A Parks and Recreation Special
"A Parks and Recreation Special" is a special episode of the American comedy television series Parks and Recreation, and the 126th overall episode of the series. It aired on NBC in the United States on April 30, 2020.
|"A Parks and Recreation Special"|
|Parks and Recreation episode|
|Episode no.||Episode 126|
|Directed by||Morgan Sackett|
|Original air date||April 30, 2020|
Bobby Newport (Paul Rudd) introduces the special from his family fox hunting lodge in Switzerland. It is revealed that he is not aware of the COVID-19 pandemic and is shocked when the cameraman tells him.
- Leslie, a regional director for the National Park Service, is leading several committees she created as part of the response to the quarantine.
- Ben (Adam Scott), a Congressman under the influence of cleaning supplies, has decided to make a claymation film based on his board game The Cones of Dunshire, but later comes to his senses and abandons the project.
- Ron (Nick Offerman) is in his cabin; he thinks Leslie's daily conversations with him are unnecessary. He later shows that his ex-wife Tammy 2 (Megan Mullally) has snuck up to his cabin and is now tied up until he can deliver her to the authorities.
- April (Aubrey Plaza) put her and Andy's clothes in a bag and randomly pulls out five items to wear each day.
- Andy (Chris Pratt) has locked himself in his shed by accident for over two days.
- Chris (Rob Lowe) is regularly donating blood due to his extremely good health.
- Ann (Rashida Jones) has returned to work as a nurse and is isolating herself from Chris and their kids.
- Tom (Aziz Ansari) was supposed to be in Bali as part of a book tour, but it was cancelled so he just sits in front of a green screen with an image of Bali.
- Donna (Retta) expresses support for teachers after seeing what her husband has been going through.
- Garry (Jim O'Heir), whom the others had avoided calling, explains the challenges he's faced as mayor of Pawnee while accidentally messing around with his camera settings.
Leslie and Ben make an appearance on Joan Callamezzo's (Mo Collins) talk show. The two quickly realize that Joan is going crazy amid her isolation. They also appear on Perd Hapley's (Jay Jackson) show, where they stress the importance of staying connected with others. Andy makes an appearance on Perd's show as his character Johnny Karate to reassure kids about the situation. Fictional advertisements show several other characters:
- Dennis Feinstein (Jason Mantzoukas) promotes a cologne that supposedly kills all viruses but seems unsafe.
- Jeremy Jamm (Jon Glaser) announces that he is starting "home dental delivery" (i.e. delivering dental equipment to houses and then walking the patient through whatever procedure they need).
- Jean-Ralphio Saperstein (Ben Schwartz) has just won a settlement after being hit by a car and uses the money to run a commercial showing his personal phone number so people can call him because he is bored.
Leslie tells Ron that despite her daily calls, she still misses her friends. To cheer her up, Ron arranges for the others to join a group call, and they sing "5,000 Candles in the Wind" for her. Leslie thanks Ron for the gesture.
In April 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, NBC announced they would air a special episode of the series, centered on Leslie trying to stay connected with the other residents of Pawnee during social distancing. The series' cast, including Amy Poehler, Rashida Jones, Aziz Ansari, Nick Offerman, Aubrey Plaza, Chris Pratt, Adam Scott, Rob Lowe, Jim O'Heir, and Retta, returned for the special, which benefited Feeding America's COVID-19 response.
The episode was written by series co-creator Michael Schur, along with Megan Amram, Dave King, Joe Mande, Aisha Muharrar, Matt Murray, and Jen Statsky, and was directed by Morgan Sackett. It was recorded by each of the actors at their homes using iPhones. The visual effects team from the series The Good Place (also created by Schur) provided visual effects on the special to help "make it look like not everyone was just sitting alone in their houses staring at their computers", as the cast did not actually interact together.
Due to the pandemic isolation, Schur and the other writers needed to contrive reasons why the married couples were in separate locations – workaholic Leslie staying at the office, Andy locked in his shed, and Ann self-isolating because of her nursing duties. Because Offerman and Mullally are married in real life, Tammy 2 could make a cameo in Ron's scenes.
In its original airing, "A Parks and Recreation Special" was seen by 3.67 million American viewers and achieved a 1.4 rating in the 18-49 demographic, roughly on par with the series finale five years earlier. The episode ranked first among adults 18-49 for the night and gave NBC the best rating in that demographic for a Thursday comedy on the network that season. A Paley Center special that aired leading into the episode was seen by 3.33 million viewers with a 1.3 rating among adults 18–49. The episode also raised $2.8 million for Feeding America's COVID-19 Response Fund.
The episode received acclaim from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, it holds a 100% "Certified Fresh" approval rating based on 26 reviews, with an average rating of 8.67/10. The website's consensus reads, "Against all odds the delightful cast and crew of Parks and Recreation pull off a socially distant reunion that's warm, funny, and very, very special." On Metacritic, the episode holds a score of 89 out of 100 based on 14 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".
Dennis Perkins of The A.V. Club gave the episode an A–, writing that it was a needed episode with "warmth, laughs, and hope". The publication followed this with a roundtable of several of their critics explaining what they liked most about the humor: Alex McLevy called the episode "deeply satisfying", Patrick Gomez was brought to tears, and Shannon Miller noted, "Fictional towns come and go, but to me, Pawnee, Indiana always harbored an especially idyllic quality that set it so far outside of reality".
- Petski, Denise (April 23, 2020). "'Parks And Recreation' Returns To NBC As Cast Reunites For Benefit Special Amid Pandemic". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved April 30, 2020.
- Jones, Marcus (April 29, 2020). "Everything we know about the 'Parks and Recreation' reunion episode". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved April 30, 2020.
- Fernandez, Maria Elena (April 29, 2020). "A Parks and Recreation Reunion Episode Was Off the Table. Then a Pandemic Hit". Vulture.com. Retrieved April 30, 2020.
- D'Alessandro, Anthony (April 28, 2020). "'Parks And Recreation': EP Mike Schur Teases COVID-19 Special, Explains Why This Is Likely A One-Off & Why Remote Isn't "Sustainable Method For Making TV"". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved April 28, 2020.
- Turchiano, Danielle (April 30, 2020). "Nick Offerman on Breaking Quarantine to Film 'Parks and Recreation' Special". Variety. Retrieved July 31, 2020.
- Porter, Rick (May 1, 2020). "TV Ratings: 'Parks and Recreation' Special Scores for NBC". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 1, 2020.
- Murphy, J. Kim (May 1, 2020). "'Parks and Recreation' Reunion Special Raises $2.8 Million for Coronavirus Relief". Variety. Retrieved May 1, 2020.
- "Parks and Recreation: A Parks and Recreation Special". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved May 1, 2020.
- "A Parks and Recreation Special". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved May 1, 2020.
- Perkins, Dennis (April 30, 2020). "Parks and Recreation Returns with a Care Package of Much-Needed Warmth, Laughs, and Hope". The A.V. Club. Retrieved April 30, 2020.
- "One More Ride: The A.V. Club Reacts to the Parks and Recreation Reunion Special". The A.V. Club. May 1, 2020. Retrieved May 1, 2020.