If you had asked me before the summer of 2016 whether I like “Parks and Recreation” or “The Office” better, I would have, without a doubt, responded with “The Office.” Then, a miracle happened – I actually watched all seven seasons of “Parks and Recreation,” not just an episode here and there. My life changed completely after that. Yes, I know “The Office” has nine seasons, which means more binge watching, but honestly, “Parks and Recreation” has more entertainment and covers more in its seven season than “The Office” did in its nine. I know – disgraceful, right? Wrong. “Parks and Recreation” has more complete, nuanced, interesting characters.
One of the biggest weaknesses of “The Office,” in my opinion, is that Jim and Pam aren’t actually very deep characters. Jim wants basically one thing (Pam), and Pam doesn’t really want anything. There are “big payoff” moments whenever their relationship moves forward a step, but they’re otherwise holes in the center of the show.
“Parks and Recreation” has more stories. While there’s nothing at all wrong with a show being episodic, it’s easier to get invested in a show that has more thoroughness. One of the subtle differences between the shows is that “Parks and Recreation” was written in a world where re-watching and binge watching were “things” to a significantly greater extent than “The Office.” The characters in “Parks and Recreation” routinely strive for things, while characters in “The Office” are mostly fixed.
I love both shows, and I binge them every year, sometimes twice in the same year. Here’s the thing though – they are very different shows. To compare them is unfair. They each have very different characters, and very different stories. “The Office” offers me something unique that “Parks and Recreation” does not – the characters are satisfying to study. Every binge watch reveals something new about a character I might’ve missed on the last binge watch.
That being said, my favorite is still “Parks and Recreation.” Instead of making a spectacle of the weirdness each character possesses as they do in “The Office,” “Parks and Recreation” celebrates that weirdness. The characters’ misfit personalities drive them forward and help them achieve fantastic things. More importantly, the characters make me happy. Leslie Knope makes me feel like I can do anything I put my mind to. Andy’s unending optimism takes him on some wonderful adventures and experiences. Even Tom manages turn his ideas into tangible things, and there is an impressive amount of world-building in Pawnee, so much so that Pawnee is a character. It has a connection to each of the other characters. It grows just as they grow. So, for me, “Parks and Recreation” has a special place in my heart.
“The Office” has a much higher peak, but I think it suffered from some decisions they made for their later seasons. I wasn’t big into Sabre and Robert California and Clark Duke and generally post-Michael. “The Office” is one of my favorite shows though, just not above “Parks and Recreation,” and I constantly re-watch those early seasons.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love “The Office” completely and will always find myself laughing at its earlier season, but honestly after season five, it just doesn’t do it for me anymore. It just feels dragged on and that they didn’t want it to end, but they didn’t know how to continue it so they just BS’d their way through four more seasons.
“The Office,” season two and three for example, have some of the most strongest and realistic characters, but as the show goes on the characters almost become caricatures of their former selves. “Parks and Recreation,” on the other hand, has characters that for the first two seasons only have one or two traits. As the show goes on, the characters grow and become more realistic.
“Parks and Recreation” ends with some very strong and well written characters, while “The Office” ends on the opposite side of the spectrum. “Parks and Recreation” started all right, became amazing and finished strong. “The Office” started really great, became amazing and finished pretty poorly. “Parks and Recreation” was more consistent, while “The Office” fell off a cliff and should have bowed gracefully and taken the L when Michael left.
Katherine Cox is a freshman majoring in communication. You may contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.