Parks and Recreation went on to become a popular series in its own right but it almost started life as a spinoff of The Office. The sitcom first aired on NBC in 2009, four years into The Office's run on the same network. Many fans have rightfully compared the two series for conveying many of the same qualities, but they could have shared even more connections.
Parks and Rec was created by Greg Daniels and Michael Shur. Daniels also notably brought The Office to life while Shur worked on the series as a writer (he also portrayed Dwight Schrute's cousin, Mose, throughout the series). NBC had asked Daniels to create a spinoff of The Office so he worked with Shur to come up with ideas. In the end, they decided that it was best to simply make Parks and Rec a standalone series, but one of their ideas has since been made public.
Rashida Jones was the first person cast when Parks and Rec was still being developed as a spinoff. Jones played the role of Karen Filippelli in The Office, an employee at the Stamford branch. She eventually moved to Scranton when the branches merged and dated Jim, causing a rift between him and Pam's friendship. Jones, however, was not intended to be the stem of the proposed spinoff. That honor would have gone to a faulty copy machine.
Paul Lieberstein, the executive producer of Parks and Rec and The Office (where he also played Toby Flenderson), has shared insight into the team's scrapped spinoff plans. A broken copier featured in one of The Office's storylines would have been taken from Scranton and sent off to a warehouse to be fixed. From there, the refurbished copier would then make its way to Pawnee, Indiana where it could go on to become the Parks' department official copier. The concept might sound silly but it fits in with the absurd, yet entertaining, tone of NBC comedies.
The confusing part was Jones. She ended up playing Ann Perkins in Parks and Rec, a nurse turned Parks department employee, with apparently no discussion of her reprising the role of Karen. In the end, the writers thought making Parks and Rec a spinoff while having Jones play a different character would complicate things too much for fans of The Office.
It would have been interesting to see what other connections Parks and Rec would have made with The Office had it remained a spinoff. With that said, NBC made the right choice in passing over planned spinoffs of The Office. It allowed Parks and Recreation to evolve on its own without being remembered as a segment of another series.