Now this is how you do a reunion special.
Amy Poehler and the rest of the beloved “Parks and Recreation” gang returned Thursday night to NBC in a half-hour special that brought back love, cheer, laughs, and even served a greater purpose.
You knew you were in for a treat when Paul Rudd turned up in a Leslie Knope 2012 hoodie as he reprised his role as Bobby Newport, Leslie’s onetime political rival and all-around dimwit.
Leslie (Poehler), now deputy director of the Department of the Interior, gets on the computer with her husband, Congressman Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott), frazzled from home-schooling their three kids. But he has a great idea – writing the screenplay to his beloved “Cones of Dunshire” game for a Claymation movie.
Leslie is … wary.
“Honey, did you put the caps back on the cleaning supplies?”
But she has to scoot. It’s 7 p.m. where she is, time to start the phone tree to check in on her beloved Pawnee pals.
Her draw tonight: Her onetime boss Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman), who is staying in a cabin in the woods.
“I’ve been practicing social distancing since I was four years old,” he brags.
Bad luck for Ron – Leslie tells him he drew Gary (Jim O’Heir) in the phone tree – so he immediately calls April (Aubrey Plaza), whose online name is Satan’s Niece. Seems right.
Andy (Chris Pratt) locked himself in the shed – two days ago, he tells Ron, although, given that we are talking Andy, it’s probably been ten minutes.
Leslie can’t resist checking in with her bestie, Ann Perkins (Rashida Jones). As a nurse delivering outpatient care, Ann has decided to self-quarantine in the southeast part of the family home. Husband Chris (Rob Lowe) is donating blood four times a week. His blood type is just positive. The CDC calls him a super-healer.
Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari)’s book tour was supposed to stop in Bali, until the crisis, so he’s pretending he’s there anyway. Donna Meagle (Retta) has the same backdrop, and the two pals share a virtual clink of drinks.
Gary remains flummoxed by the technology of a Zoom call and keeps giving himself distracting face filters, such as a dog and a steaming pile of poo.
Not only did the *stars* turn up for this special – several beloved supporting characters made appearances.
Pawnee talk show host Joan Callamezzo (Mo Collins) boasts of earning an EGOT – she’s banned from all four award ceremonies. Local anchorman Perd Hapley (Jay Jackson) hosts “Ya Heard? with Perd.” Dr. Jeremy Jamm (Jon Glaser) hawks do-it-yourself dentistry, and Jean-Ralphio (Ben Schwartz) is rich, bored, and banned from Cameo.
Pawnee’s favorite kids’ host Johnny Karate (Pratt again) tells kids to stay strong, be nice to their parents and to wash their hands. Strange advice, he knows, coming from a 38-year-old man who has never washed his hands once in his life.
Leslie, and the nation, is horrified.
Checking in with Ron again, Leslie learns a “nasty little forest varmint broke in” – Tammy 2 (Megan Mullally, best known from “Will & Grace,” and, of course, Offerman’s real-life wife). Ron and wife Diane found her lurking about their cabin, hoping to join their marital bed. Tammy, bound and gagged, still manages to laugh maniacally. Ron plans to put a note around her neck and leave her at the fire station.
Ron, however, picks up on Leslie’s frustration about not being able to truly connect with her dearest ones, and arranges an epic group call.
Andy, wearing his “I Met Li’l Sebastian” t-shirt, leads the group through a heartfelt rendition of MouseRat’s “5,000 Candles in the Wind.”
“I know I’ll always miss my horsiest friend,” Andy sings.
There’s an update on Tammy 2. Ron covered her in deer fat and left her out for the wolves.
She got away, but he says, “I’m actually a little worried for the wolves.”
And he reminds Leslie that she must look after herself.
Gary, meanwhile, now has himself trapped in a baby filter.
Amid the laughs, the show managed to slip in a lot of wonderful reminders about social distancing, washing your hands, checking in on your loved ones and paying attention to your own emotional needs, with proceeds to benefit FeedingAmerica.org. (It raised $2.8 million at press time.)
This special used our national shutdown to spin a story that touched on all the great things about “Parks and Recreation”: the optimism, the love, the proof that friends do make everything better.
Best virtual hug ever.