Justifying NBC’s tagline that ‘we could all use a little Knope right now’, the Parks and Recreation Special episode is a welcome ray of sunshine in these bleak times.
The special episode follows the ex-members of the Parks and Rec department as they tackle the coronavirus lockdown in their own ways. With Leslie having started a phone tree to check-in on her friends, we ‘Zoombomb‘ the various conference calls to see how the old gang is faring. Congressman Ben is homeschooling the triplets and chewing on an idea for a Cones of Dunshire movie. Ron, who assures to Leslie that he’s been following social distancing since he was four, is holed up at his cabin and has produced about 12 years supply of venison jerky (so far). April is playing a sartorial grab-bag game, while AndyBurt Macklin is futilely trying to get himself out of a locked shed. Ann Perkins is back to doing nurse work, while Chris, whose ambitions include living up to 150, is doing his bit by donating blood four times a week. Tom has more hilarious entrepreneurial ideas, including protective masks with other people’s teeth printed on it and clocks with dials that just move randomly. Donna has bought another matching Mercedes, while Pawnee’s longest-serving Mayor, Garry/Jerry/Larry/Tarry/Barry suffers from his trademark fails, by accidentally turning on dog and poop emoji filters. He also brings the unfortunate news that the annual Popsicle Lick-N-Pass festival had to be canceled.
More familiar faces showed up including a surprise cameo from Paul Rudd’s Bobby Newport, who is as clueless about the pandemic as Ant-Man was about Thanos’ Snap. Ben and Leslie appear on both At Home with Joan with Joan Callamezzo and more hilariously, Ya Heard with Perd with Perd Hapley. One of the commercials featured Dennis Feinstein, who pitches a ‘Miracle Cure’ perfume that brilliantly foreshadows Trump’s advice of pumping bleach into our lungs.
Showrunner Michael Schur’s interview with Entertainment Weekly highlighted the many challenges the team had faced in making this episode. They seem to have made little rigs, including an iPhone mounted tripod, with the phone having an app that allows people to shoot at the right frame rate and the tripod light enabling consistent lighting. These were delivered to the cast members, after having been properly wiped down and de-virusified for safety. Paul Rudd’s addition was more complicated. Since he was on the East Coast, they had offered to FedEx the rig, but he had insisted on recording on his phone to save time. So, Schur had emailed his script to him, and voila, Paul Rudd had apparently sent back the recording in an hour!
Reunited for a good cause, the Pawnee gang makes us forget our worries for 30 minutes and gives us a heartwarming farewell hug with an emotional and nostalgic final scene – a rendition of Lil’ Sebastian tribute anthem, ‘5,000 Candles in the Wind’.