From C-SPAN to Sitcom: Senators Cameo on Parks and Recreation

NBC hit features McCain, Boxer, and Snowe in its season premiere.

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PARKS AND RECREATION -- "Ms. Knope Goes to Washington" Episode TBD -- Pictured: (l-r) Senator John McCain, Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope --

A few senators are taking a break from politics to gin up some laughs on NBC's comedy Parks and Recreation. The season premiere airing tonight features cameos from Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, Maine Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe, and California Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer interacting with Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) and the gang.

Pawnee, Indiana's favorite bureaucrat invades the nation's capitol to visit her boyfriend Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott), who has taken a job in D.C. after running Leslie's successful campaign for city council. There she visits some of Washington's historic landmarks, including the National Mall and the Museum of American History, and rubs shoulders with some Beltway big shots.

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Michael Schur, the show's co-creator and executive producer, says the plan to bring Parks and Recreation out to D.C. stemmed from last season, saying only something as "real and significant" as a national campaign could split up Leslie and Ben. To do an episode in Washington was a "natural thing," explains Schur, is it brought the wide-eyed, small town politician to the "larger playground of D.C."

"She is a person with a lot of heroes, among them are many national politicians," says Schur, so the producers wanted to include a scene with Leslie meeting two female, top-level politicians—one Democrat and one Republican. With McCain, Schur figured, "Let's try to shoot for the moon," and get a third big name.

The show's producers reached out to the senators in the early summer to appear in a cocktail party scene which was filmed July 19 at the Hay-Adams hotel's "Top of the Hay" rooftop terrace. Poehler was a big draw to the show for all three senators. McCain enjoyed working with Poehler when he hosted Saturday Night Live in 2002 (Schur was also at SNL as a writer when McCain hosted). Snowe too is a Poehler fan, particularly of her SNL Hillary Clinton impersonation.

[Read: Olympia Snowe Hopes to Fix Partisan Congress Once She Leaves It]

"Amy Poehler is so talented. She cracked me up," Boxer says of the experience.

Boxer saw the appearance as an opportunity to support the entertainment industry, "which is so important in my home state," she says. She has done a few cameos over the years, including an appearance on HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm.

McCain has some television experience in addition to his SNL spot, most recently appearing in an ESPN spoof about the Washington National's Teddy Roosevelt mascot. The Parks and Recreation episode is Snowe's first appearance on a television sitcom, but all three senators have gotten rave reviews from the show's stars.

[Read: White House Throws Support Behind Teddy Roosevelt in Nationals' Presidents Race]

"We get actual scenes with them where they're being hilarious," Scott said in a behind-the-scenes video. "And I have a feeling that they will be more hilarious than me."

In addition to tonight's episode, viewers can expect "little droplets" of Leslie's D.C. trip to appear throughout the season, says Schur. "For her, Washington is Disneyland and Disneyworld and every national monument all rolled into one."

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  • Tierney Sneed is associate editor of U.S. News Opinion. E-mail her at tsneed@usnews.com and follow her on Twitter.