REVIEW: Parks and Recreation Charity Special

Parks and Recreation Ensemble

The Parks and Recreation special was a reminder of what made us love the show in the first place. More than a wonderful tribute to the fans, the episode was also a half-hour of mental health care and a charity drive that actually raised millions of dollars for the needy.

The gang was all there and then some. First, everyone in the main cast made an appearance: Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott), Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman), April Ludgate (Aubrey Plaza), Andy Dwyer (Chris Pratt), Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari), Donna Meagle (Retta), Ann Perkins (Rashida Jones), Chris Traeger (Rob Lowe), and Jerry/Garry Gergich (Jim O’Heir). 

And then, a whole bevy of guest stars also managed to pop in: Bobby Newport  (Paul Rudd), Joan Callamezzo (Mo Collins), Perd Hapley (Jay Jackson), Dennis Feinstein (Jason Mantzoukas), Jeremy Jamm (Jon Glaser), Jean-Ralphio Saperstein (Ben Schwartz), and Tammy 2 (Megan Mullally). It’s a testament to the Parks and Recreation team that they were able to fit in all these stars while still telling a coherent and compelling story.

Leslie, concerned as ever for the welfare of those dear to her, has started a phone tree to be done every evening. One person calls another to check on them and then is randomly assigned the next person to call until everyone is accounted for. 

This was a clever way of integrating the kind of Zoom call setup (though in the Parks and Recreation universe, they are all using a teleconferencing platform powered by Gryzzl) everyone seems to be using today. And since everyone is in lockdown, even the married couples found plausible reasons to appear in different rooms – Andy locking himself in the shed, Ann self-isolating after working as a nurse.

Parks and Recreation JerryThe connecting calls gave each character a time to shine while also showing the different delightful dynamics with various pairings (Ron and Leslie, Tom and Donna). There was also a sense of community and camaraderie, with all these vastly different characters finding time to support each other during the quarantine. There were also running gags like Ben’s game the Cones of Dunshire, Andy’s alter ego Burt Macklin, and Leslie’s love for Ann.

The running gag of everyone not wanting to call Garry was already funny, and it got even more hilarious then Garry demonstrated his technological incompetence yet again and delivered a serious message while looking like a giant poop-head. Classic Garry.

Since in this Parks and Recreation timeline, Ben is in Congress and Leslie is in the Department of the Interior, both civil servants gave interviews to the one-and-only Perd Hapley. They shared important and relevant messages about how people can help each other during this crisis. The power couple emphasized the importance of keeping in touch with our loved ones, showing support to those suffering from anxiety, and even exploring our creative sides. Andy’s alter ego Johnny Karate was even called in to give an inspirational message to the children.

But the most touching part of the episode was when good old Ron sensed that Leslie needed some help and so managed to organize a group call with all of their friends. Not only was Leslie able to speak to everyone at the same time, but she was also treated to a heartwarming rendition of that Li’l Sebastian tribute, “5,000 Candles in the Wind.” 

And I must admit, I couldn’t help but sing along as the cast (Ben most reluctantly) belted out “Bye, bye Li’l Sebastian” while waving their phones. This whole scene brought tears to my eyes, and that’s the power of Parks and Recreation.

Fount of wisdom Ron Swanson delivers a most important message, one that surely resonates with so many of us today:

“Leslie, don’t spend all your time looking after other people. Look after yourself once in a while.”

Parks and Recreation has always been about finding the humanity even in the most absurd circumstances. At the heart of the episode was the importance of a friend helping a friend in need, and how a strong sense of community can be fostered even when people are physically apart. And what better time to spread a message of positivity and compassion than now, when the world is plunged into such uncertainty. 

Parks and Recreation returned with all the heart and humor that endeared the show to millions of fans, bringing joy and laughter to those who might not have a reason for such and also making a concrete difference to those struggling the most. According to a report by Indiewire, the special was able to raise $ 3 million for Feeding America’s COVID-19 Relief Fund and people can still donate until May 21.

The Parks and Recreation special is currently streaming on YouTube, Peacock, the NBC App, Hulu, and On Demand. And if Leslie Knope inspired you to do some good, please donate HERE.

Treat yo’ self and watch the special below: