Among the truly minor questions settled by Tuesday's presidential election was this one: Would Joe Biden get a chance to play a winner on a sitcom?
The answer is yes.
With the race won, a guest appearance by Biden on the NBC comedy "Parks and Recreation," filmed way back in July, can finally be revealed. Everything about the scene, which the executive producer of the show, Michael Schur, labeled a "scenelet," had been under strict secrecy. The show was warned that if any word leaked out before the election, some provision might have to be made to give the Republican vice presidential nominee, Rep. Paul Ryan, a similar cameo.
''It was all very byzantine and complicated," Schur said. "There seem to be all kinds of specific rules, which I never fully understood. But we decided to err on the side of caution."
The re-elected vice president will make a guest appearance on the episode scheduled for Nov. 15 on NBC. He is playing, yes, Joseph R. Biden Jr., the one who has frequently been mentioned in a running joke on the show as an object of fascination — and a little love-struck passion — by its lead character, Leslie Knope, played by Amy Poehler.
As fans of the show know, Leslie, a hard-core Democrat and populist, idolizes Biden. "Our first joke way back had Leslie telling her friend Ann that her ideal man would have the brain of George Clooney and the body of Joe Biden," Schur said. "For whatever reason, she has an irresistible attraction to the vice president in a movie-star kind of way."
When the series decided to film an entire episode in Washington, one that would open the new season in September, it was only natural to seek out Biden to see if he would be interested in fulfilling one of Leslie's dreams. Schur said the vice president's staff members were immediately enthusiastic. "When they floated it by him, he thought it was a great idea and was excited about it," Schur said. "Then it was all about his schedule."
The details were worked out during the week the show spent in Washington filming the season premiere. But the scene with Biden could not be included in that episode because of the restrictions on promoting one candidate over another.
''We didn't even know Ryan would be the nominee at that point," Schur said. And the idea of trying to squeeze in some excuse to insert him in an episode later was too daunting to contemplate.
So the scene was shot in Biden's ceremonial office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, all hush-hush. And it went well, according to at least two of the people who were there, Schur and Biden.
Schur said: "The vice president was amazing. He improvised a couple of things that we ended up using." He added that Biden professed to watch the show with family members and that they were all fans.
Biden backed that up in a comment emailed by a staff member, Kendra Barkoff: "My whole family loves 'Parks and Recreation' and I had a great time filming that scene. It was a real honor that in my sitcom debut I got to meet someone like Leslie Knope, who believes so deeply in public service. She's an example for men and women across the country that there's no higher calling than helping other people. On a personal note, I'll never figure out how Leslie Knope got my home phone number, but that really just shows how committed she is."
Poehler was impressed by the vice president's acting skills. "He's a great improviser," she said in a telephone interview. "Leslie kept harassing him and he took it all in stride."
The encounter between Leslie and Biden is supposed to be in real time. What if Biden had lost on Tuesday? Presumably the comedic tone might have seemed a little jarring.
Schur said that while they did not shoot the scene in two entirely different ways, they did give Poehler one more line to make as a glancing reference to an unhappy outcome, to have on hand just in case. "It was a very, very slight adjustment," Schur said.
One that the show's producers were only too happy not to need to make — although probably not nearly as happy as Biden.