Parks & Recreation is a sitcom following a group of government workers in Pawnee, Indiana through seven seasons, following a much-loved central cast led by Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler). The show ended in 2015 with a huge finale that zoomed forward to 2065, a move which definitively ended any hope of a reunion for many fans. That is, until now!
On April 24th, Amy Poehler announced a "very special Parks & Rec" episode to raise money for Feeding America, a hunger-relief charity that is working tirelessly to provide food to people during the coronavirus pandemic. After 5 years with no new Parks & Rec news, I could barely believe it. A full 30-minute episode, coming April 30th (today at the time of writing!) featuring the entire core cast: Amy Poehler, Nick Offerman, Adam Scott, Aubrey Plaza, Chris Pratt, Aziz Ansari, Rashida Jones, Rob Lowe, Jim O'Heir and Retta. If that wasn't enough, creator Mike Schur teased that there will be "about half a dozen" guest stars included in the episode, with the episode even beginning with someone other than the main cast members. My money is on Perd, the host of legendary Pawnee TV show 'Have Ya' Heard? With Perd!' giving us some context and incredible one-liners.
The episode is set in real time, featuring the characters dealing with COVID-19 in their own ways
The episode has been written, filmed and edited in a three-week period during the coronavirus pandemic, where much of America is under a 'shelter at home' order that has meant the cast filmed their scenes themselves in their respective self-isolation situations. The writers have come up with workarounds to explain why some of the married characters aren't in the same room, which I'm interested to see. The episode is set in real-time, featuring the characters dealing with COVID-19 in their own ways and coming together over video calls to get each other through the tough situation we all find ourselves in. Impressive, right? With so many shows having to pull production for now, I'm excited to see how Parks & Rec have made the situation work for this episode, with the cast taking filming into their own hands and talented editors creating believable settings and situations.
So, in 2020 for the Parks and Rec gang, we find Leslie and Benn in Washington D.C., where Leslie works for the Department of the Interior and Ben is a congressman. We have Anne and Chris in Michigan, with Anne resuming her career as a nurse - the team have said the story won't have any of the characters impacted by COVID-19 personally, with Anne working away from the frontlines, which is a smart move. The last thing people want from a silly escapist sitcom is a reminder of the tragedies happening across the world. The other characters will be dotted around, and I'm hoping for a bit of backstory to fill us in on what's happened since we last saw the cast.
To be honest, I'm a little apprehensive about seeing Aziz Ansari
There's something really special about this special - get it? - and I think it's because the premise fits the show's core message perfectly. It's about friendship, loyalty and perseverance. As Schur said in a recent press conference, "Leslie Knope is eternally optimistic and believes in the power of community to hold people together. She believed that incremental moments of connection and togetherness were crucial and vital to the social fabric". I adore Leslie Knope, and definitely see lots of my traits - good and bad - in her, and I can't wait to see how she's handling the situation. If we are as similar as I think we are, she will also be crawling the walls missing being busy and bustling from meeting to meeting, but with her trademark optimism, also taking the time to remind everyone of how important sticking together is.
To be honest, I'm a little apprehensive about seeing Aziz Ansari, who plays charming but generally hapless Tom Haverford, on screen after the sexual assault allegations that went public in 2018. I have purposefully not watched anything with him in since as the whole situation makes me uncomfortable and, obviously, I don't want to support sexual predators. It's always a moral dilemma to watch shows featuring actors who have been accused of awful things, but for me, this is an ensemble cast and it's worth watching for the rest of them.
Parks and Recreation is one of my all-time favourite shows. This special has come at exactly the right moment - we're long overdue a visit from the Pawnee Parks and Recreation department, and to see the cast coming together (from a distance) for a great cause in a time of international fear is heartwarming. Currently, it's unclear how we in the UK can watch the special, with some speculation that it will be on Amazon Prime along with the seven seasons already hosted there. Hopefully, it's easy to get our hands on. Until I find a link, I'll be humming the theme song music in my head and eagerly waiting to see what Leslie, Ben, April, Ron and the rest of the gang have been up to.... and that's the word, from Perd!