Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Solving a belly big problem for 'Parks and Recreation'

A few weeks back, NBC renewed "Parks and Recreation" before any of its other Thursday comedies, citing specific issues with production and actors' schedules. Now we know what the specific issue was: Amy Poehler is pregnant again, and she and Will Arnett are expecting their second baby in late summer.

Production for season three will be accelerated so they can shoot as much as they can before Poehler goes on maternity leave. (The series launch was itself complicated because of the birth of Poehler's first baby, which happened in between her "SNL" departure and when she could start playing Leslie Knope.)

Now, given when Poehler's due, she'll definitely be showing for many of the episodes they film over the next few months, which leads to one of those age-old sitcom dilemmas: how best to hide the baby?

Some shows resort to big purses, or keeping characters seated behind desks at all times. There was an episode of "Cheers" where Shelley Long was stuck in the bar's ventilation ducts for the whole half-hour. "How I Met Your Mother" had to deal with two pregnant actresses last year and decided to embrace the ridiculousness of the gimmick, hiding Alyson Hannigan behind things like a rack of basketballs. "Frasier" did perhaps my least favorite take on this: when Jane Leeves got pregnant, they did a storyline where Daphne just got really, really fat.

Does anybody have a favorite hide-the-belly gimmick from an old show? And/or a suggestion for a means inside the world of Pawnee to keep Leslie's tummy obscured?

57 comments:

Adam said...

Two words: Ron's moustache

Jordan said...

"The Cosby Show" had a lot of great gags for hiding baby bumps. Giant teddy bears, hollowed out mattresses for the actress to nestle down in, shopping bags, etc.

Zach said...

HIMYM got pretty ridiculous at points last year with them trying to hide Lily and Robin's baby bumps [though loved the episode when Lily showed off her stomach because she won an eating competition.]

Personally, don't know why they wouldn't simply incorporate it into the show. Heck, I'd love to see a couple episodes with her on maternity leave, leading to an unlikely but amazing chain of events when Tom Haverford takes over for Leslie. [fingers crossed they get Andy involved in there as well]

But most likely, all this means is we are in for more scenes of Leslie simply sitting behind her desk.

floretbroccoli said...

One episode of Kate & Allie had Susan St. James dressed up in a bunny costume. As in Easter Bunny, not Playboy Bunny.

Julia Duffy, on Newhart, carried a lot of laundry, as the maid. While Rhea Pearlman, on Cheers, carried a lot of trays as the barmaid.

Anonymous said...

Splice in old footage of Amy Poehler or contact James Cameron.

floretbroccoli said...

And didn't Cheers get tired of hiding Rhea Pearlman's several pregnancies, and just have her be pregnant by some customer we'd never noticed before?

Anonymous said...

I thought Carla on Cheers was always playing pregnant, and they never tried to hide it (part of her character was that she was loose).

I actually liked how they handled Daphne on Frasier, but mostly because when she's on maternity leave they say she's at a fat farm and Frasier says, "She's doing quite well, already lost x pounds x ounces" (the weight of the baby).

thegeniusking said...

There really isn't a good solution for this problem is there? I remember Seinfeld going to ridiculous lengths for Julia Luis Dreyfus (putting Elaine in a traditional Mayan outfit). For me, it takes away from the show, because you're paying more attention to how the show will hide the pregnancy than the storyline. Luckily, the docu style of P&R would give them a better chance of covering Amy up than traditional 3 camera sitcoms. The talking head scenes won't need to change, Amy is often behind a desk at the Parks department, and the cameramen can always maneuver their shots away from Amy's stomach when necessary.

Anonymous said...

My least favorite pregnancy hide was Debra Messing on Will & Grace. Mostly because they barely bothered to hide it. I remember one episode where she was in baggy overalls but you could very clearly see she had a giant pregnant stomach. It was pretty distracting.

My favorite pregnancy cover was done on Titus. When Cynthia Watros was pregnant they had her character break her ankle and she spent several episodes in a wheel chair with a big purse on her lap. It was pretty simple and aside from the initial explanation of her injury they never had to address it again and didn't have to jump through any significant hoops to hide her.

Desperate Housewives did a pretty good job with Marcia Cross a few years ago. They mostly shot her from the chest up, used body doubles occassionally, and when they did hide her stomach they were really clever about it. I remember one scene in particular where she stood in the doorway while another character sat at a makeup table. The mirror on the table blocked her stomach because she was standing far away, but it was set up well enough that if I hadn't known Marcia Cross was pregnant I wouldn't have even been aware what they were doing.

Hatfield said...

Isn't Poehler showing just a little bit already? It's seemed the past couple weeks like there was a bit of a pooch that wasn't there before. And for the record, I don't think Amy Poehler is even remotely fat, I just noticed that she looked different.

My vote is she gets in an epic scrum with Fairway Frank and Greg Pitikis, leading to her being in a full body cast for a multiple episode arc.

Julia said...

My favorite is The Nanny, where they just put a coat on her and pretended that you couldn't see the bump. It was hilarious. :)

Anonymous said...

I can't think of a non-3-camera sitcom pregnancy that was hidden. Can anyone jump in with some dramas? The first idea that popped into my head was to have Leslie stand behind one of those horribly scratched-up, fishbowl type windows you find on kids playground equipment. Then we could just think it was a distorted image. Like the window on this set, though it would have to be at ground level. http://www.creativeplaythings.com/images/product/product_image_large/99Comm_glacier_Lg.jpg

Anonymous said...

Friends did a good job with Lisa Kudrow. They wrote it in, but had her being a surrogate. So they didn't have to hide it and then never had to deal with Phoebe being a parent.

DonBoy said...

The problem with writing it in, as Married with Children found out, is that if something sad should happen in reality, you've just made it many times worse.

Anonymous said...

Ugh, on King of Queens they had Leah R. wearing these horrible ugly ponchos all the time. It was awful!

I don't really care what they do just as long as they don't say she's getting fat. That's so insulting.

Anonymous said...

Yes, poor Katey Sagal. Also sad is how Courtney Cox had to play a person trying to start a family when she was having a lot of trouble doing so in real life.

Molly said...

@ Anonymous 3:40pm:
Sex and the City did it pretty well. They had SJP in flowy, yet still-stylish dresses and shot her straight on from the front instead of profile. There was clever costuming in particular in one of the episodes where they went to Atlantic City. She had on a bra top with fringe hanging down over her itty bitty baby bump. However the season (5, I believe) was a short one because of her pregnancy.

Anonymous said...

I always thought they should just pull a George Burns. Back in the 1950s, George Burns had a show with wacky neighbors. Between the first and second season, one of the actors left the show. Not wanting to get rid of the characters, George, who often broke the fourth wall, announced the character was staying, but the actor was different. End of story.

Seinfeld didn't break the fourth wall, with one exception. During the early seasons, George was unemployed. They had filmed an episode where he had a job, but for some reason it wasn't shown until the next season when he was unemployed. They had Jerry come out before the show and he explained what happened and were aware of the continuity problem. He asked the audience to ignore the problem.

Just have Amy come out and say she's pregnant as a person, not as a character. Ignore the problem.

QED

Nat said...

I'm another who liked the Daphne storyline of Frasier. It was a bit ridiculous, but it was better than hiding it with bags/coats etc.

I think the HIMYM costume and writing department did a good job with Colbie's pregnancy as it wasn't that obvious, but Alyson's was very obvious.

SATC did a good job of hiding SJP's pregnancy but they only had to do it for 8 episodes whilst she wasn't that far gone, so they had it pretty easy.

Tyroc said...

How about we just focus on Chrip Pratt/Aubrey Plaza/Rashida Jones/and Aziz from now on and have Amy (and Nick Offerman) just make random appearances?

That would make this one viewer happy.

(Yes, I'm in the minority, I know.)

Anonymous said...

I'd like to see them do nothing to hide or explain her pregnancy. Just let Amy Poehler be pregnant and the character not and ignore her baby belly. TV tends to act like pregnancy is a disease.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the above comment. I'd almost love a disclaimer at the beginning of every episode: "The actress is pregnant. The character is not. Deal with it. It's called suspension of disbelief, people." And then just dress Amy in baggy clothing. I seriously don't understand why people have such a problem with this. Just ignore the belly and enjoy the show.

Anonymous said...

First, congratulations to Amy Poehler and Will Arnett. They're both extremely talented actors and seem from a distance like nice people.

As for Parks and Recs, Leslie standing behind and painting a fence around the ditch park could be a potentially funny running gag.

Anonymous said...

Leslie should borrow Julia Louis-Dreyfuss's fake pregnancy suit from Arrested Development to make some point/crusade.

Anonymous said...

Kill off her character and get someone more attractive and talented to replace her.

Plaid Sneakers said...

I have been saying for weeks that she looks pregnant, not fat, just fuller of face.

Hatfield said...

Thank you, Plaid Sneakers, I'm not alone!

And Anonymous above that, you're mean.

Anonymous said...

The way it was solved in Fresh Prince of Bel Air is the worst...... build a baby into the script then fire the actress.

blinky said...

From my perspective the best way to hide her belly is to cancel the show. I hate P&R, it is a waste of time.
I have given it numerous chances.

iamnoahjames.com said...

I actually HATED the way they did it on Frasier. For a very highbrow show - making her just be fat, and have a bunch of fat jokes got old so quickly. Also, it just didn't match how clever they usually are.

Anonymous said...

How about they just replace Amy Poehler with a sock puppet and air a disclaimer before every episode that says "Leslie Knope is now being played by a sock puppet. Deal with it. It's called suspension of disbelief, people."

Sorry, but I think what happens on screen should actually look believable and having her walking around with a big pregnant belly and pretending she's not pregnant isn't.

Andrew said...

Since they won't be filming through the later months of her pregnancy, I don't think a "fat" thing would be terrible here. Maybe center the season around an upcoming election in which Leslie is trying to step forward on her path to being the first woman president (in a lovely blue suit) but all the stress and work has her sitting at her desk all the time and putting on weight. They could even do episodes about that, with her weight gain affecting how voters see her.

The problem with Frasier's method isn't that "weight gain" is a bad idea, but that they executed it horribly in a way that made Daphne seem crazy and kind of pathetic.

Ginny said...

I also called it, Hatfield and Plaid Sneakers, but did so to my son and husband who couldn't have possibly cared less.

We bump watchers get no respect.

SaneN85 said...

I don't know, but the actresses on soap operas get knocked up all the time. I hardly ever notice it, so maybe they should consult with the folks at GH, OLTL, or some other soap who pulls this off often.

Grey's had Meredith do kidney surgery and end up in a bed recovering.

Joel said...

I actually loved what they did on Will & Grace, just had Grace sit around and eat a lot and making it seemed like she was just bloated with cookies, but at the same time not making too many jokes about it. That wouldn't work on Parks though because the humour is much more toned down and subtle. The best thing to do would probably be the behind the desk/shoot from chest up thing. Wouldn't bother me in the slightest.

Anonymous said...

This is why TV shows need to install abortion clauses. If an actress' pregnancy gets in the way of the shooting, she should be forced to abort it.

blinky said...

Ok then just have the story line be that she is a surrogate mother for Steve Carell's character on The Office.

A-T-G said...

Fran Drescher's character on "The Nanny" was pregnant so they didn't really hide it. I don't the actress has had children.

I enjoyed the HIMYM belly stuff. It only got kind weird when Lily was stuck in a chair towards the very end. The stuff with Cobie was great.

Count me in as someone who kind detested the Fraiser fat gag. At first it was fairly funny but, then it just felt sad.

Friends is my favorite. It was a way to work with a pregnant actress and include the pregnancy into the show w/o bringing a baby into it. Law & Order: CI did the same thing - w/o the comedy. It worked for the characters and the actresses.

Ginny said...

It wasn't Fran--it was CC, the producer. She was huge and they ignored it. I was huge, but not ignored. No fair!

Rob S. said...

They can always hide her behind Jabba the Hutt.

filmcricket said...

Congrats to Amy and Will: I bet they produce smart, cute kids. I also was wondering if she was expecting again; she barely appeared to lose the previous baby weight, actually. (Not saying she looked bad, or fat, or anything, just different.)

I agree Friends did it best with Phoebe. That borderline-incest storyline would only work with a kooky character like Phoebe, though.

However, much as I like Poehler and Arnett, I also agree with the person above who said they could just cancel the show and have done with it. I've tried, I really have. I cannot find it funny.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Rob S. wins the thread. Easy.

Michael said...

Perhaps she's always carrying around DJ Roomba.

Matt W said...

In every episode, Leslie should challenge Ron f-ing Swanson to a contest....who can eat the most breakfast meats in the allotted time. It would explain Leslie's physique and would give Ron f-ing Swanson even more quality air-time.

vmarshmellow said...

My favorite pregnancy story is The X-Files. Scully just got a little heavier, then they had her get abducted. She spent the next ep in the trunk of a car, she missed one ep, and then she was back the next ep basically unconscious in a hospital bed. They weren't planning ahead of time for Scully to be abducted, but it ended up changing the whole course of the show, in my opinion, for the better.

schmoker said...

I would bet that PnR could do a fat story line well. Weight is a big issue in this country, from the real weight problems coming out of the increasing size of the general population, to the fake weight problems we create in the entertainment world, where a size 6 is considered fat by a lot people.

I imagine that PnR could find a lot of meat to work with there, and they could do it with the same smart whip of low and high brow humor that they use on everything else.

Let's face it, the show made a guy living in a hole in the ground both funny and tragic, usually at the same time. They can do anything.

Hatfield said...

Damn it, Rob S. You have conquered where the rest of us have failed. Well done.

Oh, and I don't know about anyone else, but that Anonymous comment at 6:50 is pretty offensive, even if it was supposed to be a joke.

Jennifer said...

Hey, Leverage had Sophie (a) covering her stomach with a giant flower bomb, and then (b) having to pose in a casket.

Alf said...

Alan, I'm kind of surprised you didn't link to Amy's rap, which I think occurred mere days before Archie was born. One of my favorite Amy moments ever.
http://www.hulu.com/watch/39808/saturday-night-live-update-palin-rap

Anonymous said...

On "Star Trek: Voyager," actress Roxann Dawson was pregnant in the show's fourth season, but her character, B'Elanna Torres, wasn't. They hid it (poorly) with smocks until a holodeck episode, where B'Elanna was trapped in a holodeck scenario dressed as... a pregnant woman!

In the show's last season, the character was pregnant when the actress wasn't, which allowed for the reverse joke. The holographic doctor was taking on everyone's appearances for the plot, and appeared first as B'Elanna (sans belly) and then belatedly added "Oh, computer, UPDATED Torres" and re-appeared as the pregnant B'Elanna.

Quitethebuzzkill said...

I think having her wearing a fake pregnancy watchamacallit could be written in as a feminine cause of Leslie. Might get old over the course of a season, tho.
Or they say during the body scan with the Will Arnett character, he found a way to impregnate her... God, I should be a sitcom writer.

debbie said...

vmarshmellow- Yes! Loved the X-Files pregnancy. It's been awhile, but didn't they show a flashback of Scully fully pregnant on a hospital table, suggesting that aliens were impregnating her? Or did I dream that?

I don't know. It might take P&R in a direction that they don't want to take it in, but I could see Leslie Knope raising a baby on her own.

Dave T said...

It wasn't Fran--it was CC, the producer. She was huge and they ignored it. I was huge, but not ignored. No fair!

They did call attention to it. There were a couple of scenes with CJ going into Sheffield's office to complain about a TV show she saw where the actress was pregnant, but they didn't even try to hide it. Then she came in with a poster (for a play?) that said "BABY."

I'd almost love a disclaimer at the beginning of every episode: "The actress is pregnant. The character is not. Deal with it. It's called suspension of disbelief, people.

That's not what "suspension of disbelief is." It's the willingness to accept what you're seeing, not ignore it. (And it's up to a writer to make us want to believe, as opposed to a catch-all excuse for anything ridiculous.)

vmarshmellow said...

Debbie- yeah, they totally did.

Maybe Leslie can also get abducted by aliens :)

Anonymous said...

Agree with the others who say just ignore the pregnancy. The actress is pregnant not the character.

Cagey (Kelli Oliver George) said...

Another vote for loving Will and Grace's lack of handling. Heh.

Anonymous said...

I think SATC did the worst job when SJP was pregnant. She got very matronly all of a sudden.

Lisa Kudrow's was the best. That surrogacy storyline was one of their best - frankly, one of my favorite sitcom hours is the one where she finds out she is pregnant (mostly for Ms. Chanandler Bong but still).

TH can be confined to the desk, but Amy is such a tiny person anyway so she looks pregnant all over - her face. Just saying.

Focus on April and Andy and Ron and DJ Roomba.

Congrats to the happy, funny couple.