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Coronavirus quarantine brings a surge of TV and movie reunions

From "Parks and Recreation" and "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" to "Chuck" and "The Goonies," many ensembles have been reuniting for special "COVID reunions."
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With the entertainment industry on pause because of the coronavirus, casts from some beloved TV shows and movies are getting together (virtually) to take a look back at past work.

From "Parks and Recreation" and "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" to "Chuck" and "The Goonies," many ensembles have been reuniting for special "COVID reunions."

But why, of all times, are these actors getting back together during a global health crisis?

"I don't have an excuse to say no, because there's nowhere else to go and nothing else to do," said Daniel Davis, who played the endlessly witty Niles the Butler on CBS' hit 1990s sitcom "The Nanny."

While an abundance of free time can help explain some of the surge of reunions, there is often a more charitable reason.

The Center for Disaster Philanthropy partnered with the actor Josh Gad and the cast of the 1985 classic film "The Goonies" to raise more than $26,000 for nonprofit organizations assisting first responders and vulnerable populations affected by COVID-19.

"I believe this was a first for us" said Patricia McIlreavy, the group's president and CEO.

"The Goonies [collaboration] in particular gave everyone a chance to smile and relax," she said.

"Goonies" star Jeff Cohen agreed, appreciating the sustained popularity of his ever "truffle-shuffling" character, Chunk. "People have a need for something that's comfortable ... kind of like pop culture comfort food."

Other popular ensembles have reunited to raise money for charities helping people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The cast of NBC's "Chuck" held a virtual table read that raised $90,000. "I can't even wrap my brain around it," said Sarah Lancaster, who played Ellie Bartowski. "I can't believe [the fans] were that generous."

And, not to be outdone, NBC's "Parks and Recreation" has already raised $3 million through its socially distanced Thursday night reunion episode. Both reunions benefited Feeding America, a nationwide network of food banks that has provided substantial relief during the pandemic.

But raising money for a worthy cause wasn't the only reason these famed casts were coming back together.

"In the moment, it was about reminiscing with old friends," said Adrianne Palicki, who played Tyra Collette on the NBC drama "Friday Night Lights." Six members of the original cast got together to rewatch the show's pilot episode and raise money for the World Health Organization.

"We don't see each other as much as we would like to," her cast mate Derek Phillips said. "We were all so young when we were starting this out, and it created a bond." Some of their cast mates went even further. "We should do it every week," suggested Brad Leland, who played Buddy Garrity. "I would moderate it."

And for some casts, the goal was plain and simple.

"It's just to make people smile. That was it," said Peter Marc Jacobson co-creator and executive producer of "The Nanny." While the reunion has reached over 1.4 million views on YouTube since it was posted in early April, cast member Madeline Zima had a specific audience in mind when she reprised her role as the 6-year-old Grace Sheffield. "The idea that I could be a part of something that might make a nurse or a doctor smile or laugh ... was more than enough of a reason for me to jump in," she said.

Cast members were also careful to point out that they weren't just providing entertainment to the audience. The audience was providing something vital to the performers, as well.

"You are reminding me that what I do matters," "High School Musical" star Monique Coleman said. She had recently reunited with her "High School Musical" cast mates to perform a virtual rendition of their hit song "We're All In This Together" for the "Disney Family Singalong" special on ABC. Similarly, "Chuck" co-creator Chris Fedak said the show's table read "gave a lot of purpose" to the cast.