Parks and Recreation co-creator Mike Schur explains there wasn't enough time to include characters like Craig (Billy Eichner) and Dr. Saperstein (Henry Winkler) in A Parks and Recreation Reunion Special, the half-hour virtual reunion that returned to Pawnee, Indiana, to fundraise for coronavirus relief. The remotely filmed episode caught up with Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) organizing a "phone tree" to reach out to friends and family in quarantine — among them husband Ben (Adam Scott), best friend Ann (Rashida Jones), couple Andy (Chris Pratt) and April (Aubrey Plaza), and former work proximity associates Tom (Aziz Ansari), Donna (Rhetta), Chris (Rob Lowe), Jerry (Jim O'Heir) and Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) — with special appearances and cameos from other fan-favorite Pawneeans.
The special episode opened with an introduction from the oblivious Bobby Newport (Paul Rudd), later checking in with loopy talk show host Joan Callamezzo (Mo Collins) and straightforward newsman Perd Hapley (Jay Jackson). Fragrance fraud Dennis Feinstein (Jason Mantzoukas) attempted to peddle a coronavirus cure in-between cameos from Jean-Ralphio Saperstine (Ben Schwartz), sleazy orthodontist Jeremy Jamm (Jon Glaser), and Ron’s unhinged ex-wife Tammy 2 (Megan Mullally).
"We knew we wanted Mantzoukas. We really wanted Mo Collins and Jay Jackson because we had that whole media thing. There were other people that we talked about potentially, but we basically only reached out to the people who were in it because those were the first people that we thought fit," Schur told Entertainment Weekly. "And at the end of the day, there's 50 other people that I wish could have been in it. I wish we'd had an idea for Billy Eichner and Henry Winkler and so many other people who are a part of the show. It's already three-and-a-half minutes longer than the average episode was, so there were only so many people we could wedge in there."
The time crunch also meant cutting one gag linking Jamm and Jean-Ralphio, who reveals in the special he's once again flush with cash:
"We had a joke that Jamm was bragging about how much money he had made because right before everything went sideways, he sold his Porsche. And then right after that comes Jean-Ralphio's ad and he says that he got hit by a Porsche," Schur revealed. "So it was utterly irrelevant, but it was always really fun to me to Jamm sold this Porsche and somehow that's the guy that hit Jean-Ralphio. [Laughs] Just a complete coincidence."
He continued, "When we watched it, it seemed like, 'Is this misleading or is this confusing somehow? Do you think that Jamm hit him?' It didn't quite work, because it was a nonsense joke. It didn't mean anything and it wasn’t actually a part of any story, but it was just a funny thing that [episode co-writer] Matt Murray pitched, that Jamm should have just sold the Porsche that hit Jean-Ralphio. So Jamm made money by selling his Porsche and then Jean-Ralphio got money from being hit by the Porsche that was sold."
The special did take a moment to remember Li'l Sebastian — Pawnee's famed miniature horse — with tribute song "5000 Candles in the Wind," jointly performed by the series' main cast in the final minutes of the episode.
"There's not a huge story in the episode. But what story there is, is just Leslie's frustration at not feeling connected to her giant group of friends because she can't see them and she can talk to them, but only one at a time," Schur noted. "And everything's herky-jerky and you're constantly getting pulled away. So the natural conclusion for that story is that everybody gets together, and once they all get together, that just seemed like the right thing for them to do."
A Parks and Recreation Reunion Special is available to watch on the NBC app, Hulu and YouTube.
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