Parks and Recreation vs The Office

Two of the most popular mockumentary sitcoms go head to head

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Parks and Recreation

In the words of Donna Meagle and Tom Havorford, “Treat yo-self” to a “Parks and Rec” binge session. In the everlasting debate surrounding the age-old question regarding which NBC sitcom is better, “The Office” or “Parks and Rec,” there is no doubt in my mind that “Parks and Rec” takes the lead. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love “The Office,” and I was completely devastated when the news broke that it was leaving Netflix; but, I will always choose Leslie Knope and the Pawnee gang over Michael Scott and the Dunder Mifflin staff.

What makes me so partial to “Parks and Rec” is the upbeat vibe of almost all of the characters, excluding April and Ron, of course. Right from the get-go, Leslie and the others were so welcoming, facilitating an engaging watching-experience. The actors are hysterical and maintain a great dynamic. I realized how much I loved the witty commentary and jokes that were implemented in each episode. They were able to consistently and effortlessly make governmental and recreational policy funny, whereas Michael tried a little too hard to glorify his paper sales. Though Michael is known to have a burning passion for his office job, he doesn’t come close to Leslie’s commitment to civil service. Leslie’s ambition drives the hilariously unconventional plotlines throughout the series.

Another thing “Parks and Rec” did infinitely better than “The Office” was develop sentimental friendships. Whether it be Leslie and Ann’s Galentine’s Day outings, Tom and Donna’s ridiculously luxurious self-care days or Chris and Ben’s political ventures, you could really tell the characters cared for one another. They would always have each other’s best interests in mind, which was clearly depicted through Leslie’s incessant compliments to Ann. 

As for the romances, most notably consisting of Lesie and Ben, and April and Andy, they provided some of the show’s most unforgettable scenes. Ben and Leslie’s relationship, characterized by intense zeal, allowed the audience to witness the more vulnerable and loving sides of them. April and Andy assumed the position of the sarcastic, young “opposites attract” couple, who instigated many jokes and relayed some of the best one-liners. 

“The Office” was never able to illustrate as authentic relationships as “Parks and Rec.” I viewed the Dwight, Michael and Jim dynamic as somewhat superficial, and the whole Jim and Pam debacle was too complicated with the “will they, won’t they” trope. 

I will admit, however, “The Office” provided some of TV’s most entertaining and memorable scenes: “Michael Scott’s Dunder Mifflin Scranton Meredith Palmer Memorial Celebrity Rabies Awareness Fun Run Pro Am Race for the Cure,” Jim and Pam’s teapot, and arguably the best line delivered by Michael, “it’s Brittany bitch” are just a few moments that constitute television gold. However, “Parks and Rec” has its fair share of iconic moments: Leslie falling into a pit, Ron’s two ex-wives (Tammy 1 and 2), Leslie’s city council campaign, Andy and April’s three-legged dog, and the Lil’ Sebastian cult are some of the storylines that I found the most exhilarating. 

All in all, both “Parks and Rec” and “The Office” are great shows. They revolutionized the entertainment industry, and they essentially established the framework for a successful sitcom. I will always opt to watch these shows over poorly written, teen-drama shows like “Riverdale.” But, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if you prefer “Parks and Rec” or “The Office,” because we can all agree that “Friends” is better than both of them. —ALLIE D’AMATO

The Office

As someone with way too much time on their hands, I have spent ample time watching and rewatching both “Parks and Recreation” and “The Office.” However, of the two, “The Office” is the clear superior in all categories, including humor, writing and characters. 

While “Parks and Rec” has an initial similar plot structure (a group of comedic employees in a mockumentary), “The Office” does it far better, which leads to a more personal and stronger connection between the viewers and story. This can mostly be attributed to the way each episode was written to be imperfect. Sound booms can be seen in some shots, cameras are shaky and the audience can see the microphones that the characters wear. Because the entire show has a more homemade look, viewers believe that these characters really do exist all across America in every small business. The romances, the drama and the friendships are realistic and natural, which makes it that much funnier. 

Another thing “The Office” does spectacularly is the amount of input the actors had in the writing of episodes. Recurring actors like Mindy Kahling (who plays Kelly, the customer service worker) and B. J. Novak (who plays Ryan the temp) direct and write many of the episodes, which allows them to fully decide how their character would react in each episode. There were even some crew members who became actors in this show. According to the podcast “Office Ladies” with Angela Kinsey and Jenna Fischer, Phyllis Smith started working on the show as a casting director until she was hired to play the role of Phyllis Vance, and Paul Lieberstein, who was originally just a writer, was casted as the recurring character Toby Flenderson. The laid back attitude of the directors let typical crew members try acting and typical actors try out directing and writing, which resulted in the actors playing their characters better and more fluidly. 

“Parks and Rec,” although it has some realistic characters, doesn’t have the same character development as those in “The Office.” As mentioned previously, the actors in “The Office” had a significant hand in deciding how they thought a specific character would react. Again, this makes every single person realistic and imperfect. “Parks and Rec” is full of caricatures like Tom Haverford, the confident and sarcastic fashion fanatic, or Ron Swanson, who loves meat and violence and not much else. These people don’t exist in the typical workplace, while in “The Office,” the writers took special care to make sure the characters were human and make mistakes. Pam lets people walk all over her, Stanley cheats on his wife, and Ryan pays no regard to the feelings of his coworkers. Because these characters are humanized, when they do act out, it makes the scenes funnier, while in “Parks and Rec” their extravagance and exaggeration is almost expected. 

Both of these shows are excellent depictions of the American workplace, but the realistic aspects of “The Office’s” screenplays, directing, and character development make the show stronger, wittier, and more personal and comforting to audiences everywhere. —ZELIA LERCH