The 'Parks and Recreation' Reunion Special Is the Perfect Dose of Pawnee Positivity
By Meredith B. Kile
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The citizens of Pawnee, Indiana, are practicing social distancing like the rest of the country, but leave it to Leslie Knope to bring them all together.
The Parks and Recreationreunion special debuted on Thursday night, giving fans a highly anticipated return to their favorite midwestern town and all its quirky residents -- including a few special guests!
The special kicked off with a message from Bobby Newport (Paul Rudd) himself, introducing the reunion from his family's "private fox-hunting estate" in Switzerland, though he didn't seem to understand why the show was giving back amid the coronavirus pandemic. "What is she talking about?" Bobby asked after asking fans on Leslie's behalf to give if they were able to at FeedingAmerica.com/ParksAndRec. "Is something going on? I haven't watched the news lately."
Then Leslie (Amy Poehler) took over, chatting from her office with hubby Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott) -- at home with the kids while Congress is on recess amid the pandemic -- before kicking off her daily phone tree to keep all her favorite people in touch. It was the perfect structure for all of us stuck at home during these uncertain times, and a delightful way to see our favorite cast back together.
Here are just a few reasons why the Parks and Rec virtual reunion special was just the thing we needed right now.
ALL YOUR FAVES
While not a traditional reunion special with the actors filming from their respective homes, Parks and Rec did its best to show where every main character has ended up in the five years since we said goodbye -- an interesting task, as the show's 2015 series finale featured flash-forwards to 2017, 2023 and even further in the future.
Leslie is working at the Department of the Interior, and has shut down all the parks in her jurisdiction ("sad but necessary") and started "several committees" to help guide the country though these uncertain times. Ben is in Congress, though his time at home has him working on a pet project his wife finds concerning -- Cones of Dunshire: The Claymation Movie.
Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) is sequestered in his cabin and isn't a big fan of the phone tree -- suggesting instead that everyone send photos of themselves holding up today's newspaper -- saying he has "the only mental health I need" in a bottle of Lagavulin scotch. However, he was certainly the most prepared for the pandemic, as he's got a 12-year supply of venison jerky and has been practicing social distancing since he was four years old.
Ann Perkins (Rashida Jones) and Chris Trager (Rob Lowe) are still living in Michigan, though Ann is quarantining separately from her family, as she's gone back to volunteer as a nurse. Chris is doing his part as well, giving blood four times a week as a designated "super healer." (Bonus: We get a new Ann-ism from Leslie -- "smart and beautiful, like a desert fox.")
April Ludgate (Aubrey Plaza) and Andy Dwyer (Chris Pratt) are also still together, but they get on their call separately because Andy's locked himself in the shed and won't let April help him get out. "Burt Macklin, FBI doesn't need anyone to help him escape a measly shed." For her part, April is using isolation to change up her wardrobe -- "Andy and I put all of our stuff in garbage bags and every day, I put on the first five things I pull out."
Donna Meagle (Retta) and Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari) keep things lux on their call, changing their backgrounds to make it look like they're in Bali, though the department's two social butterflies admit that social distancing is taking its toll. Donna's husband, Joe, is working overtime as a teacher and Tom's been coming up with wild entrepreneurial ideas like double-breasted pajamas, protective masks with other people's teeth printed on them, and lasagna that's also toilet paper.
And of course, no one wants to call Garry Gergich (Jim O'Heir), who is genuinely doing a great job as the mayor of Pawnee, but can't get anyone to take him seriously -- mostly because he can't figure out the filters on his video-call system.
In addition to Rudd as Bobby Newport and the return of Andy's Johnny Karate persona, the special also brought back several supporting faves from the show's seven-season run. The ever-literal Perd Hapley (Jay Jackson) interviews Leslie and Ben on their health and wellness initiatives, as does Joan Callamezzo (Mo Collins), although At Home With Joan is going a little off the rails as Joan isolates with just a collection of dolls and portraits of herself. "Every night I do a show for them called Joan on Joan for Joan. I recount legendary Joan Callamezzo moments like how I scored my EGOT...I've been banned from all four ceremonies."
Stopping by via commercials to hawk some COVID-era products are cologne entrepreneur Dennis Feinstein (Jason Mantzoukas) -- who's got a new scent, Miracle Cure: "the cologne proven to kill anything it comes in contact with" -- and dentist/former councilman Jeremy Jamm (Jon Glaser), who's offering at-home delivery for DIY dental care: "We'll get on the computer and I'll walk you through your root canal or whatever you got going on."
And it wouldn't be a reunion without Jean-Ralphio (Ben Schwartz), who bought some commercial time because he's lonely, banned from Cameo and "flush with cash" after getting run over by a Porsche.
There's even a bonus appearance from Tammy 2 (Megan Mullally), who breaks into Ron's house when he and Diane are out for a walk!
A VERY SPECIAL SING-ALONG
While the phone tree seems to do its job day after day, Leslie's still struggling by the end of the special, bemoaning the fact that she can't be talking to all of her favorite people, all of the time.
So Ron surprises her, getting everyone on screen at the same time for an emotional sing-along of Andy's infamous Lil' Sebastian tribute anthem, "5,000 Candles in the Wind."
"Someone needs to stop me before I accidentally say this is the best month of my life," Leslie muses after the sing-along. But fittingly, the heartwarming moment ends with words of wisdom and compassion from Ron.
"Don't spend all your time looking after other people," he tells his friend. "Look after yourself once in a while."