Is 'The Office' Losing Pace to 'Parks and Recreation'?
So far this season, Amy Poehler's balanced comedy is outclassing Steve Carell's tiring workplace satire
There are a few things in life I never thought I'd hear myself say: "Stop, that boat is eating your leg!"; "You're right, Jennie Garth is better complemented by a deep shade of pine"; and "Man, this matzoh farfel is delish," among others.
But I never expected, "Is it just me, or is 'Parks and Recreation' a vastly superior show to 'The Office' this season?" to be initiated into that magnanimous trio.
Then again, I've been typing all this and not actually uttering it out loud, so I haven't actually audibly digested any of it.
Clinical semantics aside, it's become abundantly clear that Amy Poehler's (admittedly) "Office"-inspired, mockumentary-style sitcom has just begun to find its increasingly subtle comedic voice, while Steve Carell and Co.'s venerable navel-gazing at the world of Scranton paper-manufacturing has devolved into shark-jumping special episodes and alienating-but-inevitable character development. There's a reason, after all, why Ricky Gervais ceased production on the original British incarnation of the series after a modest slate of episodes.
To look at the issue globally, you could argue that "The Office" was initially a caricature study that was forced, as a casualty of its own continually renewed success, to enhance the storylines of its central characters and ultimately deviate from the core dynamics that made them so appealing.
Por ejemplo, Jim is almost aggressively unlikeable in the role of a newly appointed boss dealing with the growing pains of embracing authority, while Jenna Fischer (I regret to opine) seems in a bit over her head with a suddenly scripted bounty of more colorful dialogue as Pam. Not that, much like their fictional counterparts, both John Krasinki and Fischer didn't deserve a promotion to more nuanced material, but I think we can all agree that their characters were easier to root for as pair of star-crossed, would-be lovers reconciled to professional and personal mediocrity.
Alternatively, one (i.e. moi) could hypothesize that, in its second (and first full-order) season, "Parks and Rec" has quickly distinguished itself—aesthetic similarities to "The Office" aside—as a program with an unexpected, cast-wide humanity, anchored by Amy's far-from-Poehler-izing performance as Leslie Knope. The "SNL" vet and sometime-film star (I highly recommend her uncanny meditation on maniacal teen-theater directors in "Wet Hot American Summer"), whom TV Buzz recently anointed as an optimal would-be Oscars host, is less Michael Scott in a power suit than Mary Richards with a bit of well-intentioned, Midwestern overearnestness.
Also, Chris Pratt's portrayal of hapless, homeless, lovesick Andy is arguably the funniest character on any series or network right now, bar none. It's exceedingly unsurprising to discover that, offscreen, Pratt is engaged to fellow winning goofball Anna Faris.
This isn't to make myself out as the spoiled kid with so many awesome toys that he forgets the virtues of classic playmates that got him through his formative years. "The Office" is still funny, and remains an unspeakably more rewarding experience than all the other yuckless formula-fests on primetime networks. But while the writers try and self-consciously conceal obvious concessions to mass-audience expectations, and Carell gamely ensures Michael is reliably rooted arrested in development, the wheels at Dunder-Mifflin have slowly commenced their spin. But over in Pawnee, Indiana, there's reason to be excited that its incumbent offspring has just begun to shift into qualitative gear.
anchored by Amy's far-from-Poehler-izing performance as Leslie Knope.
the UK office is a completely different show with much different intent than the american office. at this point there is no use comparing the two. the american office is a sitcom on a major network that is there to make money. the UK office was a humorous commentary on the everyday nothingness of working in an office that had no budget and was only intended for a small audience. and it shows. two different shows. i love them both but the UK office will always win for me.
And also, remember a little show called "Seinfeld" that was awkwardly paced and first finding its voice and ensemble chemistry during an often unwatchable first season nearly 20 years ago.
I have to admit I was surprised that I largely incited passionate defense of "The Office." My primary intent was to offer overdue credit to the blossoming "Parks & Rec," but perhaps I overstated my "Office" opposition.
However, the main observation that was missing from my original post (thank you, fellow commenters, for instating it) was that "P & R" absolutely suffered from the first-season blues, and I myself had written it off. But the last several episodes have demonstrated that the writers aren't simply looking to emulate what made "The Office" successful to stay on the air, but took NBC's vote of confidence by the bullhorns and transformed Season 2 into something all its own, which is a quirky ensemble comedy that stays away from garish caricatures and unbelievably broad scenarios and finds hilarity in the clueless and conflicted, but well-intentioned, humanity of its characters.
Although touche on there having been two series of the British "Office." That was my error. Semantics aside, I think the essential point there still applies.
And I have to admit I thought I put an original linguistic twist on the ol' JTS reference by condensing it into accusations of "shark-jumping," but as one commenter curiously suggested, that's just my "two sense."
Thanks for reading,
I must have a weird sense of humor or something, I LOVE LOVE LOVE Parks and Rec. I think it is absolutly hilarious, but I also have a very dry sense of humor. I rented the first season on DVD, and considered sending it back to NetFlix on about Episode 3. But, I decided to watch it and by the end, I was glad I watched it. I DVR this season, and right from the first episode I could tell it was SO much better than Season 1. I suggest watching Season 1 to get a feel for the characters and background of the show. If you can get through that, Season 2 is SO funny.
I don't watch the Office (I know, I am behind) and have never once seen an episode. Which is probably why I think Parks and Rec is so funny; I have nothing to compare it to. Yes, the Office is on my Netflix ****; just haven't gotten there yet!
Don't see why this needs to be an either/or situation - I watch them both. P&R had an uneven first season, but the episodes have been really good this season. I think the addition of a few "normal" reoccurring characters have really helped balance the show much better, and making Chris Pratt a regular was absolutely essential.
Office Wedding episode was great. With all of the pressure to deliver and all of the sharks circling to crap on it, in the words of Andy: "Nailed it!"
Parks & Rec is still on the air?
How about that. From what I saw, I didn't think it would last a season.
I'm surprised it's taken the 'trendies' this long to start 'bashing' on The Office so that they can seem to be 'ahead of the curve' of all the *sigh* ....'common' people who are 'beneath' them. :)
Well, maybe I'll give P&R another watch and see how it is now.
But The Office? It's still comedy gold for me. Toby, the Human Resource guy giving Pam tips on how to get a really good punch on her boss Michael? Freakin' brilliant.
P&R is personally for me more entertaining than the Office because Poehler is insane in it.
The office, I think, jumped the shark at Jim and Pam's wedding. But parks is not funny, and I am not a fan of Amy P. I don't think it matters...30Rock is destroying them both. Now 'THAT' is a funny show
I was so horrified when I saw the title of this article, I had to click on it just to see if it was a joke. Once I saw the comments though, it eased my mind. Glad to see only the writer of this article (has anyone checked to see if Kenny Herzog isn't, in fact, a pen name for Amy Poehler?) has this opinion. I still record Parks & Rec every Thursday, but it has gotten to where it's one of the last shows I watch on my DVR each week. It reminds me of when you're watching a movie and you keep waiting for the story to "pick up" a little and it never does. It has so much potential to be funny, just never reaches it.
On the other hand, The Office still makes me laugh every week. I will admit, some weeks I laugh more than others, so yes it's gotten lackluster in some roles - but it's one of the few shows I actually watch the night it comes on. Agree with the comment about Andy (Ed Helms) is fabulous. The scene with Andy and Oscar last season in the bar (on the business trip) is hands-down one of my fave Office scenes ever. Classic.
Unless Parks does something drastic, I don't see it lasting too much longer. People are going to eventually grow tired of the same storyline every week.
I think P&R is really having a good second season, but the Office is still firing on most of it cylinders (despite the oh-so trendy premature reports of its demise). The writer here did a poor job with lazy research. The BBC office did not cease "after a single slate of episodes" - there were 2 series plus the Office special. Quality-wise, the US Office series is superior - much better supporting cast versus the rather faceless supporting cast on BBC. TV snobs with nose jutting firmly upwards will tell you that the BBC version is better, but don't take their word for it and see them for yourself. They play like the weaker US episodes where it's Michael Scott completely over the top and unbeliebable.
Side note here, the "JTS" reference is old and outdated and is only revealing about the person using it (and their love for sad, tired cliches) and not about the alleged target. Sorry, has to be said.