A Parks and Recreation Special, premiering Thursday evening on NBC and streamable as of Friday on Hulu and different companies, opens on Paul Rudd’s bumbling character Bobby Newport, inheritor to the Sweetums sweet empire. He’s sporting a “Knope 2012” sweater and calling in from a nondescript pond that he claims is his household’s fox-hunting ranch in Switzerland. Bobby introduces the particular, explains that NBC and the solid of Parks and Rec are elevating cash for the charity Feeding America, after which, confused, seems at a nonexistent offscreen producer to ask what’s happening. Bobby, it appears, has no concept that there’s a world pandemic occurring.
This self-aware framing is mirrored on the finish of the particular, when Amy Poehler and Rashida Jones converse on to the digicam and make two requests. The first is that individuals care for themselves and their psychological well being throughout the coronavirus outbreak. The second is that they donate to Feeding America, or another charity serving to individuals who have been most affected by the pandemic. (NBC, the Parks and Rec creators, and sponsors State Farm and Subaru will collectively match as much as $500,000 in donations to Feeding America.) It’s a candy, earnest second that speaks to how candy and earnest Parks and Recreation was as an entire. That sincerity is a part of what made the present resonate so strongly with individuals, and why this particular appears like a welcome respite from COVID-19, quite than out-of-touch pandering.
The half hour between these bookends is dedicated to a Zoom-type video conferencing service (created by Parks and Rec’s fictional tech firm, Gryzzl) as Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) tries to be in contact along with her pals throughout the COVID-19 disaster. All the actors filmed themselves from dwelling, so the particular’s writers needed to get inventive to clarify why the married characters aren’t in the identical areas. Leslie is asking from her workplace on the Department of the Interior, whereas her husband Ben (Adam Scott) is at dwelling with their children. Andy (Chris Pratt) unintentionally locked himself within the shed, and refuses to let his spouse April (Aubrey Plaza) assist him out. Ann (Rashida Jones) is volunteering as a nurse, so she retains herself quarantined from her husband Chris (Rob Lowe).
Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman), alternatively, finds his ex-wife Tammy (performed by Offerman’s real-life spouse, Megan Mullally) hiding exterior of the cabin the place he’s social distancing. Beloved facet characters like Jean-Ralphio Sapperstein (Ben Schwartz), Perd Hapley (Jay Jackson), Joan Callamezzo (Mo Collins), Jeremy Jamm (Jon Glaser), and Dennis Feinstein (Jason Mantzoukas) additionally seem in their very own fictional commercials and/or TV segments.
Parks and Recreation is the epitome of a “comfort food” present — one to throw on once you’ve had a nasty day or simply have to zone out to one thing. Creator Michael Schur has an particularly light humorousness, which is interesting when the world round you is aggravating. It’s comforting to observe this group of misfits type a neighborhood. As the residents of Pawnee bought to know and love one another, followers of Parks and Rec bought to know and love them too. Watching the particular, 5 years after the present ended, is like seeing outdated pals for the primary time shortly. Things have naturally modified over these 5 years. The actors are not within the rhythm of embodying these characters. Their voice inflections are totally different. Everyone seems older, besides Paul Rudd, who doesn’t age.The settings and lighting are completely totally different. But these adjustments don’t make the reunion particular really feel awkward or pointless — they simply make the characters really feel extra acquainted. It’s as in the event that they’ve continued to stay their lives, and we’re simply catching up after years aside.
Unlike another current revivals, A Parks and Recreation Special isn’t making an attempt so as to add new context to the present’s world, like Netflix’s Wet Hot American Summer reunions. It isn’t updating the present for a 2020 viewers, like Freeform’s rebooted Party of Five, or retconning the finale, like NBC’s Will and Grace revival. It’s only a good second in a bizarre time. It looks as if the Parks and Rec reunion exists for no different purpose than that Mike Schur needed to assist out throughout the pandemic, each by elevating cash for charity, and by merely making individuals chuckle for half an hour.
That angle of doing what you possibly can to assist is core to the Parks and Recreation ethos. There’s a pressure of liberal-but-apolitical optimism on the core of Schur’s sensibility. Leslie Knope idolized all feminine politicians, no matter social gathering affiliation. (In the present’s first episode, she compares herself to Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, and Sarah Palin.) While Leslie is pretty progressive (and finally runs for Governor of Indiana as a Democrat), she has nice respect and affection for her staunchly libertarian pal, Ron Swanson. But when Parks and Recreation premiered in 2009, the world regarded rather a lot totally different than it does now — and never simply because we’re in the midst of a world pandemic.
Sitcoms, by nature, finally change into dated. Humor sensibilities change over time, and topical jokes change into stale at finest, offensive at worst. But Parks and Recreation appears to have aged particularly shortly. The collection’ first episode premiered in April 2009, three months after Barack Obama was elected as the primary black president. His marketing campaign message of hope, change, and unity was a transparent affect on Leslie Knope’s politics. Parks and Rec even created a parody “Knope” poster in a season 2 episode, when Leslie unwittingly turned the face of homosexual rights after she presided over a wedding ceremony for 2 penguins that turned out to each be male. (The undeniable fact that Leslie Knope, crusader for equality, felt uncomfortable accepting the accolades of Pawnee’s homosexual neighborhood reveals how a lot the world has modified in 10 years.)
Revisiting Parks and Rec in 2020 appears like returning to a extra hopeful and optimistic world. As Vice author Meredith Balkus wrote in 2019, it’s “the America we were promised,” wherein a girl may be elected president, and progress may be made with bipartisan help. It’s a world that by no means truly existed. Parks and Recreation led to April 2015, two months earlier than Donald Trump introduced his presidential marketing campaign, and a yr and a half earlier than the #MeToo motion took maintain, bringing many years of sexual assault and misbehavior to mild (together with misconduct allegations towards Parks and Rec visitor star Louis CK and, controversially, foremost solid member Aziz Ansari). But in the midst of a world disaster, it’s comforting to assume that there are Leslie Knopes on the market doing what they will to assist.
Was it essential to revive a sitcom that already feels dated? Of course not. Is it jarring to see such acquainted characters on this new context? Maybe a bit. Did I nonetheless cry when the solid began singing alongside to “Bye Bye Little Sebastian (5,000 Candles In the Wind)”? You wager your ass I did. And then I donated to Feeding America and began occupied with methods I could be a Leslie Knope in my very own neighborhood. That name to motion is what makes A Parks and Recreation Special totally different each from different superstar quarantine occasions, like SNL at Home or Gal Gadot’s celebrity-filled cover of “Imagine.” Rather than pure escapism or cringe-worthy seriousness, the Parks and Rec writers created one thing that feels pressing with out being self-important, and candy with out being saccharine.