'Parks and Recreation' Returns to NBC for Charity Special

This is lit'rally amazing news. 

The cast of Parks and Recreation will reunite for a half-hour NBC special on April 30 to benefit Feeding America. The show will find Pawnee, Indiana's most dedicated public servant, Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), determined to stay connected with her friends and colleagues during a time of social distancing. 

All of the show's core cast — Poehler, Rashida Jones, Aziz Ansari, Nick Offerman, Aubrey Plaza, Chris Pratt, Adam Scott, Rob Lowe, Jim O’Heir and Retta — will return for the special. NBC says some other familiar faces from Pawnee may return as well. Co-creator Mike Schur and several Parks writers collaborated on the show. (Watch Poehler announce the special in the video, below.)

The special will raise money for Feeding America's COVID-19 Response Fund, which helps food banks secure the resources they need to serve the most vulnerable members of their communities. Sponsors State Farm and Subaru will each make matching donations of $150,000, and combined with NBCUniversal and the cast and producers of Parks and Recreation, a total of $500,000 in matching donations will be made through May 21.

"Like a lot of other people, we were looking for ways to help and felt that bringing these characters back for a night could raise some money,” Schur said Thursday in a statement. “I sent a hopeful email to the cast and they all got back to me within 45 minutes. Our old Parks and Rec team has put together one more 30-minute slice of (quarantined) Pawnee life and we hope everyone enjoys it. And donates!"

Added Lisa Katz and Tracey Pakosta, co-presidents scripted programming at NBC: "In such uncertain times, we can’t think of anyone better than Leslie Knope to unite our country with her unbridled enthusiasm and compassion. A huge thank you to Mike Schur and the cast of Parks and Recreation for putting this wonderful special together and bringing a smile to all our faces while raising money for such a worthwhile cause."

Parks and Recreation ran for seven seasons from 2009-15. The series finale flashed forward to look into the lives of all the major characters, though none of them was set in 2020 (though O'Heir's Jerry/Garry Gergich is a few years into his long tenure as Pawnee's mayor). 

At a 2019 PaleyFest reunion for the show, Schur said a revival of the series was unlikely — unless there was a really good idea behind it. "Everyone on this stage — and like six other people — would have to feel like there was a story that needed to be told," he said. 

The one-off episode is the latest special in the works as broadcast networks look to new and creative avenues to help fill programming voids that were created by the industrywide production shutdown. Many of these specials — which often include a fundraising component — have become breakout ratings winners as quarantined audiences look for both a distraction and reflection of their current struggles as forms of entertainment. NBC's head of specials recently spearheaded the One World: Together at Home event that aired across the globe and the cast of Saturday Night Live will be back this weekend for its second At Home episode. 

Broadcast networks are in a challenging predicament as many scripted shows had their seasons cut short, creating scheduling voids heading into the summer. Without a timeline for when it will be safe to resume production, networks are looking at their current inventory to determine if they should move forward with summer offerings that were completed before the world stopped or hold content for a fall season that could be devoid of scripted originals. 

Lesley Goldberg contributed to this report.