Parks and Recreation Review: A Parks and Recreation Special

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On Parks and Recreation Season 7 Episode 13, Leslie wondered aloud to Ben when she and her friends in Pawnee would ever be together again.

The group was about to go their separate ways for arguably the first time in seven years, and all Leslie wanted to know was when all of these people would be in the same place at the same time.

“It will happen someday,” Ben told his wife.

And well, someday, has finally come -- albeit virtually -- as the cast of reunited for A Parks and Recreation Special to raise money for Feeding America’s COVID-19 Response Fund.

Leslie and Ben - Parks and Recreation Season 8 Episode 0

Ever since the announcement, there has been much anticipation surrounding the event, especially since co-creator Michael Schur said he never envisioned a reunion.

“I honestly didn’t think that ‘Parks and Rec’ was ever going to reunite for any reason, just because I felt like that show had a point to make, and I felt like we’d made it. and we ended the show, and it just didn’t seem like there was a compelling reason,” Schur told Variety.

“But this is a compelling reason. This is as compelling a reason as there is.”

However, is a "compelling reason" and good cause enough of reason to revive a series, even for a half-hour special, especially when the series in question ended in a satisfactory manner?

Many shows have been revived, and as this trend continues to emerge in Hollywood, it's become clear that not every franchise should get this treatment.

Leslie - Parks and Recreation Season 8 Episode 0

Fortunately, the one-off special doesn't disappoint, as the cast and crew did an amazing job when it comes to picking up where things let off.

It's even more impressive when you remember the cast members shot their scenes remotely with just "a small rig with a tripod, an iPhone, a small light, and a microphone," according to Vulture.

Johnny Karate: Listen, I know things are weird now. You’re at home. You miss school. How strange is that? You actually miss school. Your parents are home as well, and they’re trying to teach you, and it turns out they can’t teach you jack because they are so dumb. Well, kids, Johnny Karate wants you to know you must stay strong and be nice to your parents. Also, please wash them, wash your hands. And I know what you’re thinking: I’m a 38-year-old man, and I’ve literally never once washed my hands in my entire life.
Leslie: Andy, have you never washed your hands before?

With such a timely story, the writers took great care not to trivialize the gravity of the situation at hand.

The importance of social distancing and repeatedly washing your hands is peppered throughout the episode, along with the continued reminder to take time to focus on your mental health.

Ron - Parks and Recreation Season 8 Episode 0

However, the writers still find plenty of ways to inject humor and heart into the installment by merely letting the characters be their normal, comical selves.

Leslie is still off trying to single-handedly save the world while simultaneously forcing encouraging her closest friends to stay connected during a time at social distancing, despite the toll it's taking on her health.

Ron is having a blast sheltering in place and living off the land, especially as it limits his social interactions with others.

Ben - Parks and Recreation

April and Andy are, well, being April and Andy and still struggling to adult, while Ann and Chris are helping out -- as a nurse and blood donor, respectively -- however they can.

Ben is going stir crazy at home and has the great idea to combine two of his favorite projects: Claymation and Cones of Dunshire -- and let's just say it doesn't go well.

Ben: The most incredible thing happened. OK, so today I’m cleaning the house and get dizzy from the cleaning supplies, and then I homeschool the kids -- but they don’t learn anything because of the dizziness. But then I had the most amazing idea. Do you remember this guy?
Leslie: Oh no.
Ben: Ah, but here’s the twist. Do you also remember this?
Leslie: Oh no, oh, no, no, no. Oh no, no, no.
Ben: Six words babe: Cones of Dunshire the Claymation movie. The entire story just popped into my head. This humble little nobody, living his life, walking around on a random Tuesday when suddenly he finds out from an ancient scroll that he is actually the Ledgerman.
Leslie: Honey, did you put all the caps back on the cleaning supplies?
Ben: Now, the title is either “Cones of Dunshire: The Ledgerman’s Ascent” or, of course, “Cones of Dunshire: The Curse of the Arbadoo’s Prophecy.”

Tom is still coming up with inane product ideas, and Donna is living large.

And Jerry Larry Terry Garry, remains his lovable but clueless self, especially when it comes to technology.

Ann - Parks and Recreation Season 8 Episode 0

But best of all is the gang rallying around Leslie when she needs her friends the most and singing a rendition of "5,000 Candles in the Wind."

It was the perfect way to end the episode, as it shows that even though Leslie can annoy them sometimes, they'll always be there for her when it counts, which is the whole point of the series.

That, of course, is also applicable to viewers, who may need to be reminded about the importance of friends and family during these uncertain times and that mental health is equally important as one's physical health.

Sometimes, you just need to hear the words come out of a fictional character's mouth before you take it to heart.

April - Parks and Recreation Season 8 Episode 0

If the 25-minute special had one flaw, it would be the overabundance of recurring characters.

Over its seven seasons, Parks and Rec introduced an eclectic range of characters, from strange, yet lovable buffoons to insufferable and misogynistic politicians and everyone in between.

Ron: What are you wearing?
April: Andy and I put all of our stuff in garbage bags, and every day I put on the first five random things I pull out.
Ron: OK, where is Andy?
April: Andy, Ron’s on!
Andy: Hey, Ron.
Ron: Where are you son? Why are you in another room? Are you quarantining?
Andy: No, well kinda. I locked myself in the shed and can’t get out.
Ron: Why doesn’t April let you out?
Andy: Oh, Ron, Burt Macklin FBI does not need anyone to help him escape a measly shed.
Ron: How long you been in there?
Andy: Two days. I’m pretty hungry.

This reunion featured the return of several fan favorites, but there were just too many of them stuffed into the installment.

Andy - Parks and Recreation Season 8 Episode 0

Some of these appearances worked better than others, such as the inclusion of media personalities Joan Callamezzo and Perd Hapley.

In the context of the story, it makes sense that Leslie would do everything she could to remind the citizens of Pawnee to stay safe during these trying times and to focus on their mental health, even though she no longer works for the town government.

So having her and Ben appear on "At Home with Joan" and "Ya' Heard? With Perd," is not only plausible but something that would almost certainly happen during a global pandemic.

And since Joan is still a hot mess of a talk show host, if not more so now that's working from home, and Perd remains a humorously monotone news anchor, the short "media blitz" segments added some levity to an otherwise serious and somber topic.

Chris - Parks and Recreation Season 8 Episode 0

The return of Ron's certifiable ex-wife Tammy II was also a highlight, and seeing her tied up in Ron's cabin in the woods was a great moment to behold.

And before anyone starts calling out The Powers That Be for seemingly encouraging the actors to ignore social distancing just for one scene, please remember Nick Offerman, who plays Ron, and Megan Mullally, who plays Tammy II, are married in real life.

Leslie: When you travel, are you practicing social distancing?
Ron: I’ve been practicing social distancing since I was 4 years old. Why are you at work?
Leslie: Well, I shut down every national park in my jurisdiction -- sad but necessary. And then I volunteered for several committees to help us get through this.
Ron: Did you also create those committees?
Leslie: I did. So many committees Ron. I’m chairing all of them. It’s every girl’s dream, but you know, between that and the kids, I’m only getting two hours of sleep instead of my usual four. This morning I put oatmeal on my fingernails because I thought it was nail polish.

So, there was nothing "improper," or even controversial, about shooting that scene together.

It was just a farcical plot point that was entirely in character for both Swansons.

In addition, Bobby Newport's opening monologue at the beginning of the episode was fantastic, as Paul Rudd managed to explain the reason behind the special while still staying true to the character of the charmingly naive heir to the Sweetums fortune.

Tom - Parks and Recreation Season 8 Episode 0

What didn't quite work, though, was the excessive number of random "commercials."

While each was funny in its own right, these short ads took away from the heart of the special.

Viewers tuned in to see their favorite characters reunite on screen for the first time in five years.

And while it may have been moderately entertaining, fans didn't flip on the channel just to see Dennis Feinstein promote his newest coronavirus-themed perfume or Jeremy Jamm's approach to dentistry while practicing social distancing.

Donna - Parks and Recreation Season 8 Episode 0

Even Jean-Ralphio's amusing commercial about literally nothing fell flat, as it, once again, took time away from the main event.

It also didn't help that the ads were lumped together, one after another, so they just seemed to drag on at times.

Donna: Tom, have you ever witnessed someone trying to teach a young group of children something?
Tom: Nope. Based on my experience playing Fortnite, children are terrifying and can make you cry almost immediately.
Donna: It’s terrible. The man is a saint. The job is impossible, and every teacher deserves a brand new Mercedes after all this, except for Joe, of course, ‘cause you know I already got him a Mercedes.

While that is the nature of commercials when watching television in real-time, that's also the reason why many fast forward through them.

Had the special been longer and the commercials more evenly spaced, the short ads could have been viewed through their intended lens: light-hearted clips that didn't detract from the installment as a whole.

Garry - Parks and Recreation Season 8 Episode 0

Some stray thoughts:

  • Not that the merged video call at the end wasn't great, but did anyone else wonder why Leslie didn't just schedule daily or weekly Zoom teleconferencing from the beginning as opposed to starting a phone tree?

    For someone as high-strung and organized as she is, it would have made more sense for her to compile everyone's schedule and then find a time when they could all chat virtually, as opposed to people calling each other one at a time, especially since half of her friends are working from home.

  • Though initially skeptical, it made sense why the three couples weren't on screen together. Of course, Leslie would be at work even though she didn't have to.

    Ann self-isolating in a different part of the house made sense as it's something nurses and doctors have done during the public health crisis so they don't infect their loved ones. Even Andy stuck in a shed wasn't that far of a reach. It was classic Andy.

So what did you think Parks and Rec Fanatics?

Did the reunion live up to the hype?

Who's living their best life in quarantine?

Which guest appearance did you enjoy the most?

Don't forget to hit the comments below to let me know your thoughts. If you happened to miss the one-off special, remember you can watch Parks and Recreation online at TV Fanatic.

A Parks and Recreation Special Review

Editor Rating: 4.5 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 5.0 / 5.0 (13 Votes)

Jessica Lerner is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.

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Parks and Recreation Season 8 Episode 0 Quotes

Ben: The most incredible thing happened. OK, so today I’m cleaning the house and get dizzy from the cleaning supplies, and then I homeschool the kids -- but they don’t learn anything because of the dizziness. But then I had the most amazing idea. Do you remember this guy?
Leslie: Oh no.
Ben: Ah, but here’s the twist. Do you also remember this?
Leslie: Oh no, oh, no, no, no. Oh no, no, no.
Ben: Six words babe: Cones of Dunshire the Claymation movie. The entire story just popped into my head. This humble little nobody, living his life, walking around on a random Tuesday when suddenly he finds out from an ancient scroll that he is actually the Ledgerman.
Leslie: Honey, did you put all the caps back on the cleaning supplies?
Ben: Now, the title is either “Cones of Dunshire: The Ledgerman’s Ascent” or, of course, “Cones of Dunshire: The Curse of the Arbadoo’s Prophecy.”

Hi, my name’s Bobby Newport, and as you can see I’m in Switzerland at my family’s private hunting estate, but I haven’t caught any yet. They’re so fast. You get close, and it’s like, zoom, they’re gone.

Bobby Newport