5 Highlights From ‘A Parks and Recreation Special’

Since Parks and Recreation ended five years ago, fans have been clamoring for a revival. After the 2019 PaleyFest reunion, that seemed less likely than ever. But the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic changed everything.

'A Parks and Recreation Special'
‘A Parks and Recreation Special’ | NBCUniversal

On Thursday, April 30, 2020, the entire Parks and Rec cast managed to (virtually) reunite for a new half-hour episode, titled A Parks and Recreation Special, which aired on NBC. Here are the highlights from it.

Ben references his dark period

Fans had to know that this was coming. In Parks and Rec season 4, Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott), goes stir crazy from being unemployed. In “The Comeback Kid,” he dons a concert t-shirt (of his favorite band, Letters from Cleo) and starts up a new hobby: Claymation. Then, in season 6, again unemployed, he wears the same shirt and creates a board game, The Cones of Dunshire (which actually goes on to be very successful).

Moments from these episodes (especially the first one) have circulated during the pandemic. So it was only appropriate that they were addressed in this special. Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) video chats with Ben, her husband, from her office. He’s wearing the same shirt, much to her concern, and reveals that he’s writing a script involving both his claymation figure and his game. Needless to say, it does not go well.

Andy is Burt Macklin and Johnny Karate

Now a Marvel superhero, Chris Pratt’s return to the character that made him famous was a delightful one for fans. Andy Dwyer couldn’t be seen with his wife, April Ludgate (Aubrey Plaza), as the two actors obviously aren’t together. But they came up with a creative way to keep them separate.

Andy is locked in the garage, and, given his alter-ego is an FBI agent, he’s determined to get out without any help. If that wasn’t enough fun for the actor, he also got to portray Andy’s other persona: children’s performer Johnny Karate. Pratt was well-equipped for his costume change, donning a gi and even performing a few moves.

Chris’ red blood cells

Andy and April then called up and spoke with Ann Perkins (Rashida Jones) and her husband, Chris Traeger (Rob Lowe). They asked why they were weren’t in the same room. And the show had an easier time explaining this one: Ann has gone back to work as a nurse, so she and Chris are living in separate parts of their house so that he can take care of their kids and work without getting possibly infected.

Not has he remained healthy but, as someone who once described his body as a “micro-chip,” Chris is donating blood far more frequently than is actually allowed. Apparently, the CDC asked him for his blood, praising his red blood cells and calling him a “super healer.” Leave it to Chris to literally save the world.

All of the cameos

As promised, the episode delivered with a number of cameos from actors who had recurring roles in Parks and Rec. First up was Paul Rudd as Bobby Newport who, naturally, had no idea what was going on and also somehow existed both as someone who lives in the show’s universe and outside of it. Pawnee’s resident TV personalities, Joan Calamezzo and Perd Hapley, also made appearances. And, in the only case of two actors who were able to be together, Megan Mullally’s Tammy showed up at her ex Ron’s cabin.

But it was the commercials that really stole the show. Dentist Jeremy Jamm advertised his new service in which he brings his clients tools and teaches them how to do his job via video chat. Dennis Feinstein has a new cure-all fragrance. And Jean-Ralphio Saperstein, who is very lonely, has purchased airtime just to give out his phone number.

The message

Everyone obviously couldn’t be together, and this is a show that thrives on group dynamics and interactions. This was solved by Ron and Ben organizing a chat with the entire main Pawnee crew. To top it off, they all sang “5,000 Candles in the Wind,” (aka “Bye, Bye Li’l Sebastian”) together.

As they all sign off, and Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) and Leslie are the only ones left, the message is clear: We all need to be here for one another. Not every single day, but once in a while, it’s important to show those you love that you’re there for them (virtually, of course).