Fans were lucky enough to return to Pawnee, Indiana (sort of) this week in the form of a much-needed Parks and Recreation episode, “A Parks and Recreation Special.” The special virtually reunited the cast and a few guest stars as a way to raise money for Feeding America.
Join the Fangirlish team as we break down all of our thoughts and feelings about this Parks and Rec reunion.
First and foremost, how did “A Parks and Recreation Special” make you feel?
Shelby: It felt like the warmest hug, which I definitely needed. I never thought we’d actually get to see another episode of Parks & Recreation, let alone during such an uncertain time. It was so comforting to catch up with these characters and to learn how they are dealing with everything right now. Oddly enough, it made me feel less alone in all of this. It’s also really great to see one of your favorite shows return in a way that feels organic and true.
Lizzie: Happy, which I think is the most important thing they were trying to do. It was like getting a hug from an old friend you haven’t seen in a while. They weren’t trying to reinvent the wheel, and that’s perfectly fine. We didn’t want that. We just wanted a catch-up, and we wanted this sense of hope that they left us with. You know, hope that there are still good people out there, like Leslie Knope.
Lyra: The Parks and Rec special made me feel like the world was full of sparkles and rainbows. Like everything was perfect and waffles were on the menu for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Sounds a bit strange, I know, but it was perfection and left me wanting more.
Amanda: The Parks and Rec special made me feel like everything was going to be okay. It was a reminder that not only have we as a nation and a world have gone through struggles before, but that it’s possible to be stronger and closer for it. It was the happiest I’ve felt in weeks.
Julie: It made me feel like I was visiting with some old friends. I didn’t realize just how much I missed all of these people. There was a smile on my face during the entire episode.
Ashley: Utterly blissful. It was such a breath of fresh air. Grinned from ear-to-ear the whole time.
Who was your favorite surprise guest star?
Shelby: I’m completely biased towards Jean-Ralphio. I think he is ridiculous and wonderful. Ben Schwartz was tweeting a lot about the special so I had really high hopes he would appear in it at some point. I will admit I totally gasped when I saw Paul Rudd. I mean, he’s Bobby freaking Newport.
Lizzie: Paul Rudd kinda made the whole thing start out with a high note, so I’m going to say Paul, just because of that. Also, the joke is old, but boy does Paul Rudd look exactly the same.
Lyra: Denise Feinstein is a hot damn mess and every time we get a glimpse at him it’s to wonder how the hell he got so popular while pedaling crap perfume. This time around he had the worst perfume ever that killed EVERYTHING that it touched. So perfect for viruses and shit right now, right? Dear Lord. Insert facepalm here.
Amanda: I gotta go with Paul Rudd, perhaps because he had the advantage of being the first. It was such a delightful intro back into the world of Pawnee.
Julie: Even though she was tied up, it cracked me up when Megan Mullaly was there because we actually got to see two people in the same room together!
Ashley: Definitely going to agree with Julie on this one. Megan Mullaly showed up and I nearly snorted my whiskey laughing. Ron Swanson would have been disappointed in me for wasting such delightful liquids.
What was your favorite moment or detail? Was it a moment highlighting your OTP, a prop from the series, or something else entirely?
Shelby: Leslie and Ann talking, hands down. Their friendship is not only important to the series but important to so many fans, including myself. The special didn’t necessarily need to give the duo a moment, in fear of missing out on something else, but it wouldn’t be Parks and Recreation without Ann and Leslie checking on each other and spreading the love.
Lizzie: I love that Leslie had a wedding picture on her desk. It’s a particularly fun prop considering they probably had to get Amy Poehler to print that, or something like that. But my favorite moment was Ron and Leslie, just …at the beginning, seeing just…their way of caring about each other, still alive and well.
Lyra: Ron and Tammy, hands down. It’s so cool that the actors are actually married in real life and were able to continue the saga that is Ron and Tammy. Because you best believe that Tammy would be that hot mess that would find Ron in the middle of an outbreak just to see how he’s doing and bring destruction upon him.
Amanda: Besides the cheat answer of the “5,000 Candles in the Wind” sing along, my other favorite moment was seeing how goddamn wonderfully weird Andy and April still are. Rock on, Burt Macklin and Janet Snakehole.
Julie: I’m going to agree with Shelby and say the Leslie and Ann part, because I love their friendship. Although Ben going mad and busting out all his crazy hobbies would be my second choice. In this boredom we have going on, I definitely have considered taking up stop-motion claymation.
Ashley: Yes to Leslie and Ann because their friendship is #friendshipgoals. But when Ron says, “This is the only mental health I need,” and brandishes the bottle of Lagavulin 16 at her, I cackled. It’s perhaps the most Ron thing I’ve ever seen.
What did it mean to you to hear “5,000 Candles in the Wind” again and in this context?
Shelby: It made me more emotional than I expected. I smiled throughout the entire special, but I didn’t burst into tears until Ron brought all of Leslie’s friends together and Andy played the first chord. It was both surreal and expected in all the best ways. Sure it was originally performed to say farewell to Li’l Sebastian, but it transformed into a hopeful ballad for the future. This is likely due to the terrific cast’s earnest performances of the now-classic song. Their connection with each other over a knockoff Zoom became a connection with viewers that made everything feel a bit better. That’s special and unforgettable.
Lizzie: I didn’t expect THIS to see the thing that would make me tear up, but there I was, almost like this was a serious song and this was a serious moment.
Lyra: It made me love that damn pony even more. Lil’l Sebastian, wherever you are in pony heaven, this one’s for you. We love you and we miss you. Also, in my heart’s heart, the cast remembered every bit of this song, no matter how much time has passed.
Amanda: I don’t know if we got to hear more of their version of the song than we ever had before or if I hadn’t paid that close attention, but the lyrics that they sang this time felt so much more poignant and relevant than ever before. It brought tears to my eyes.
Julie: It made me so happy, and I made my whole family sing along. They thought I was slightly crazy. I especially loved how much the actors were all into it. You can really tell they love this show, and as a fan that’s very comforting.
Ashley: Real talk, it’s not my favorite Parks & Rec song, but it was so much fun to belt it and see everyone else sing along as well. It also reminded me that I don’t know how to play any Parks & Rec songs on guitar and that this must be remedied immediately.
What will you carry with you from “A Parks and Recreation Special?”
Shelby: To look after myself and check in on my loved ones. I’m so glad Parks and Rec took the time to stress the importance of looking after mental and emotional health, as well as physical health. I can’t imagine how many people it helped to hear Leslie, Ben, and the others say that repeatedly. Sometimes looking after yourself becomes a second thought when the world is on fire. Your favorite character reminding you it’s not selfish but necessary to do so may be the wake-up call someone desperately needed. I know it helped me.
Lizzie: I really liked this thing Ron said to Leslie about taking care of herself, not just everyone else. I think it’s super easy, in times like these, to remember to check in on everyone and forget to just …take some time for ourselves. It’s a good reminder.
Lyra: I will carry on with Leslie Knope’s sense of optimism and hope. She really is the brightest thing around, especially in times like this where everything seems so bleak. Also, I love that even though these people can’t be together physically, doesn’t mean that they aren’t there for each other. If anything, they have to be there for each other even more. That’s what you do for people you love or care about. No ifs, ands, or butts about it.
Julie: I loved the optimism and the reminder that we all need to be there for each other. And that it’s important to take time to chill. I tend to pack my day as much as possible to pass the time, but I get overwhelmed very quickly. I’m a Leslie in this scenario, but I’m glad I have friends that remind me to take it easy.
Amanda: The immediate thought I had after the special ended was: While it would have been objectively better quality if the cast could all be in the same room together, I don’t think it would have been nearly as special if this happened under different circumstances. It was a reminder that things of beauty can exist not just despite what’s happening, but because of what’s happening. I think Leslie Knope would be proud of that sentiment.
Ashley: Watching Leslie going a bit crazy about contacting everyone and trying to do all the things was like looking into a very hilarious mirror. Ron’s reminder to take care of herself was particularly poignant for me. I’m good at taking care of everyone else, but not so much myself.
What did you think of “A Parks and Recreation Special?” Let us know in the comments below!