The Office is undoubtedly one of the best comedies ever, boasting of some of the most iconic characters and memorable moments in television history. But, when it comes to the overarching growth of all its characters and their interpersonal relationships, Parks and Recreation does a far better job at showcasing it. Read on to know why.
- The Office has a plotline that drags too much
- Parks and Recreation has a more driven outlook
- A comparison: Fair and square
Firstly, let it be very clear that this is not an article about which show is greater. That is not the argument we are trying to make here. Moreover, it would be unfair to judge two shows that come from the same family of thought and creative minds. Greg Daniel is the co-creator behind The Office and Parks and Recreation, while Michael Schur who is the co-creator of Parks and Recreation was also on the writing team for The Office. Oh, fun fact! Michael Schur and Dwight’s farm brother, Mose, are the same people.
The Office and the drags in the plotline
Both the shows follow the mockumentary style of execution, creating emotionally relatable bonds with their characters and viewers, all through an actually absurd world of even more exaggeratedly bizarre people. While both the shows excel in their own ways, Parks and Recreation does a better job at making sure that most of its characters live through a holistic arc of growth and transformation when compared to The Office.
Let’s start with the fact that The Office begins with Dunder Mifflin, the paper company, in doldrums needing to cut down on employees. This root problem only resurfaces again in the third season. The Office tends to drag its core storylines with majority episodes spent exploring momentary conflicts and solutions. The coming together of Jim and Pam, a couple that is inevitably meant to be together, is dragged on till the third season.
In between all of that Jim secretly loves her, confesses, moves offices, comes back to Dunder Mifflin while dating someone else, and then realizes Pam has broken up with her long-term fiancé. The makers don’t stop here. Jim and Pam remain central characters, whose storylines are the most explored. But what we get with them is half-cooked, hurried endings with probably Jim getting the better deal. He finally realizes that his dreams encompass being more than just a salesperson at a paper company. Pam on the other hand dreamt to be an artist. She also visits an art school to pursue it. But because Jim can’t stay away from Pam while she pursues her one dream, he proposes to her, makes her come back, and work the same job he despises. So much for love!
Parks and Recreation is more driven
The characters at Parks and Recreation all have their own dreams and share unique interpersonal relationships with each other. Just because Leslie Knope is the central character of the show, the makers don’t abandon the journey and relationships of other people. Rather, they take the driven and positive nature of the central character and make her the driving force behind the growth and transformation of the others. While Leslie manages to get elected and climb the success ladders in the government, from city to state, her other colleagues also slowly move past their old self, retaining their core while accepting change. April, a confused teenager, who at the beginning has no idea why she is at a government job, changes to having several fulfilling ones, before actually finding her feet. Tom, after multiple failed attempts, finally begins some successful businesses. Heck, even Jerry gets elected as Mayor of Pawnee! And Parks and Recreation reaches this conclusion for its characters through a building process. Not through a “let’s go out on a bang finale” approach. Though one of the best in terms of finales, let’s admit it that The Office took some wasteful time to reach there.
A comparison between the two series
Some of the characters on The Office never got their due. Of course, they got their moments, but what do you really know about them? Just think about Tom’s presentation in the finale — are you a Ron, Leslie, Ben, Donna, April, Andy, or Tom? (Doesn’t matter… all that’s important is that you don’t want to be a Jerry. Or do you?) Whereas if the same question were posed about characters from The Office like, “Are you a Stanley, Meredith, or Toby?” you’d have little idea about them. What are their dreams? They only impact the lives of the four protagonists in Michael, Dwight, Jim, and Pam in the little city of Scranton. While in Parks and Recreation, even Donna Meagle’s character gets a story about being someone who likes the high life, and she takes efforts to make sure she takes time to pamper herself every now and then. This trait of hers helps her bond with Tom. Together, they make sure that they indulge in some #TreatYoSelf.
In Chris, ever so positive and a perfect man character, Parks and Recreation develops a narrative of a person suffering from mental health issues. He only learns to cope with it after he decides to become a father, by being the donor for Ann’s baby. Another character that stands out is Ron Swanson, someone who probably is the best out of both The Office and Parks and Recreation. Ron is a blunt libertarian with clear standards for his own way of life. His very existence exudes alpha male. Despite his rigid standards, Ron grows quite a bit as a character too, but that only makes him better. Ron’s love for Lagavulin Whisky and hatred of the government never ceases, but he develops meaningful relationships with a select few that bring his protective walls down just slightly. Finally, in Ben and Leslie Parks and Recreation probably creates one of the most favorite TV couples of all time. Like Jim and Pam, Ben and Leslie too were separated for a good amount of time. But unlike The Office couple, they were both living their dream lives. Leslie is a City Councilor and Ben works for a congressional campaign out of D.C. They struggled with the distance, but it didn’t stop them from achieving things on their own. Even more, Ben’s proposal is due to their growth as people and within their relationship rather than, like Jim, a way to stop the pain of Pam being off on her own while he continued his daily grind.
The Office will remain one of the most highly acclaimed comedy shows on TV ever, and rightly so. Probably, Parks and Recreation will never surpass it in popularity, maybe because the makers and the execution styles are so similar. But when it comes to doing justice to its characters, Parks and Recreation will always have the upper hand. It will also be the show that consistently improved to deliver one of the best final seasons and finale episodes. Yes, the finale of The Office was phenomenal, but the ride to reaching there, especially after losing Steve Carell, was a bumpy one. Maybe this is where Ron Swanson’s words ring true – “Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing.” Parks and Recreation knew its characters were everything, and they made sure they “whole-assed” it.