good person. It remains Schur’s most singular vision and a clear contender for one of the best to ever do it in the world of television,” writes Screenrant.
Human Decency Is Everywhere
There are obviously many reasons why each of these shows were so incredibly successful. For one, they have the trademark Schur/Goor humor. The shows never feel hateful or mocking, but rather silly. The characters are deeply flawed but all have at least one redeeming quality. It’s something that makes them more digestible, and it’s what kept ‘The Office’ on air.
From an analytic point of view, there are many similarities and common tropes threaded throughout the shows they created. According to Vanity Fair, “All four shows started with broad, hard-to-love protagonists played by likable actors Samberg, Steve Carell, Amy Poehler, and Kristen Bell before softening their edges and finding passionately devoted (if often small) audiences who would tune in weekly for a dose of feel-good comedy,”
There are also several repeating character types including lovable dummies (Chris Pratt as Andy or Manny Jacinto as Jason), father-figure bosses (Ron Swanson and Andre Braugher’s Captain Holt), and type-A overachievers (Leslie Knope, Melissa Fumero’s Amy and William Jackson Harper as Chidi). “The most cohesive similarity across all these shows is an unwavering acceptance for what makes flawed, passionate humans both loving and worthy of love. It’s the gooey core at the center of Schur’s sharp wit,” said Vanity Fair.
While the settings are vastly different from each other, it’s the humanity embedded in the core characters that make the shows so watchable. They are not perfect but they are willing to admit their faults and attempt to change for the better. In an interview with Vulture, Goor said, “When a character learns something on a show, they should really learn it. They shouldn’t be repeating their mistakes over and over again in an unrealistic way as if a prior episode hasn’t happened. That’s not to say people don’t have habits and don’t do things several times before they really learn a lesson. I think our characters are growing and will continue to grow.”
There is also a real sense of community, friendship, and love in each series. While they are mostly at their jobs, their coworkers become a family of sorts. There are several marriages, meaningful friendships, and mentorships incorporated in every series. In many ways, all of the shows depict that no matter what. you are worthy of love. For every oddball weirdo, there is a compatible, totally different crazy person that will match that energy and bring out the best in them. Schur and Goor’s stories work because at their heart, they’re human stories of connection and finding meaning in life. This can be a stark contrast to many of the sensationalized dramas of today, and a refreshing palate cleanser in a time that feels constantly more and more tumultuous. There is hope and love and friendship in every series, and by watching them you get a bit of that magic wherever you may be.
By Kylie Bolter
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