Is the Bill Murray ‘Parks and Rec’ Episode the Show’s Most Popular?

When it comes to actor Bill MurrayParks and Rec likely isn’t the first project you think of. But the iconic movie star did a cameo in an episode of the popular sitcom. Discover how his appearance became a reality and how his Parks and Rec episode rates compared to others.

‘Parks and Rec’ aired from 2009-2015

Parks and Rec premiered in 2009. The NBC comedy followed in The Office‘s footsteps with its mockumentary style camera work and testimonial breakaways. Parks and Rec depicts a group of government works in the small town of Pawnee, Indiana, led by Amy Poehler’s cheerful do-gooder Leslie Knope.

After slightly retooling the characters in season 2, Parks and Rec became another hit for the network. The addition of Rob Lowe’s Chris Traeger and Adam Scott’s Ben Wyatt helped the series, which flourished for seven seasons before the creators decided to end their show on their terms. In 2020, the cast reunited for a special episode.

Mayor Gunderson was an unseen character

A popular trope in many TV shows is the unseen character. This is someone mentioned by the main characters whose actions off-screen affect the story — but they’re never shown. Parks and Rec employed this tactic a couple of times, typically with Pawnee government officials the characters work with.

First mentioned in Parks and Rec Season 2, Mayor Gunderson doesn’t appear on screen throughout much of the series. However, he’s brought up a handful of times. From the characters’ comments, the audience learns that Mayor Gunderson has a dog, Rufus (who’s “crazy”) and that he wears a wig, among other things.

For Bill Murray, ‘Parks and Rec’ was a rare role

In 2011, Poehler went on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon to talk about Parks and Rec. There, she mentioned someone she’s love to portray Mayor Gunderson in a future episode. “Bill Murray, if you’re listening, I will pay you $250 to do one episode of my show,” she said (via Entertainment Weekly.)

Several years later, and they made it happen. “It’s something that we were dreaming about for so long,” show creator Mike Schur told EW. “There was no attempt really to lure him—we just kept saying it loud,” he added, noting that Rashida Jones, Aubrey Plaza, and Poehler all spoke with Murray at one point.

“He was just the most delightful person,” continued the creator. “Not only was he incredibly complimentary of the show, he went around to every one of the actors and told them how great they were and cited specific episodes and moments. He hung out on the set for three hours, watching us shoot the show.”

Bill Murray in a hat and tux
Bill Murray | Rocco Spaziani/Archivio Rocco Spaziani/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images

RELATED: Why 1 ‘Parks and Rec’ Star Thinks the Series Got ‘Stronger Every Season’

Where can you see Bill Murray? Parks and Rec Season 7 Episode 11, “Two Funerals,” features him lying in a casket as the now-deceased mayor. “Once he had agreed to do it, we thought: The coolest possible thing is just to have him lying in the coffin. That’s the artistic choice,” said Schur. However, he also improvised a recording that played.

“Two Funerals” is the second-to-last episode of Parks and Rec’s finale season. (The last episode, “One Last Ride,” is a double episode.) IMDb users rated the episode an 8.6. While this pales in comparison to “One Last Ride” and the season 6 finale, it’s still higher than many. In fact, 8.6 is the show’s overall average rating.