We laughed and cried at the Parks and Recreation reunion, and were so impressed at how the show‘s clever writers were able to squeeze in so much timely humor and explain how some of the show’s married couples were not in the same “Zoom” room. While the show’s mission was to raise money for Feeding America, it really hit home with the timely issue of the mental toll this COVID-19 quarantine is taking on all of us, and helped “solve” it with a clever phone tree.
The premise of this is that the Pawnee folks are living under COVID-19 quarantine, and that Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) in her very Leslie way has set up a random phone tree for her closest friends. Every day, she calls someone, and they call whomever they’ve randomly been assigned for the list. Then that person has to do a minute or two check-in just to make sure that everyone’s OK.
The random video phone tree is played for laughs. No one wants to call Gary/Jerry (Jim O’Heir), of course, and you get to see Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) in his cabin with his ex-wife Tammy 2, played by Offerman’s real-life wife Megan Mullally. It’s all a clever use of circumstance, with Andy (Chris Pratt) accidentally locking himself in the shed so he can’t be with April (Aubrey Plaza), and Ann (Rashida Jones) being kept away from her husband Chris (Rob Lowe) because she’s putting her nursing skills to use during the pandemic. But the heart of the phone tree is so important. It really is to make sure that no one in their group is struggling with depression and loneliness during this super difficult time.
And Leslie’s right: We all talk a lot about the physical and financial toll this is taking, but sometimes forget our friends who are alone and struggling emotionally. This was really driven home when Leslie and Ben (Adam Scott) take a cyber visit to Joan Calamezzo’s (Mo Collins) show and Leslie asks her if she has friends she can talk to and you see the fictional talk show host cracking and talking to her doll collection.
But the Parks and Recreation reunion wasn’t a lecture about mental wellness and taking care of people during this crisis, though we did really love Donna (Retta) shouting out just how hard teachers work. It was played for laughs, with lots of Zoom tech jokes and filled with goofy commercials from Pawnee “celebrities” like Jeremy Jamm (Jon Glaser), Dennis Feinstein (Jason Mantzoukas) and Jean-Ralphio (Ben Schwartz) touting their timely products and the kid TV hero Johnny Karate (Pratt) also made an appearance to talk about handwashing. Of course, Paul Rudd made a brilliant appearance as the dim-witted Bobby Newport who’d been out of touch and had no idea about the coronavirus.
You can watch the full episode for free now on nbc.com. But if you haven’t watched, bring your tissues (unless you’re Ben Wyatt) for the super touching tribute to Li’l Sebastian.