There’s a lot that The Office and Parks and Recreation have in common. They share the same writing staff, the same mockumentary format – in fact, Parks and Rec was initially developed as a spin-off from The Office. What comes along with that are a lot of comparisons that can be made between the two shows.
There are certain things that Parks and Rec did better than The Office, but there are also certain things that The Office did better than Parks and Rec. It’s an ongoing debate. So, without further ado, here are 8 Things The Office Did Better Than Parks And Rec.
While both The Office and Parks and Rec are mockumentaries, The Office handles the format a lot better. Jim’s looks to the camera became famous – no one’s looks to the camera became famous in Parks and Rec. The end of The Office is the release of the documentary and all the characters become minor celebrities.
The characters’ microphones are even used for both dramatic and comedic effect. Okay, in the final season of The Office, this got a little heavy-handed, as Pam developed an intimate relationship with Brian the sound guy. But all in all, The Office nailed the mockumentary aspect of its format a lot better than Parks and Rec.
While The Office began with just five main characters – Michael, Dwight, Jim, Pam, and Ryan – the cast grew substantially over the years. All of those actors were always there, it’s just that they were basically background characters to begin with and got developed later. Still, every single character who was there from the beginning turned out to be worthwhile. Oscar, Stanley, Phyllis, Meredith, Kevin – they’re all hilarious in their own way and really made an impact on the series.
Meanwhile, Parks and Rec had Mark Brendanawicz, the least interesting, least funny character to ever be a part of a situation comedy, as a main character from the beginning. To the writers’ credit, they tried to make him work, but he was just dead weight. The Office never had any dead weight.
Both The Office and Parks and Rec have terrific characters, but the characters in The Office feel more real. The characters in Parks and Rec all feel like caricatures. Ron Swanson is a caricature of a meat-eating, red-blooded, anti-government, all-American man, but he doesn’t feel like a real person.
Meanwhile, the characters of The Office do, because we see their ugly side. Stanley cheats on his wife, Michael makes a litany of inappropriate comments, Andy has serious anger issues, Angela is stuck-up (and way too affectionate with her cats). Oh, and she also cheated on Andy – but then she got cheated on, too. Everyone doesn’t get along all the time and none of them are perfect. That’s more like real life.
“The Pam” character in Parks and Rec is Ann Perkins. And obviously, “the Pam” of The Office is Pam Beesly. Ann isn’t totally unfunny, but she’s no Pam. She has the quirkiness and the cuteness of Pam and she’s “the pretty one” like Pam, but she doesn’t have the charm or the hilarious lines or the comic delivery skills of Jenna Fischer.
Every Pam talking head interview had at least one laugh in it, whereas Ann pretty much never got to tell a joke. She was pretty much just there to be boring and pretty. In fact, Rashida Jones was funnier when she played “the anti-Pam” on The Office than when she played “the Pam” on Parks and Rec.
By the end of the series, Dunder Mifflin Scranton might have devolved into a hive for screwing around and dating co-workers where no one gets any work done, but it wasn’t always like that. In the early seasons of the show, before all the days spent setting up obstacle courses in the warehouse for no reason, it felt like a real work environment.
The employees were a little uncomfortable around their boss and had awkward encounters with their co-workers in the break room and hated the monotony of selling paper all day, every day. There was the episode where Michael got sick of Andy sucking up to him – that’s a real, relatable workplace situation. The Pawnee Parks Department never felt like a real workplace. It was fun – work isn’t fun.
The best and most beloved characters in Parks and Rec feel like real, relatable people. Leslie Knope, Andy Dwyer, Tom Haverford – their characterization may be a little exaggerated, but they feel like people you know in the real world. The weirder characters who don’t feel real, like Crazy Ira and the Douche, just come off as annoying.
The Office, however, does a great job of making their weirdest characters the funniest ones. Dwight Schrute is an utterly weird and barely relatable character – he’s a beet farmer and volunteer sheriff’s deputy – and yet he might just be the funniest character on the show.
The Office and Parks and Rec both operate with a bunch of different styles of humor, and in both series, cringe comedy is one of them. Both shows have moments of social embarrassment or humiliation and the awkwardness of the situation is played for laughs. However, these are much funnier and more effective – and work better – on The Office.
That might be because The Office is following in the footsteps of its British counterpart starring Ricky Gervais, which turned cringe comedy into a respectable art form. But still, whatever the reason, this is something that The Office always did better than Parks and Rec.
Parks and Rec had a fine series finale, with a happy ending for each of the characters. However, it totally deviated from the format. It was jumping all over the place with weird transitions we’d never seen before and it completely abandoned the mockumentary style.
Meanwhile, the series finale of The Office stayed true to the show. After the airing of the in-universe documentary, the characters all got together for a Q&A session that gave every character closure on their long-running storylines – including one particularly emotional moment where Erin meets both of her birth parents. Plus, it brought back Michael Scott in the most incredible way. Steve Carell made a huge impact on the episode, despite having just a couple of lines. In The Office’s finale, everyone got a happy ending, but there were also some tearjerking, bittersweet moments.